Monday, September 03, 2007


I didn't go in to Superbad intending to watch it with my cranky feminist filter on, but, well...if the shoe fits. Look. A good crisis-of-masculinity story, at any age, is usually always going to appeal to me, and I'm generally a pretty easy target for some boys-will-be-boys silliness, but not when it's at the expense of saying some really shitty things about women. And, I wish that shitty were a less appropriate word in this instance, but this movie is seriously reinforcing some borderline medieval notions of vile womanhood here (the weaker/leaky vessel and all that). For all their effusively praised hotness and do-ability, the women in this movie seem constantly overwhelmed/personified by their own bodily fluids, doing nothing but menstruating all over the place, getting "so wet," and projectile vomiting. Even Evan's mom's rack is praised not just for its general lusciousness, but for how lucky baby Evan was to suck on it. And, need we even mention Seth's assertion that a vagina "all by itself" (ie, without a penis in it or at least nearby) is "not for him"? Ooh-kay. I guess, maybe, the argument can be made that these characterizations only reflect the adolescent male's confusion and ignorance about the opposite sex, but that confusion and ignorance seriously didn't have to be tinged with such disgust. Evan's line about how he wants to live in a world where girls weren't weirded out by boners and really wanted to see them was fantastically funny (helped by Michael Cera's typically impeccable delivery), but his feeling slighted by having to hide that one thing seems really petty in light of all the things girls have to hide (period blood and its accoutrements, body hair, and an aggressive sex drive, to name but a few) for fear of becoming undesirable in some dude's eyes.

I dunno. I mean, if the movie wants us to buy Evan as being genuinely respectful of women--and I think it really does, with the best of misguided intentions--then the authorial voice needed to be a little more consistently respectful, too. I know the screenplay was written when Rogen and Goldberg weren't much more than teenagers themselves (not that that's really any excuse), but I seriously don't believe Apatow or the director didn't step in to tone it down a little. Especially the menstrual blood bit. I kind of can't get over it. The situation itself was just so over-the-top and unbelievable, and then the characters' reactions to it were even worse. Of course no one wants to be bled on by a stranger at a party, but there was no such freak-out when that random guy got the bottle smashed over his head during the fight and started spurting blood everywhere. I know that gross-out humor is intrinsic to these kinds of raunchy high school comedies and that this is primarily a movie by dudes for dudes, but...doesn't that just kind of compound the problem? Do we need to be validating the average guy's secret (or not so secret) fears that women's bodies are actually kinda nasty by reflecting them on the big screen? I get that it's a slippery slope for a mainstream movie to feel true to the average person's experience but goose the situations for humor while hopefully not just catering to the lowest common denominator. But, this is the same problem I had last year with Talladega Nights trying to riff on homophobia in a movie aimed at NASCAR fans and frat boys, not the most historically (or, yes, stereotypically) tolerant people on earth. I'm all for going to unspeakable places for the sake of the laugh (I do love Borat, after all), but I just wish these movies could be a little more responsible with their power. Especially considering there's no way that Superbad was number one at the American box office for two weekends in a row thanks exclusively to XY chromosomes. Guys were assuredly bringing dates, girlfriends, and wives along with them to the theater, and it just breaks my heart to think of an insecure teenage girl going to see this movie and being expected to sit through and perhaps even laugh at all the ways her body probably makes her boyfriend or crush recoil.

Is this movie very funny at points? Yes. I definitely laughed a lot. Like I say, Cera is just an unimpeachably brilliant comic actor and I would probably watch him read the proverbial phone book. Jonah Hill's filthy foulmouthed dialogue was like nothing so much as Cartman brought to life (though Dana Stevens brings up a very, very good point in Slate's review of the movie re: the way Seth enacts a very dubious moral code even in respect to his male friends), and there cannot be enough fulsome praise for Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the instantly iconic Fogell/McLovin. And, the fact that this is actually a love story about two best friends was indeed sweet. (Though the faux-morning after scene at the end just reuses the same joke from the more winkingly homoerotic Hot Fuzz.) I just wish a lot of these sex problems (in all biological senses of the term) weren't clouding the good times. Hell, at least give us a female character one half as offbeat and memorable as Charlyne Yi as Jodi in Knocked Up!

My summer of movies set in Paris continued this weekend with Dans Paris. Diminishing returns, my bebes, diminishing returns. Though kind of sexy in places and infinitely easy on the eyes with its blindingly attractive cast, its totally unearned tortured tone, aimlessness, and arty pretensions are pretty much exactly what give "foreign film" a bad name.

Indie rock fatigue seems to set in most acutely for me during the late summer, so, in an effort to distance myself for a little while from sad boys and girls with guitars, lately I've been feasting on M.I.A.'s new one, Kala, and Aesop Rock's None Shall Pass, both of which are rich, rich, rich and totally appealing in their onslaught of noise and lyric and gauntlet-throwing.

Speaking of indie rock fatigue: "the indie rock world is too polite and likable and I feel it needs the drunken uncle to show up, uninvited, to the birthday party and vomit on the couch. Not every year of course, but at least once in a while." --Kevin Barnes (via)

And, while I'm at it: "Lil Wayne. Believe the hype and then multiply it by ten. You are going to feel dumb if you realize in five years that you were too cool to enjoy the dataflow." --Sasha Frere-Jones (via Sasha Frere-Jones)


Matthew Perpetua said...

I don't think you're totally wrong about Superbad, but I think you are kinda coming at it the wrong way -- it's important to realize that it's a movie about how all these guys are fascinated and terrified by female sexuality, which is something that is REALLY REALLY common, especially for young men who are socialized to only spend time with other young men. The comedy comes from us laughing at their inability to deal with their sexuality and female bodies and their ridiculous fascination with their own dicks.

I think my friend Erik kinda nailed it here.

But yeah, it's kind of a movie about guys for guys. I'd love for someone to make an equivalent film about girls.

Jonesalicious said...

I think I live in a cave or something, because I know nothing about this Superbad movie. And, I'm really glad I'm not a teenager right now. I think it would be hard. the writing. Keep it up!!!


allison said...

Matthew, I get it, the confusion and terror that boys feel, I really do. (Intellectually, at least, not being the owner of a penis myself.) And, I really wanted to like this movie. I generally adore the stuff the Apatow gang puts out, and there are few things I love more than a coming-of-age story. And, I know that there's no way that this movie by dudes for dudes is going to be able to put, or is even interested in putting, as much effort into drawing interesting and well-rounded female characters as they are the men and their relationships; that's not this kind of movie's MO and I wouldn't expect it to be. (Though, whither the wonderfully nuanced high school age funk of a Linda Cardellini from Freaks and Geeks?! Was that all Paul Feig?) But I'm still just kind of uncomfortable with the place where the reactions and commentary cross over into revulsion. It might be the way that young men actually feel, sure, and maybe that's what makes me uncomfortable, just perpetuating those opinions while giving it a pass because it's truthful. I hope you're right that audiences are laughing at the disconnect between the characters' perceptions and a more mature view of women and relationships and sexuality.

Jonesy, is that a real blog link? Are you blogging away from MySpace now?

Jonesalicious said...

Hi Feel,

Yeah, it's a real blog. It was supposed to be my Secret Ninja Blog, where I would write about stuff I didn't want to post on myspace accessible to all those "friends" I haven't seen since 1992.

Apparently, if you are signed into gmail and you go to post a comment on a blogspot blog, it just reveals that shit. I've sort of come to terms with the fact that people are going to see it eventually. The stuff was mostly private, useless crap that was rolling around in my brain.

Maybe now I'll actually start blogging again and just tell people. I don't know.

I do know that I lub you. And I also lub ketchup.

So yeah. Enjoy.