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Searching for Jane Apatow

July 28, 2008
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This weekend, G. and I went to go see Step Brothers, the new Will Ferrel and John C. Reilley vehicle. During the previews (often my favorite part of seeing movies), we saw the preview for Pineapple Express, the latest from the Judd Apatow camp, and which you could feel the entire audience lean forward and declare, “YES.” Then, we sat back and watched Step Brothers, a film co-written and produced by Judd Apatow and dealing with what he does best: men that refuse to grow up. Afterwards, I was walking home with Graham and I said, “You know what, that was funny and all, but I think it’s happened: I am done. It’s time for these dudes to grow up already!”

I am going to out myself right now and say that I generally have loved Apatow created and directed projects. Freaks and Geeks remains one of my favorite television shows ever. The 40 Year Old Virgin is up there as one of my favorite comedies. I saw Knocked Up TWICE in the theater, I enjoyed it so much. Where I started to peel off the Apatow train was Superbad. I think I am among a tiny minority who didn’t think Superbad was the best thing ever. When it comes up, I pretty much feel like the biggest killjoy when I explain that while there were moments I laughed and enjoyed myself, there came a point that I felt entirely alienated by it and resentful of its pornographic humor towards women. Granted, Superbad was not made for me—AT ALL. It was made for teenage boys, both the present kind and the inner kind. Graham loved it and even felt TOUCHED by it. I felt slimed. And seeing the glow on my husband’s face after seeing this film, I can’t help thinking, where is MY Superbad?

This is my question: where is the female equivalent to Judd Apatow? In a period of time where we are inundated with Judd Apatow comedies, which are the same premise over and over again: how can we get this man-child to grow up, where is a smart girl of any age to go for a comedy that echoes her experience and doesn’t shove penis jokes down her throat?

I didn’t see Baby Mama, and I’m not entirely convinced I should. Sex and The City, a tv show that I found gutsy, humorous, and honest, made a movie that took all its best qualities and drowned them with all its worst qualities—shallow commercialism and financial gluttony. I also didn’t think Juno was the end all be all. This review pretty much sums up how I felt about it EXACTLY (link via AMS). It’s pretty good, but cloyingly precocious and just a little too self conscious for its own good. Yet, I’ll take Juno over The House Bunny, a preview we saw, where a former Playboy Bunny becomes a sorority house mother to the biggest losers on campus. When I say “losers,” I mean frumpy clothed smart girls, which include a pierced punk looking girl, a girl that wears sweats, but is generally pretty and totally obsessed with a jock. This new sorority mother helps these girls out by giving them all makeovers—so that they become (as they say in the preview) “Who they really are.” Do I need to tell you that who they really are are heavily made up playboy bunny-like women, with smarts? They, in turn, teach the former bunny to be smart. My thoughts as I watched this preview unfold were, “Feminism is rolling in its grave.”

I think about my baby sister Lily, my teenage cousins (Hi gals!), or even Apatow’s two daughters, who are the next generation of women growing up in a throw back culture that tells them that they have nothing but heightened sexuality and man-children to look forward to. Then again, my favorite movie at 17 was Pretty Woman, a film that glamorized prostitution, and equated being saved with not just financial security, but dripping wealth. I literally told someone that I thought it was “Inspiring.” Of course, Pretty Woman was high class compared to the Porky’s dynasty and movies like Bachelor Party and Revenge of The Nerds, which were the big comedies of the time and were based on a foundation of tits, ass, and getting laid. Despite this, I still grew up to be a feminist and to believe that the female story is not only worthwhile, but funny, so maybe I shouldn’t be so worried. And maybe that’s not even the point. As an audience member, I am just getting sick of the same punch line. After I watched Step Brothers, I couldn’t help think that he is taking the penis joke and giving it yet another renaissance. I mean, who thought the penis needed it? Yet, there it is, rolling in it, kicking up its heels, and causing a stir. Who knew it still had SO MUCH comedic leverage?

I want a movie that makes me holler in incredulity, in recognition, and in rollicking laughter. I want a girl Superbad. Note to Hollywood: I am WAITING.

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