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Sexist Beatdown: The Future of Comedy Edition!

Hey. You know what I don’t write about very often? Dude comedies! Specifically, “slacker man-child eventually embraces maturity and/or women which are both about as fun as having his genitals personally mutilated by Lars von Trier” dude comedies, of the type popularized by one Judd Apatow!

Oh, wait, no. That is ALL I write about, pretty much! Regardless: I have found a staunch defender of the Dude Comedy in one Amanda Hess of The Sexist! In this week’s installment of Sexist Beatdown, we discuss the subtle charms of the bro-com, share tales of how Judd Apatow ended our own personal relationships, and ask a VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION: where are all the funny, immature, non-traditionally-gendered, somewhat self-destructive ladies? (HINT: They are all having mean things written about them by Linda Hirshman.) Behold our scintillating dialogue!

ILLUSTRATION: I found this on the Internet. Now you have to see it, too.

SADY: hello there lady. are you prepared – prepared, that is, to debate the fine points of dude comedy?

AMANDA: i can’t say i’m as prepared as you are, sady. but i am willing to confess: i believe that i enjoyed nearly all the films you profiled in your apatow series. when i saw them. in the theater.

SADY: yes, it’s true: apatow has become my great white whale. he is basically all i think about these days. i dream in Apatowvision. well: i enjoyed some of them too! (shhhhhh.) I enjoyed “Knocked Up” immensely, for example.

AMANDA: i CRIED at the end of knocked up. i was on a really bad date, which may have had something to do with it.

SADY: OH GOD. YOU SHARE MY TERRIBLE SECRET. i cried too. also, broke up with the dude i saw it with?

AMANDA: same. well i’m glad we’ve cleared the air.

SADY: yeah. my reactions to “knocked up” kind of define my relationship to the Apatow canon. I was totally digging Leslie Mann’s character – oh, that poor lady! She is totally at the end of her rope! – and then left the theater, and discussed it with people, and realized that YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE ROOTING FOR PAUL RUDD. In that particular sub-plot.

AMANDA: i think i had the same reaction as you did, honestly. i thought she was sympathetic, but totally pathetic. all of apatow’s male characters are pathetic, too, but they seem to ease out of that gracefully without having to think about it too much.

SADY: right – plus, they are pathetic in a totally fun way! they get to hang out and do bong hits and fart on each others’ pillows and such! so, by the end, where it’s like, “sadly, we realize that procreative monogamy with one of these strange ‘woman’ creatures is necessary to maturation” you kind of get their sadness at giving up the pillow farts and lightbub battles. whereas women are just grown-ass-adults by the time they hit puberty, apparently. or at least they’re scripted that way.

AMANDA: yeah, so the women are just haggard at the end. one thing your reviews always touch on are these coiteries of man-children that apatow scripts. and you mention the rejoinder from defenders of the movie that ‘you’re not supposed to LIKE or IDENTIFY with them.’ and i do think that you are supposed to like these characters, and even like them for (and not despite of) their date rape punch-lines. but they’re still in a context, i think, where they’re there to provide a contrast to the hero of the story. their douchiness must be overcome, basically.

SADY: yeah, exactly. they’re given such loving attention, and their little world of date-rape jokes and vague bromosocial lady-avoidance is presented as so much fun. so you forgive them for being immature in order to forgive your own immaturity, like, “well, my wife may be at home sobbing but i can’t help it! i’m a regular bro!” and then you get a Valuable Life Lesson that sticks for maybe ten to fifteen minutes.

AMANDA: … but they’re funny!

SADY: it’s true! sometimes they really really are! I subconsciously repeat Jonah Hill’s pronunciation of “abortion” as “shmushmortion” at least once a week! and then i realize it’s a joke about making a lady have an abortion because obviously her fetus is YOUR decision!

AMANDA: yeah. and apatow’s versions of women i cannot excuse. they are either bitches or whores. but caricatures of douchebags, even lovable ones, i cannot resist. see: paul rudd in wet hot american summer. i think it’s just possible to love the character and not the character if they were a person.

SADY: exactly. question: where the lady douchebags at? where are the stoned ladies that can’t get it together to have an actual apartment, and get jobs that require nothing of them because they’re afraid real jobs would be too much of a commitment, and pretend to be gandalf or some business when no-one’s looking? the ladies who would rather watch “the muppet show,” again, than do anything useful with their lives? WHERE ARE THOSE LADIES? Because I want movies about them! They exist! So I am told in a way that has nothing to do with my own personal life, at all.

AMANDA: i know, which is why I desperately want Apatow to write a movie for them. partly because i think his brain might explode, but also because i think it would be funny.

SADY: exactly. like, writing a movie about a lady that is not a sexy/stupid harlot or a knife-tongued scold would be fantastic. because the closest we’ve got to an Apatowomany character, right now, is Juno. I DON’T WANT JUNO.

AMANDA: sometimes i look at popular culture and i think of the female characters who have had abortions and i get really sad that like carrie bradshaw is the only one i can think of. but that’s a tangent.

SADY: yes, well, my forthcoming feature movie film, “50 First Abortions,” will be an exciting new direction for film, i think.

AMANDA: indeed. I think we should start a letter campaign that mirrors the request of Pixar to make a film with a heroine who is not a princess.

SADY: but, you know? i think that women have all the same maturity/commitment/not-being-an-idiot problems that these dudes have. PLUS, what with all the work we have to do to make our bodies presentable, there are many more occasions for gross jokes about our inherent schlubbiness. HUMOROUS BIKINI WAXING SCENE? I think so!

AMANDA: because us girl-women desperately need an Apatowian heroine who is not a boring slut

SADY: Right. Plus, I would love to see a movie that is just mostly women TALKING to each other, and having FUN. you never see that! unless it is in “Sex & the City!” And then it’s like, “blah blah blah shoes new boyfriend!” ZZZZZZZZ.

AMANDA: but does this mean our love interests are going to be Boring Professional Dude Who Doesn’t Understand?

SADY: deep in my soul, I say yes. Just to bother the dudebros. Make them all be played by John Corbett, and have them be like, “look! We have got to get married! Because, ADULTHOOD! Also, please stop playing the Wii for five seconds and clean the damn kitchen with me!” But no, I don’t think there’s any reason, really, why you can’t have two equally funny and interesting genders. EVEN IN A MOVIE.

AMANDA: that’s crazy! i also think it might be interesting if apatow would produce a film with a female director. a la one of the greatest Dude Comedies of all time, Wayne’s World.

SADY: WHAAAAAT. this was the work of A LADY? Tell me more! I knew there was a reason Tia Carrere sort of had a personality!

AMANDA: yeah, perhaps that’s why there is a “GRATUITOUS SEX SCENE” joke instead of a gratuitous sex scene? who can tell?

SADY: seriously. it’s just gross because there are (a) so few female directors and (b) so many stereotypes about women and comedy (namely, that we can’t do it because of our vaginas) that it’s kind of nuts to know that this huge – and, i believe, very humorous – dude comedy was directed by a lady and I don’t know who she is. I don’t know who ANY lady directors are. kathryn bigelow? kelly reichardt? SOFIA COPPOLA? yep, that’s it. i’m depressing myself now.

AMANDA: well, once 50 first abortion hits …

SADY: right? “you’ve got to stop having all these abortions!” “sorry, i forgot where the condoms were!” “let’s get totally married!” SUCH IS THE DIALOGUE OF MY FUTURE COMEDY HIT. you will laugh! you will cry! you will get an abortion!

22 Comments

  1. James wrote:

    AMANDA: but does this mean our love interests are going to be Boring Professional Dude Who Doesn't Understand?

    SADY: deep in my soul, I say yes. Just to bother the dudebros. Make them all be played by John Corbett, and have them be like, "look! We have got to get married! Because, ADULTHOOD! Also, please stop playing the Wii for five seconds and clean the damn kitchen with me!"

    So with the genders switched, dude comedies become Dharma & Greg?

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  2. Sady wrote:

    @James: Yes. Yes, it does. I consider this a fitting punishment.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  3. Sady wrote:

    @Sady: "It does?" "They do?" WHO KNOWS. "Yes it do become the Dharma and the Greg show, yep, uh-huh." I AM A WRITER. I WRITE THINGS. ON THE BLOGS.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  4. C. L. Minou wrote:

    Wow, I had no idea that my surgery was going to remove…my SENSE OF HUMOR!

    And yet I laughed at this post. Quick! Get me Judd Apatow! I'm laughing and there aren't any winsome man-children about! Something has gone horribly…right.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  5. Kitty Pimms wrote:

    "where are the stoned ladies that can't get it together to have an actual apartment, and get jobs that require nothing of them because they're afraid real jobs would be too much of a commitment, and pretend to be gandalf or some business when no-one's looking? "

    um… over here (sheepishly points to self).

    really though, i think the Dharma and Greg comparison is right on… it's the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" phenomena that they're always on about over at the AV Club.

    the free-spirited movie girl exists to drag the boring and/or depressed but sensitive movie guy out of his rut. but the movie's not about the girl, because who'd want to watch that?

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  6. Sniper wrote:

    What are those men in the picture doing?

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  7. snobographer wrote:

    Amy Heckerling! Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, European Vacation, Clueless) needs to do the gender-swapped Apatowomany bromance!

    Or Penelope Spheeris. She's the lady who did Wayne's World. Plus a lot of serious stuff. :|

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  8. Mireille wrote:

    Penelope Spheeris directed Wayne's World. But mostly I remember her for Decline of Western Civilization parts 1 & 2.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    Manic Pixie Dream Girl is not "stoner who lives at home and has a dead end job" girl. Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a fantasy ideal. Stoner girl would likely be slobby and socially awkward in a non-Amelie way and may even be a little chubby. Plus – not perfect hair.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  10. Foxessa wrote:

    These are the Dude's Spawn, vi the weird feminist artist bore deliberately with the Lebowski sperm back at the start of the Reagan era.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  11. Amber L wrote:

    Sady, have you seen the British series "Pulling"? Three ladies who can't get it together, living in an apartment. It's a dark comedy, and maybe the closest thing I've seen to a female answer to the Apatow canon (seriously–canon?), even though it isn't American. Since seeing the first season on dvd, it's my mission to tell all the ladies (who would appreciate it) about the show.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  12. S. Gates wrote:

    When I first read this post, I giggled heartily, and began to wonder what such a movie (starring an Apatowomany character) might be. After thinking on it for a bit, I realized that the main character of the webcomic Girls with Slingshots would probably fit the bill. Which naturally made me love the comic even more. >.>

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  13. Jean wrote:

    "where are the stoned ladies that can't get it together to have an actual apartment, and get jobs that require nothing of them because they're afraid real jobs would be too much of a commitment, and pretend to be gandalf or some business when no-one's looking? "

    You are describing the short-lived TV series "Wonderfalls," about a 20-something slacker named Jaye who is massively overeducated for her job as a gift shop clerk in Niagra Falls. She lives in a trailer park, and spends her free time downing shots at the bar where her BFF works as a cocktail waitress. The humor is sarcasm-based rather than farting-based, but it's still very funny. It only lasted a season, but the plot gets somewhat wrapped up in the last episode, and it's out on DVD.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    Here's another rec–for "Wonderfalls." It has a slacker heroine, discussions of adulthood, boys and girls without careers, and actual laughs that do not make you feel dirty later. (Also not American, though. Those wacky Canadians!)

    I love this blog, btw! And its exclamation points!

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink
  15. mark c wrote:

    Smiley Face stars Anna Faris as a stoner girl who stumbles round having a disastrous day. It came out straight to DVD in the UK but is not bad. It was directed by Gregg Araki, I think

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:43 am | Permalink
  16. DNR wrote:

    For what it's worth, I think you are supposed to sympathize with Leslie Mann's character in Knocked Up. If you weren't, the movie wouldn't have a scene where she's crying after being rejected from the nightclub (the bouncer too, played by Apatow regular Craig Robinson, is hilarious as he curses that he can't let more than one and a half black men into the club.) One of the real strengths of the movie is that it has such a strong supporting character cast and a relaxed, improvised atmosphere, is that it gives you the feeling that it can go off and follow any of the other characters rather than the two people listed above the title. The main flaw is that it doesn't. (There is actually a female stoner in the movie, and she's hilarious, which is all the more impressive given that she has maybe 20 seconds of film time.) The relationship between Mann and Rudd is so much more interesting than that of the Heigl and Rogen, and so free of easy answers, that it's sad to seem them shoved aside by the end so everyone can smile at the baby.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  17. DNR wrote:

    Not to double post (or hell to double post), but I think Penelope Spheeris doesn't bring much to Wayne's World that could have been done a half-dozen middling comic directors, and it's not much a movie anyway, but she did make the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization trilogy, which are invaluable documents about the history of punk and heavy metal. Her fiction movies are Chris Farley vehicles and remakes of bad sitcoms, but seek out her documentaries whenever you can. Rights issues keep the Decline and Fall movies off DVD, but they show up at revival houses, and I swear I saw one playing in full as a video installation at PS 1 in Long Island City.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  18. Ciccina wrote:

    "where are the stoned ladies that can't get it together to have an actual apartment, and get jobs that require nothing of them because they're afraid real jobs would be too much of a commitment, and pretend to be gandalf or some business when no-one's looking? "

    1. Sarah Silverman. Plus she already did the "50 First Abortions" thing, sort of, in the episode of her show called "Bored of the Rings." I thought it was hilarious. You can buy it off ITunes. I recommend it.

    2. Jennifer Aniston played that character in "Friends With Money" – though it wasn't a comedy.

    3. More generally, the woman who plays the character "Trudy" on Reno 911 gets to do all sorts of immature, crude, and gross comedy without the burden of having to be a sex object. I would not insult her by calling her Apatowian, however.

    4. Didn't Janeane Garofalo used to *be* this character?

    5. Other female directors/producers working today: Jane Campion. Penny Marshall (I think). There are others. But not many.

    6. The producer of the Spike TV's "Manswers"? A woman. A woman whose name I have conveniently forgotten.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  19. berryblade wrote:

    "SADY: exactly. question: where the lady douchebags at? where are the stoned ladies that can't get it together to have an actual apartment, and get jobs that require nothing of them because they're afraid real jobs would be too much of a commitment, and pretend to be gandalf or some business when no-one's looking? the ladies who would rather watch "the muppet show," again, than do anything useful with their lives? WHERE ARE THOSE LADIES? Because I want movies about them! They exist! So I am told in a way that has nothing to do with my own personal life, at all."

    I want to know where the fuck these movies are as well, seeing as you've pretty much described me. Swap Gandalf for a zombpocalyspe survivor or Lara Croft and we're in business.

    Maybe I'll just film me hanging out with my friends and hijack my universities film editing facilities and publish it on the internetz.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  20. Ridgely Schantz wrote:

    Mary Herron! She's terrifyingly awesome at the kind of casual anthropology that Edith Wharton had down: the neurosurgically accurate in-depth report on the Village of Monsters which she'll just as unapologetically claim as her own. Double points if someone wins a word-belching contest with "Andy Warhol."

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink
  21. Ridgely Schantz wrote:

    Get Mary Herron on the horn stat. She does that thing that Edith Wharton always pulls off. It's all "please read my toe-nail specific ethnography of this tribe of monsters and oh, they're my brothers and sisters and if you make me leave, I'll go find more."

    Plus please god let there be a tie between burping contest entries: Child-Genius-and-now-I'm-kicking-back-as-a-Part-Time-Dog-Walker's staccato gutforth "Andy Warhol" versus Yeah-I-teach-yoga's raspy but sustained "Cassavetes."

    Just this once?

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink
  22. Canomia wrote:

    Oh god, you can't go away for just one tiny week without the internet! So much to read!

    Any way, you might like Jamie Babitt. When the Apatov-produced girlwoman comedy thing came up I was like, omg Jamie Babitt must do it!
    She is titaly funny and hasn't had to many movies done so far. She directs for tv alot, gilmore girls for example, and some l-word episodes. But what I love her for is the fantastic comedy But I'm a Cheerleader? about a girl who is a cheerleader but they send her to a camp to cure her from being a lesbian and she didn't even know she was one and is all like ..but I'm a cheerleader? How could I posibly be gay, and a cheerleader?

    Monday, June 15, 2009 at 3:40 am | Permalink