Friday, August 31, 2007

The Confusing Business of Life

I'm never quite sure if I make a good feminist or not. I rail against pro-lifers, I make sure I vote in every election, and I believe that women should be equal to men. Ellen Goodman's editorial in the Globe has me questioning the voracity of my feminism on a Friday before a long weekend because I liked a movie I saw this summer. This couldn't have waited until Tuesday?

Goodman's editorial doesn't seem to have a big point, but I think she's perturbed by the reinforcement of gender stereotypes at the movies and in bookstores this summer.

The remarkable thing is that the best-selling book [The Dangerous Book for Boys] and the number-one movie [Knocked Up and/or Superbad] are out there offering the most opposite and fanciful revised images of boyness since the culture became obsessed with the "boy crisis," the "boy trouble," and assorted imaginary "wars against boys."

I didn't have an entirely positive reaction to The Dangerous Book for Boys, either. A friend emailed me after seeing the book on the Today show, recommending I buy it for a boy I babysit. After reading the synopsis, I got a little angry. Why shouldn't the boy's sisters learn how to tie knots or make paper airplanes? If the authors had titled the book The Dangerous Book for Kids, I probably would have bought it, but the entire book implies that these hobbies are for boys exclusively. The idea that girls shouldn't like Latin or want to know about important historical battles put me off enough where I bought the boy a different gift.

But my take on Judd Apatow's movies is the opposite of Goodman's. I haven't seen Superbad yet, but feminist blogs like Jezebel loved the movie. I did see Knocked Up, and I liked it. Was the movie vulgar? Of course it was. Yet underneath the veneer of vulgarity there is emotion that saves the movie from being There's Something About Mary. Seth Rogen's character tries (albeit in a misguided way) to impress Katherine Heigl's young professional character. Rogen's character also promises to be a part of the child's life, and changes from a stoner to a corporate sellout to provide for the baby. Aww.

The moral messiness of Apatow's male characters is what I like about his movies. Women's comedies have hapless women like Bridget Jones who spend the majority of their waking hours jumping through hoops to attract and keep a man. In their own foolish way, Apatow's geeky high schoolers and stoner layabouts are going through the same thing, but they use booze for underage girls instead of makeup and heels to do it.

I may not agree with Goodman on frat boy comedies, but she and I can team up to torch a crate of The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls when that shipment comes in. Stage faints and "fairy flower parties"? Fuck that. If you need me, I'll be teaching little girls how to hog-tie their younger siblings.


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