Skip to content

Superbad: Pussy Control

I would do terrible, disgusting things to hook up with [this girl], man. Unforgivable things.
- Jonah Hill as “Seth”, in Seth Rogen-penned Sethtastic Apatow/Seth flick Superbad.
OH, MY FUCKING GOD, JONAH HILL’S VOICE. I HATE IT SO MUCH. I mean, sorry to be immature, but: really. High-pitched, nasal, whiny, insistent, raspy-squeaky like a rusty hinge – it’s an instrument of torture, making everything he says instantly unlikable and creepy on the basis of sound alone, even before you process its meaning. Only for you, Reader, would I put myself through one hundred and nineteen minutes of the noise emitted by Jonah Hill’s face. Only for you would I watch Superbad.

I did not even watch the theatrical Superbad! I watched the unrated, extended cut! This cut, of course, reflects the pure and uncompromised vision of the people involved, which could not be articulated in the original version due to the money-hungry studios and their commercial demands: it gives us more insight into the aliens who live in the Abyss and explains what is up with the sandworms and shows us what happens after the Hobbits get back to the Shire and also clears up the whole question of whether Deckard was a replicant. Ha ha, no, not really, it just has more dick jokes in it.

The basic premise of Superbad is that dicks are good and vaginas are bad, but vaginas are useful in that one can put one’s dick in them to achieve orgasm. The movie opens with a very basic statement of this premise: Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are discussing varieties of Internet porn they enjoy, and one young gentleman suggests to the other a site he finds both tasteful and expedient in ensuring orgasmic pleasure. “You don’t see dick going into vagina, though, which is a problem for me,” says the other gentleman – Jonah Hill – in his stupid, terrible, grating voice. “Have you ever seen a vagina by itself?”

He then shakes his head and makes the most disgusted face I had ever seen a human being make up until that point in my life.

Anyway, Seth (Jonah Hill) is very upset about the fact that his friend Evan will be going to a good college in the fall and that he himself will not. Seth would very much like a “girlfriend” that he can dump within the next two months after treating her to lots of terrible sex, because he needs to be good at sex by the time he goes to college. The girl he would like to ineptly fuck is Jules, who is in his home economics class; he demonstrates this by performing a little pantomime act for his friends in which he pretends to do sexual things to her body while she is not aware of it. (Foreshadowing!) Jules is a lovely young lady, but much like the Freak Woman Masturbator in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she suffers from some kind of tragic nerve damage and lack of peripheral vision that renders her unable to notice someone pretending to lick her ass when that person is directly to the left of her and about three inches away.

Seth’s friend Evan also wants a “girlfriend,” and would specifically like a girl named Becca to be his girlfriend. Seth makes clear that this is a pitiful and disgusting emotion on Evan’s part because he likes this girl as a person and does not like to talk about how she seems skilled at “taking dick.” The dynamic is best summed up in the following dialogue:

SETH: Is this about Becca? Is this about that girl, man?
EVAN: I like her.
SETH: Who cares, man? She’s a FUCKING GIRL!

It is hard to convey the snarling fury and contempt in Jonah Hill’s voice on the words “fucking girl.” In any other movie, it would be gross and I would hate it and/or make jokes about it. In this scene? This particular scene? It is all of that, but I am not laughing, because it is actually scary.

Also scary: the fact that the movie can very clearly be read as a story about attempted date rape. The boys need to get booze for a party at which the girls will be present, so that they can get the girls drunk enough to slip their penises into them. This is initially presented as a normal, non-rapey thing: buy the girls booze as a favor, they’ll appreciate it, people will get drunk and uninhibited, then they’ll screw. I, like pretty much every woman in the universe, have had the experience of engaging in consensual sex while drunk (I have actually had pretty much every human experience, including the act of writing in this very blog, while drunk) so this in and of itself does not pose a problem. However, the equation of booze + appreciation + affection = sex gradually becomes booze = sex, which in turn slips into truly incapacitating amounts of booze = sex, until Evan is protesting that he “respects” Becca too much to fuck her while she is “out of her mind wasted” (it’s “unethical,” he says, which is as close as the movie ever comes to the r-word) and Seth looks him straight in the eyes and says, “I don’t see why you have a problem with this.”

They never actually do put their penises in these women, by the way: Evan turns down a massively wasted Becca, who then calls him a “little bitch,” in an Observe-and-Reportesque moment about how upset women get when you don’t take advantage of them, and Seth forces a kiss on Jules after she refuses to get drunk, whereupon she is as disgusted as anyone unexpectedly kissed by Jonah Hill would have a right to be (like, if Rodney Dangerfield had a baby with David the Gnome: this is the physical appeal of Jonah Hill, I submit to you) and refuses to go further, putting him off for “another time,” at which point he snaps and shouts, “NO! There IS no other time,” and there’s that Highway Chainsaw Killer note in his voice again, and then he abruptly falls over into her face and the woman who refuses to fuck gets a black eye, ha.

Between these two points there are various wacky adventures and dick jokes. Like, there is the whole thing with their friend, Fogell, who changes his name to McLovin and is abducted by two cops at which point it is even more painfully clear than usual that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg began writing this script as thirteen-year-olds, because – whoa, can you imagine if, like, cops liked to get high and party? That would be crazy! (Ladies and gentleman, please take note that the people who originated this story are, in fact, named “Seth” and “Evan.” This is instructive, both in that it reveals the precise extent of their imaginative powers, and in that Seth was written by and was originally supposed to be played by Rogen, who apparently conceived of this character as a self-portrait, and this is one more example of why you never want to be trapped in an elevator with that guy.) I will not be addressing any of this because it is boring. (For example: “Fogell” can, with a cunning vowel-replacement strategy, be prounounced as “Fag-ell,” and the comic potential of this device is indeed exploited to the full.) I will focus merely on the defining moment of the movie: the scene in which Seth is attacked by a rogue vagina.

So, he’s at this party, right? And this random girl is dancing with him all sexy, right? And she’s drunk, right? So she’s your typical Apatovian Drunk Slut – but how, oh, how to utilize her comic potential? Simple: when she pulls away, Seth discovers that she was on her period, and that her blood is on his pants leg.

Now, you will forgive me for saying this, but I have now watched two separate films about men discussing their various manly bodily functions in great detail, and I feel inclined to share: I have never in my entire life bled that much in the space of a dance. It is an entire Ultra Heavy Flow tampon’s worth of blood, and it’s thick and clotted and sticky in a way that you would notice, were it coming from you. We see that she’s bled on other guys, so she’s been on the rag for a little while, yet it never occurs to her to wear a tampon or a pad or even (based on the amount and texture of blood) underwear beneath her skirt, which makes her a Crazy Drunk Slut, in true Apatow fashion, but also unlike any woman on earth who has ever had a period.

Seth, of course, freaks the fuck out and is more disgusted than I have ever seen a human being and all the men around him are equally disgusted and amused, and Seth yells endlessly about how he’s going to vomit and oh God get it off get the awful terrible menstrual blood that every human being with a uterus has at one point or will at one point shed off of him, and of the movie’s 119 minutes it feels like about 118.75 minutes are spent watching him act like the biggest fucking baby in the entire world about the fact that women menstruate. I mean, you thought Woman Who Is Capable of Masturbating was bad: wait until you meet Woman With a Normal Human Adult Reproductive System.

This, I would submit to you, is the entire point of Superbad: awful non-male women with their awful non-male vaginas, which you maybe need to fuck in order to get off, but which, if left uncontrolled, will touch you and contaminate you with their filth. The entire point of the scene is that this person is female, that she has a body that looks and functions differently than Seth’s male body, and that this makes her monstrous. The movie ends with a scene of Seth and Evan lying next to each other, saying “I love you” to each other several dozen times, and spooning, and a lot of critics have pinpointed this scene as being “sweet.” It’s just another joke about gay being gross and funny, in my opinion, but on the other hand: good for them, I guess. They’ll never love anybody else.

31 Comments

  1. Llencelyn wrote:

    Thank you for writing this.

    I went and saw Superbad with an ex (one who thought the movie was HEELARIOUS, btw), and my main thought afterward was wondering why they’d advertise the movie’s quality in the title like that.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  2. snobographer wrote:

    I saw the theatrical release apparently, because in the version I saw, Crazy Menstruating Lady only befowled Seth’s pants leg with a smudge about the size of a silver dollar. He still freaked out as though she’d smeared a smallpox culture all over his face though.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
  3. cheekyweebisom wrote:

    The movie ends with a scene of Seth and Evan lying next to each other, saying “I love you” to each other several dozen times, and spooning, and a lot of critics have pinpointed this scene as being “sweet.” It’s just another joke about gay being gross and funny, in my opinion, but on the other hand: good for them, I guess.I don’t think it’s just another joke about the hilarity that is gayness, though it is partially that. The main thing (apart from the raging misogyny) that makes me loathe Apatow and Apatow-adjacent movies is the tired fucking story of two men who, though best friends, are completely incapable of expressing the most basic platonic affection for each other, but, after many absurd trials, become infinitesimally more human and learn to say, “I love you.”

    Listen: I cannot possibly overstate how much I hate this story. It does not make straight male affection for other straight males more acceptable. By making such a fucking fuss out of something so normal, it reaffirms every bullshit idea about masculinity. It tells men that, if they want to hug their friends, they’d better have a spiritual odyssey and lengthy discussions of womanish behavior first.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink
  4. miranda wrote:

    The thing that kills me about these characters, and every man-child character in every movie ever made, and hey every real life human man I know who has revealed himself to be a woman-loathing douchebag with so little, so very very little, in the way of self-reflection (approximately 77% of all the men I’ve ever known, and that’s being charitable) is how very kindly they seem when their mouths are closed.

    How normal, and even kinda okay or sweet even, just a regular guy in this regular world doing his regular thing. Until one day they opine (or get to the part in the script) regarding the 51% of the human race that they aren’t and the horrible screeching devil monkeys fly directly out of their mouths.

    I guess I’m saying that I’m still surprised, every day, at how normalized this batshittery is.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  5. rebecca wrote:

    I’ve only been reading you since you were linked in jezebel — but I *love* you! — I am so grateful! I love your writing–I love your thoughtfulness — so grateful! I feel like your posts have brought me a bit back to life. …to thinking-life.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  6. laureafinda wrote:

    This is awesome; it is exactly how I feel about this movie. I watched it with a bunch of friends who mostly identify as feminists, but I think they were blinded by the Michael Cera or something (they’re all huge fans; I think he mostly just plays himself over and over and over and is therefore not that interesting or impressive).

    The only time I laughed was near the end of the movie, when Seth and Jules accidentally bang their heads together or something, and Jules is like “OW that FUCKING HURT” and then walks away.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  7. Crowfoot wrote:

    ironically, while reading this post, my iTunes random sampler thingy started playing Bif Naked’s Sick“you make me-
    you make me-
    youuuu maake meee
    you make me SICK! SICK! SICK!”

    @ Llenceleyn: Ha!

    thank you, Sady, for watching this shite so I never, ever, ever have to O.o And writing so well about it!

    (and apologies if I’m messed up the formatting)

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    1. you’re hillarious!

    2. i haven’t seen this movie but i’ve seen enough shit like this.

    3. i kinda wanna see this movie now just to make fun of it and hate-on it.

    4. once i was flipping through the chanels on tv and caught the middle of “american pie 2″ (or maybe it was 3… is there a 3?). i watched about 20 minutes of it. there was a scene where the dorky computer nerd guys put a webcam on wheels and get it into the girls’ cabin, and it goes around spying on them naked… and there’s a “hillarious” scene where the girls discover the webcam on wheels and are screaming and chasing it around. it made me so pissed. have you seen this shit? please watch it and write an equally scathing yet amusing critique.

    ~Harmony~

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Cait wrote:

    Sady, you rock igneously. You are so on my daily blog roll from now on. :)

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    I don’t think the vagina went rogue. I think it knew exactly who it was attacking and why.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink
  11. caitzoonie wrote:

    Hello there young Feminist woman.

    Thank you for telling me about this film. I suspect I will not be taking time to see it. I would strongly suggest you making a pamphlet out of this and distributing it locally ;)

    (Your site’s good. you can blame Clay Shirky and his tweeting for any new readers this week).

    Yrs,

    An older Feminist

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 2:19 am | Permalink
  12. Aileen Wuornos wrote:

    And my friends wondered why I never bothered to see this tripe.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 6:19 am | Permalink
  13. born-stubborn wrote:

    I never thought anyone in this world would hate Judd Apatow as much as I do.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  14. lfar wrote:

    Okay, I realize that I might get torn in half for saying this. And that’s okay. I’m going against 100% of my principles but: I really thought this movie was hilarious. I’ve seen it 3 times. Obviously Jonah Hill is the worst, but McLovin has such sweet subtleties to his acting. Have you seen Role Models? It was the funniest movie of 2008 no question. And Michael Cera will never stop being adorable even though he can only play one character. I AGREE that many many parts of this movie were misogynistic and stupid, but some parts crack me up every time. So subtle. Like when Fogell spills the beer at the liquor store and the guy asks if he did it, and he gives a can a slight slight kick and says no. Just little moments like those. Hilarious.
    I’m not saying let’s go around over looking all the terrible parts of the world. I’m not saying lets stop thinking critically about the media we watch. I’m just saying… this movie made me laugh a lot a lot a lot.
    (This is lfar from tumblr)

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink
  15. Kelly wrote:

    Oh I have to call you out on something. I do recall a story involving white leggings and a trampoline…so to say “I have never in my life bled so much”…um really truly? Be honest…

    Once in seventh grade we were watching a move in class, I stood up to find a fairly large sized pool of blood on the seat. I was wearing jeans and a pad. So I think its plausible. We should call the mythbusters to investigate.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  16. Anonymous wrote:

    You are brilliant.

    Sorry to inform however that Mr. Scott has confirmed that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant.

    :-)

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  17. Clairew wrote:

    Well, fuck. These guys are writing a movie remake of 21 Jump Street. They’re not content to just make an abominaton of a movie, they’re actually going to reach back in time and destroy my childhood.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  18. Nanella wrote:

    Wait, there’s a place in America where only 77% of the men are woman-loathing douchebags? I want to know where Miranda lives…

    Thanks once again to the brilliant Sady for the smackdown of sexist cinema. I’ve been despairing for humanity since pretty much forever but I still can’t wrap my mind around the creative/fiscal process that allows movies like this to get made. And why people pay money to see them.

    @lfar: Not going to tear you in half, but I do hope you’ll think about whether or not you really want to support the theatrical equivalent of hate speech, regardless of whether or not you get a few giggles out of it.

    Friday, April 24, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink
  19. masagoroll wrote:

    Jules was so cute and funny– I can’t believe she could even kind of like Seth in that movie, ew!

    You didn’t even talk about the creepy part with Seth’s problem as a child– incessant drawing of penises!

    Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  20. Sady wrote:

    @Ifar & Nanella: Yeah, sometimes something just IS funny, because of the way it's performed, even though, when you take a step back, it's telling you something really repugnant. Like: I think "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is telling a really repugnant story about what makes a woman good or bad, and what men are entitled to from women, but there are also scenes of Jason Segel acting like a giant creepy baby that actually made me laugh – which didn't happen with "Superbad" or "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." I feel really dirty now. More about this later.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    I just have to say thanks for this, as well as all the other Apatow and friends commentary you’ve been doing, because it has really helped me crystallize all the stuff that bothered me about these movies. Especially “Superbad.” When it came out all my (male-type) friends told me it was the most hilarious thing ever. So I went to see it. The entire time I was like “wait, are we in the wrong theater? ‘Cause the movie I’m watching isn’t a fun and heartfelt coming of age story – the movie I’m watching is about two sociopaths plotting to RAPE PEOPLE!” And the really sad thing is that my friends thought I was overreacting.
    -Clem

    Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  22. erin wrote:

    I identified with this piece so so much. There were a few moments that made me giggle watching Superbad, but I was deeply annoyed by the menstrual-blood-on-the-pants scene. Thanks for deconstructing that part fully.

    BTW, Michael Cera was awesome in a little movie made for Aimee Mann’s Christmas Show, where he plays himself, called to audition for the part of Tiny Tim, and where he flatly refuses to play Tiny Tim.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  23. Sady wrote:

    @Snobographer & Kelly: Okay, I MAY have exaggerated the amount of blood in the scene, but it did strike me as really unrealistically bright-red, glistening, and copious given the amount of time she'd been dancing with him. It wasn't a smudge we're talking about, you know? Then again, I may have been given to overestimate the amount of it given the nine million years of Jonah Hill talking about OH THE BLOOD OH THE BLOOD AHHH AHHHH AHHHHHH IT IS HORRIBLE AHHHH BLOOD PERIODS VAGINAS ICKY.

    @cheekyweebisom: CORRECT. Also, brilliant.

    @laureafinda: I laughed at that part too! And I agree with masagoroll that the actress is really charming and funny. Apparently she improvised the yelling, which makes no sense to me, because the screenwriters thought a woman to whom all of this had happened within the last five minutes would… just stand there?

    @Ifar & Erin: On the Michael Cera tip, I agree that – though he can be predictable – he's a really charming presence. The thing about the Apatow movies that kills me is that they have certain actors – Cera, Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Kristen Bell – who can transcend the crappiness and still be really enjoyable to watch on screen. I love all of these people but I really do wish they had better material to work with.

    @Nanella: I'm heading over to the 40-Year-Old Virgin thread, and I'll probably say this there, too, but that's twice that you've been unnecessarily harsh to a fellow commenter, so could you please watch that? Thanks.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  24. Tom wrote:

    I agreed with much of what you wrote about Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but I’m not sure I agree with everything here. Yes, it is true that many repugnant things are said in this movie. However, Superbad is a farce in which the two main characters are high school students. You’ve written about the movie as though we are supposed to take everything they say seriously; I’m not sure that we are. When I watched the movie, the main thing I took from it was that high school students have no idea about what constitutes a healthy relationship with women. For example, Jonah Hill’s character really doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he’s well aware of it. He’s trying to compensate for a total lack of relationship experience with a lot of bluster and misogynistic bullshit. I knew plenty of kids like this in high school. His plan to hook up with Jules completely falls apart, mostly due to her not being a “drunken slut” as he had hypothesized she was.

    “The entire point of the scene is that this person is female, that she has a body that looks and functions differently than Seth’s male body, and that this makes her monstrous.”

    True. But again, these kids are in high school. Seth doesn’t understand women, he just thinks he does. People fear what they don’t understand. I thought Seth reacted just like a 3rd grader would have if he thought some girl had just gotten her cooties all over him. I thought the scene illustrated just how backward Seth was.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  25. carleighsoup wrote:

    Holy shit I love this blog. I found you through Shakesville. Daily blogroll, for sure.

    This is amazing post. I want to do your taxes for 5 years straight.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  26. Cait wrote:

    Tom, I think you said it yourself there. He’s in high school – why is it appropriate or justifiable for him to be reacting like he’s in Grade 3? He’s twice as old, at least. Sady’s right on the nail in showing that it’s just the same Man-Child bullshit that Apatoviana spews in every episode.

    Why should it be an excuse that they were in high school, anyway? He’d be old enough to drive, nearly old enough to vote and/or die for his country. Why should men get a free pass to be immature way beyond the days when women have been forced to be more grown-up (often by those same overly immature boys)?

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  27. snobographer wrote:

    Seth doesn’t understand women, he just thinks he does. People fear what they don’t understand.

    It’s not like we’re creatures from outer space or something.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  28. Tom wrote:

    @Cait:

    It’s not a matter of this kind of behavior being excusable. I didn’t mean that; of course this kind of behavior isn’t excusable. My point is that the viewer is not supposed to approve of Seth’s immature bullshit. He is not supposed to get a free pass.

    @snobographer:

    No, of course not. I’m sorry if I offended you. It’s just that a main point of Seth’s character is that he has no idea what he’s doing, despite his stupid, half baked ideas otherwise.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink
  29. Sady wrote:

    @Tom: I’ve addressed this elsewhere, because it’s a criticism that crops up a lot, but, short version: Apatow ALWAYS tries to have it both ways. Some viewers are going to condemn Seth’s behavior, and point to the scene when the boys separate in the mall and go off with the two attempted-date-rape-survivors/Civilizing-Influences/mommy-ladies-in-training as a sign that they have “learned a valuable lesson.” Those viewers are in the position of Evan, the character played by Michael Cera: they may have some issues with Seth, but they’re not very strong issues, apparently, because they’ve just spent the past one hundred and nineteen minutes laughing at and going along with all of Seth’s wacky hijinks.

    I don’t buy Evan as the “better” of the two, because he’s an enabler: he’s in the position to stop Seth, and he doesn’t do it. I similarly don’t buy some last-five-minutes-of-the-movie turnaround as “redemption” or condemnation of the characters, because we’ve just spent an entire movie’s length of time being encouraged to laugh at and get off on their blatant misogyny, and, aside from the fact that we do eventually learn that you should probably NOT get women drunk so you can rape them while they’re incapacitated (ORLY?) most of the blatant misogyny is openly tolerated and encouraged, and the women against whom these men plot date rape eventually become their girlfriends – or so we’re encouraged to believe, anyway. In the period scene, it’s not just Seth, a high school boy, freaking out: it’s several grown adult men freaking out and laughing, and it’s also a substantial portion of the audience going “EWWWW WOMEN’S BODIES HA HA HA,” and a lot of those people were, in fact, adults.

    I mean, even if I buy that “Superbad” is some kind of lesson about Seth being bad, I don’t believe that any of the other characters are GOOD, nor do I believe that the outcome of the movie is good, and expecting me to go sit through a wacky comedy about people who hate my gender so I can learn that SOME (but not all, apparently) forms of hatred for my gender are inappropriate is like asking me to roll around in pig shit for two hours in order to verify that pig shit is stinky. No, thanks.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  30. Cait wrote:

    Damn, Sady, you really are good at that. :)

    I said yesterday to a friend of mine who told me I should give them a try, I might like them: “It’s not that I don’t believe there might be something redeeming in them. It’s that I don’t care. Why should I eat yet another bowl of steaming Pig-Fece-Os, when I could be eating something…well, with good taste?”

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 4:55 am | Permalink
  31. Tom wrote:

    @Sady-

    Yeah, not much I can say to that.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink