Sunday, April 20, 2008

Obsession is for objects

“He suffers and he’s needy, and I relate to him personally,” Mr. Apatow said in a telephone interview. Particularly in dealing with the opposite sex, Mr. Apatow said, “we both have that same feeling that we’re obsessed with women and they don’t actually like us that much.”

This quote from the New York Time's article on Jason Segel, the writer-leading man of the new movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has a lot packed into it. I really liked Knocked Up and was a big defender of it when many of the commenters on Feministing criticized it by agreeing with Katherine Heigls' remarks that it was sexist.

I defended Knocked Up by comparing it to "In Her Shoes" and "Just Like Heaven," movies that involved high-powered women finding the man of their dreams only after realizing that they need to give up their fast-paced, demanding jobs and take it easy. In Knocked Up, on the other hand, the male lead was the one who had to change "for love." More controversially (I guess) I also thought that Leslie Mann's character in Knocked Up was a sympathetic because, in the narrative of the movie, she is justifiably (I think) angry at her life. (Everyone else seemed to think she was meant to be a shrew.)

This quote makes me think I was wrong to defend it though. "Obsessed with women" is an attitude that sounds suspiciously similar to "thinks all women are the same." Or to put it another way, it doesn't matter if Apatow is shoving all women in the dirt or putting them all on a pedestal, either attitude treats women as something other than three-dimensional people with real flaws and actual character traits.

It got me thinking back to that Feministing discussion about Heigl's character in Knocked Up, specifically about how Heigl might have been the "together one," but she also never got to be funny and about the whole abortion thing and how glossed over it was. I still liked Knocked Up, but ya gotta admit that when a character decides to have a baby with a one night stand and you come away from that (non-)scene about that decision without knowing anything more about the character or her motivations, then that character really is little more than a plot device for someone else's journey.

Apatow did better than that with Freaks and Geeks and I'm pretty sure he can do better than that on the big screen too.


Sabina England, Playwright said...

I was very angry and disappointed to hear that "Knocked Up" was created by the man behind "Freaks and Geeks," one of the very few TV shows that portrayed females (and males) in a very realistic way.

I don't hate Judd Apatow, but he's sure doing a good job of making me dislike him a lot.

Judy Best said...

It bothers me that in movies generally and Apatow's specifically --- and movies are my favorite form of escape to other lives --- girls and women cannot be friends with other girls and women for the sake of friendship and enjoyment of each other's company. They hang out to get guys, or they hang out around their babies, or they hang out around businesses run on a male model of competition. Men (and boys who will be boys), on the other hand, bond constantly with each other in movies, by plot-lines for creative and recreational purposes, while "woman" is object. In "Getting Over Sarah Marshall," no woman connects to any other woman where there is not a man involved. Even in this weekend's release of "Baby Mama," none of the women are friends unless their sex roles as breeders are involved. At least the "Baby Mama" funny film does not elevate sons over daughters as typical among movies in general, "Juno" being a typical example. How any woman can think it's a post-feminist world only proves the extent of penile propaganda designed to choke us with "pearl necklaces." But then, Judd Apatow is mainly about the primacy of the penis. Beginning and closing frames of his "Sarah Marshall" movie confirm it. The woman in question is never as important as the penis seeking its target, its ego trip, its sex-pozze party girl. Can any women really not see what's being fed to man-ipulate this generation of "girls gone wild"? I hope we can befriend one another and come out of the haze and into our own Light.

whatsername said...

You and I were together in that thread, generally on the same page I think.

And I think we still are.

"that character really is little more than a plot device for someone else's journey."

That's the thing I have noticed about Apatow too. It was in F&G, Undeclared, Knocked Up, and Superbad. These are all stories from a male perspective. It's absolutely undeniable.

What I keep wishing for is a female Apatow, someone to do the same thing, just from a female perspective. Cuz I like these productions of his, but I can't escape the maleness to them. I wonder if Leslie Mann has ever considered taking up writing?

Unitari said...

my problem with all movies including comedies is I feel like I'm sitting in a dude's head when I watch them. I don't have a problem with that in general, but I would like myself and everyone else to see things from a woman's perspective (real, diverse women) as much as we do from men's perspective.

It's old and I'm tired of it.