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Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Superemosogynisticexpialadocious. If You Make a Film of It, It’s Really Quite Atrocious!

JASON SEGEL: I’m interested in hearing a woman’s point of view on this. 
– From “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” 
Ha ha, TOO BAD, film and TV star and Forgetting Sarah Marshall screenplay-writer Jason Segel! For the end of the Apatow Marathon is upon us, Forgetting Sarah Marshall has been viewed and is currently accumulating late fees in my DVD player, and it is time for me to deliver my analysis, which is: they are not even trying any more, for real. 
This is not to say that I didn’t laugh. Maybe my standards have been gradually lowered, or maybe it’s just that the hatred and shittiness in this movie are a lot more subtle than they are in, say, Superbad, but the fact is that Jason Segel is, as a performer, a pretty funny guy. He’s got the market cornered on playing creepy losers who just might stalk you. Unfortunately, as a screenwriter, he would seem to be an actual creepy loser who might just actually stalk you: for behold, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a film explicitly and entirely about why women who don’t agree to be endlessly tolerant and supportive mommy-ladies for the men in their lives should be humiliated and punished. 
Jason Segel plays Peter, a giant Apatovian man-baby whose hobbies include eating industrial-size bowls of sugary kids’ cereal, writing a rock opera about Dracula intended to be performed by puppets, pretending to be Gandalf, and obsessing over his girlfriend Sarah Marshall (a gorgeous TV star, played by gorgeous TV star Kristen Bell, who deserves so much better than this). In a surprise move that no one could possibly anticipate, the woman who is way out of Peter’s league dumps him, so he promptly puts on his crazy pants and goes to town. Crazy Town, that is! Population: Peter. 
Getting dumped sucks. It is unbelievably painful, especially when you are ending a long-term relationship, which is what Peter and Sarah are doing. A comedy about how painful it can be is something to which I am not opposed! It’s also probably really tough to be an emotional or sensitive guy, given that dudes are constantly shit on in patriarchy for being so feminine as to have and express a full range of human emotions. I’d like to see a movie about that, too! Just not this one: for Peter is not merely a sensitive guy experiencing pain, but what my colleagues in the making-up-silly-names-for-sexism industry refer to as an “emosogynist.” 
You know this guy. You’ve met this guy. Once you have met him, you can never again confuse him with an actual, decent, sensitive guy in pain – and I’ve met those guys too, and seriously, you’re all great. The defining factor of emosogyny is not emotion, but what you do with it: specifically, whether you are willing to make the leap from “I have feelings, which can be bad and painful,” or even “a specific woman has hurt my feelings by acting like a dick” – feelings to which everyone has a right! Feelings which I myself have had! And caused! – to “it is the job of women to make sure I never have bad or painful feelings, and they have failed, those bitches.” We’re all familiar with the Sarah Marshall “promotional materials designed to look like notes from your stalker” campaign, I trust – if not, this blog entry, charmingly entitled “Are All Women as Awful as Sarah Marshall,” in which Peter details his adventures with Crazy Drunk Sluts, will clue you in  – and, seriously, if you’ve seen any of that, you’ve seen the first half of this movie. Um, PASS. 
So, anyway, Peter is a sad man-child without a mommy-lady, and he chooses to rectify this situation by stalking his ex-girlfriend all the way to Hawaii, which he knows is her favorite vacation spot, and taking a room in a hotel, which he knows is her favorite place to stay, and HOW HAS NO-ONE EVER FILED A RESTRAINING ORDER ON THIS DUDE, I guess, is what I am asking you – and, surprise! Sarah is there! With her new boyfriend! So he gets to follow her around obnoxiously for most of the movie, YAY.  
He also gets to pick up a lady played by Mila Kunis, who is seriously the most flagrant and obnoxious case of a “Because, Um…?” girl I have ever seen. I can’t even remember her name; she basically doesn’t need one. She’s just some lady, so that is what I will be calling her from now on. 
Some Lady gives Peter a free room because she pities him. Some Lady goes on dates with Peter because she pities him. Some Lady becomes Peter’s girlfriend because, basically, she pities him, and Some Lady consistently just says what Peter wants her to say and does what Peter wants her to do and it is so blatant and ridiculous that I seriously considered the possibility that he was hallucinating her because he had gone 100% around the bend, like the point of the movie would turn out to be that Mila Kunis was Tyler Durden. Here, a sampling of her dialogue: 

SOME LADY: Sarah Marshall’s show sucks, anyway.
PETER: I do the music for that show.
SOME LADY: Oh, well, did I mention that the music for that show totally rocks?


SOME LADY: I’m not the kind of girl you have to dote on.

Cue montage of Peter having to hold Kristin Bell’s bag at various events! She was much more successful than he was, you see, which made her a bad person. Oh, and: 

SOME LADY: Stop being so sensitive. 

Cue Peter getting to smack her ass during sex! 
And this, which was seriously so fucking ridiculous I actually THREW THINGS AT MY TV SCREEN, so much rage, I am telling you, did I experience: 

PETER: I’m actually working on a rock opera.
SOME LADY: Yeah? What’s your rock opera about?
PETER: Dracula? And, eternal love. You know, I think the two sort of go hand in hand. I had this vision of doing it with puppets.

Ladies and gentleman, guess what her next line is. I will give you a hint: it is a question! You may wish to think of the questions you yourself would ask in this situation, such as: Gosh, it’s about time for me to be heading out, isn’t it? Or, So, do you have any back-up plans for your career? Or, Why would your friends and family be so cruel as to let you continue thinking this was a good idea? Wrong! The question is:

SOME LADY: Why Dracula?

She is, of course, giving him an adorable and sexy look of complete and utter tolerance throughout. Her eyes are fathomless pools of tolerance. She signals red-hot, uninhibited tolerance with every move she makes. She wants to take him home and tolerate the hell out of him. This makes her a Good Woman, as opposed to Sarah Marshall, who is a Bad Woman, as we are shown in a flashback wherein he plays some of this masterwork for her, and, you will not believe it, she thinks a vampire puppet musical about Dracula is a dumb idea.

Some Lady also does this really terrible thing which I have to tell you about, which is to laugh really, really loudly whenever Jason Segel does something we are supposed to find funny or charming, which is especially bizarre and annoying when the jokes fall flat, as they do with greater and greater frequency once the movie hits its stride. Like, there is this scene wherein she “surprises” him with the chance to perform his music in public, because fuck knows she doesn’t have anything better to do than to give the guy she has dated 0.5 times the chance to serenade a bunch of harmless drunks with his as-yet-untested musical vampire puppet bullshit, and he performs the worst fucking song you have ever heard, I think it is supposed to be funny but really it is just Jason Segel singing a terrible song in a terrible stupid Dracula voice, and she laughs like FIVE TIMES during this scene, and then afterwards says, literally says the words, “that is funny.” This woman is a plot device who exists specifically and entirely to show us that we are supposed to like Jason Segel’s character, and 99% of her narrative function could be performed by having cards pop up periodically on screen as in silent movies, like “A Clever Jest!” or “What a Likable Young Fellow!” They could have just had a big neon sign hanging over the screen that periodically flashed the words LAUGHTER or APPLAUSE, and then there would be no reason for Mila Kunis to be in this movie.

Oh but I forgot there is also the scene in which they are standing atop a cliff overlooking an ocean and talking about how entering a new relationship after you’ve broken up with/stalked someone is a lot like jumping into the ocean from a cliff and then she jumps into the ocean from the cliff and then he is really scared and hesitant and unwilling to let go of the cliff because he might get hurt but, you will not believe this, he eventually jumps off the cliff into the ocean and they make out. I think there is some kind of metaphor going on in this scene but it is really complicated and subtle so I don’t quite get it.

So, anyway, Some Lady just exists to reward Peter with the salty blue Pacific between her thighs and/or make Peter seem like less of a creepy jerk and/or provide a Good (endlessly accepting and tolerant and encouraging mommy-lady-type) Woman to make Sarah Marshall seem Bad, and we don’t really have to talk about her besides noting that she does these things, so let’s not any more. The real point of this movie is to humiliate and punish women who break up with or are less than perfectly acquiescent to and tolerant of men, or, more specifically, to punish and humiliate Sarah Marshall.

Because here’s what happens to Sarah Marshall: she loses her job, and with it, the fact that she is more successful and socially powerful than Peter. She is revealed as a long-time secret cheater, so we know she was always an evil whore. She goes to a dinner where (a) her drunk musician boyfriend tells her he’s cheated on her countless times, that he intends to continue doing so, and that he regards her as no more than a groupie, and (b) her drunk boyfriend and drunk ex laugh about how terrible everything that she’s done with her career has been, and tell that her success is both unearned and unimportant, and that she will probably never succeed at anything else again, and (c) Some Lady tells her she’s vapid and shallow, and then makes out with her ex-boyfriend in front of her expressly and specifically to hurt her feelings. She hears her ex-boyfriend having loud sex through the walls of her room, and she then tries to fuck her own boyfriend (Some Lady is shown as being totally willing to amp up her sex noises when she becomes aware that it is a contest, because there’s nothing a Good Woman likes more than being used to help some guy work out his issues with another lady WHILE HIS PENIS IS INSIDE HER) but Sarah’s boyfriend pushes her away and continues to tell her how terrible she is and how little he cares for her. She is dumped, so her crime of having a relationship with someone other than Peter is justly punished. Peter then makes friends with her newly-ex-boyfriend, and they have a nice little conversation in which she is compared to Hitler and Goebbels. She tells Peter she loves and misses him, and he too pushes her away until he forces her to say the words “I’m sorry,” at which point there comes the truly unforgettable moment in which she tries to suck him off, and he can’t get hard, and he tells her it’s her fault because she is “the goddamn Devil.” And Kristen Bell’s last shot in the movie, as a physically present woman who interacts with the other characters, is simply a shot of her with her hair and makeup wrecked, in her underwear, lying on a bed while a man screams at and about her.

All of this for ending a relationship which, in the one scene where Sarah Marshall comes across as an actual human being, and which Kristen Bell sells so beautifully that I’m convinced she made them add it in, she describes thusly:

It’s not anything you did. You didn’t do anything… It got really hard to keep taking care of you when you stopped taking care of yourself. I tried to get you out of the house. I tried to get you off your little island you loved so much, the couch. You didn’t want to see the light of day… that’s what you don’t get… I tried. You have no idea how hard I tried, Peter. I talked to a therapist. I talked to my mother. I read every book possible. I took love seminars, I took sex seminars. None of it worked. None of it made a difference to you, and I couldn’t drown with you any more. Don’t you dare sit there and tell me I didn’t try.

She is, at this point, sobbing. What a bitch, am I right? 


  1. Natasha wrote:

    I am basically crying for poor Kristen Bell at this point. I want to give her a hug. This is even better than your Superbad essay, which was great.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  2. masagoroll wrote:

    Are you going to write about Knocked Up? That and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are the only Apatow movies that are written, directed, AND produced by him (according to Wikipedia, heh), plus Katherine Heigl who was in the movie said it was sexist herself (thus causing many people to go on about her being an ungrateful bitch or something for daring to say that about a movie she was in).

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  3. Jenn wrote:

    I submit that I got the same feeling from Sarah Marshall as you did. Dating such a man-child would be maddening. He’s lucky that all she did was cheat on him, rather than kill him in a fit of pique. Poor Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell. If I didn’t know better, I’d blame them for taking on such pathetic roles. But considering the wasteland called Hollywood, it’s quite probable that that’s the only kind of roles that exist for women anymore.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  4. snobographer wrote:

    Yeah, I’d be interested in more Apatow take-downs too, but not at the risk of your sanity. I never saw this one. I’m glad I didn’t.
    So is Bell’s monologue at the end the end of the movie? Or is there some half-assed death-bed confession from Segel where he admits that maybe just maybe he bears an eensy bit of responsibility for the failure of this relationship? Or does he just tell her to go Cheney herself and turn on his heel to run to the ever-tolerating arms of because…um lady?

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  5. katelyn wrote:

    you articulate all the buzzing ideas that swarm angrily in my head but cannot be expressed! you are the best!

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  6. meloukhia wrote:

    More importantly, are you getting a medal or something for this series of posts? I feel like my brain would explode on an Apatowarathon.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  7. womenwithpants wrote:

    Your tireless work and unflinching willingness to submit yourself to yet more of the rampant pop-culture miscogyny of these godawful films is the highest form of sacrifice.

    Tigerbeatdown, I salute you.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Natasha: Kristen Bell deserves SO MUCH better than this. It really sucks that she is not in five million movies, because as an actress she just radiates charm and intelligence, and generally seems like a fun, bubbly, likable woman who could hand you your ass without skipping a beat or compromising her basic likability, and we need more roles for sweet-yet-tough ladies along these lines. Yet, the only post-Veronica-Mars roles I’ve seen her in are villain roles. WHY? If I think too much about this, I will get very depressed.

    @snobographer: It’s near the end of the movie, and it seems to exist solely to set up the blow-job-shame scene, after which Some Lady finds out and dumps him for about five minutes, upon learning which Some Lady’s friends tell her she should be ashamed of herself because turning down a blow job from an ex-girlfriend twenty-four hours after he’s fucked you is THE HARDEST THING A MAN COULD EVER DO, so clearly Some Lady should move to a new city across the ocean to be with him, AND SHE THEN DOES PRECISELY THAT, THE END. Seriously. That happens. I exaggerate nothing.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  9. WildlyParenthetical wrote:

    A great piece; I particularly like the ‘Some Lady’ bit! The thing that made me angriest about that movie was that that lil speech that Kristen Bell makes (that last one in your post) totally opened up a space for actually looking at how much work women wind up doing in relationships, and the tendency for men to not feel like they have to take care of the relationship at all… and the way that the ‘bitch dumped me’ attempt to blame it all on the woman is usually just an attempt to disavow responsibility… and then the film does the equivalent of sticking its fingers in its ears and going ‘nahnahnahnah, I’m not listening!’. It’s so horrible. And Some Lady is such a weird character: they have nothing in common except feeling sorry for him… and we’re meant to believe that’s a good grounding for a future relationship? Ugh.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  10. masagoroll wrote:

    I just remembered a comment I had about emosogynists– the worst thing about them is how completely incapable they are of seeing things from anyone else’s point of view. They’re like “Why don’t women date me??” when they are acting mean about women and just basically being a huge bummer. They would surely not want to date a woman who disses men all day long and has a 24/7 pity party, but they can’t even imagine the perspective of a woman for a moment to see how unappealing they are because of their attitudes!

    Oh, and also, I haven’t seen this movie, but imagining Kristen Bell giving that speech makes me want to cry, anyway! 🙁

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    On a lighter note: I think this may just be my favorite title in the history of titles. Brilliant.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  12. FlipYrWhig wrote:

    Sady, you are good at this.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  13. mg_65 wrote:

    This piece is utterly and totally brilliant. Thank you.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  14. Masha wrote:

    Oh god, I’m so glad I never saw the movie. I think if I had seen the end for myself, I would have broken whatever screen it was showing on, seriously. And I agree with mg_65, this post IS brilliant.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 3:10 am | Permalink

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