Things I ate during SUPERBAD

Plate of spaghetti bolognese with cheese.

SUPERBAD is another Judd Apatow-produced slob comedy type thing (it’s directed by Greg Mottola, script by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg), but if you think about it, this stuff is pretty smart and progressive compared to slob-coms of earlier decades. I mean, I would rather gouge my own nipples out than watch NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE. This one struck me as actually very funny, most of the time.

Then I had a sort of lemon curd yoghurt thing for desert. The movie was still on at this point.

The Apatow school strikes a weird balance, trying to be sensitive and respectful to women while doing gross-out stuff and celebrating childish behaviour in men. They tend to show ugly men winning the hearts of really hot girls, which is implausible outside showbiz, but not in itself grounds for hating the films, I would say. Not that Michael Cera is ugly, in fact he’s rather beautiful. I would totally do him, and I would still feel completely heterosexual even as I penetrated him because he’s so inherently lovely.

After dessert I felt like a nice cup of tea, so I had one. Does that count? Tea?

But homosexuality is a big thing here, partly because these films are a little confused about it. There are never any actual homosexual characters in these more enlightened modern comedies, because it wouldn’t be cool to laugh at gays (I guess there’s the cowboy newscaster in ANCHORMAN: THE RON BURGUNDY STORY, but that seems to be OK because he’s deeply closeted and self-deception IS inherently funny), but characters can humorously abuse each other for acting “gay”. THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN has extended banter about “You know how I know you’re gay?” between two straight buddies, and while I found it funny I also worried if, you know, I should. In fact, if you start to worry about this, it does mostly stop being funny.

It’s kind of like Old Hollywood and black people. While some comedies portrayed blacks as shiftless imbeciles, or at least poked fun at lack of education, filmmakers more sensitive to racial issues responded by not featuring any black characters in their films at all. “They have suffered too much ever to be funny to me,” said Chaplin. But even though these guys meant well, ethnically cleansing American cinema is actually WORSE than patronising and insulting the black populace.

(Comparing black people to gay people is now the only acceptable way to offend black people.)

So now we have slightly cautious dirty comedies that can kind of denigrate the concept of same-sex sex, without ever actually showing it in existence. And it’s SORT OF acceptable, because we all know that people don’t always talk and behave in a P.C. way, right? And it does feel like discourse is continuing to progress, even with the Republicans in power — an actor making a homophobic remark can get in trouble for it, which, when you think about it, is incredible progress.

And then I had some nice poppy seed bread, just because it was there. I mean, I wasn’t actually hungry or anything.

There’s a point when the two heroes of SUPERBAD have a sleepover and admit they love one another, and then the next morning they’re embarrassed. I kind of wanted them to actually DO IT, or kiss or something, something they could at least be properly embarrassed about. That would actually be a major step in mainstream comedy. And it’s not actually as if I want to see Jonah Hill copulating with ANYONE.

Even Michael Cera.


13 Responses to “Things I ate during SUPERBAD”

  1. Chris B Says:

    >And it’s SORT OF acceptable, because we all know that people don’t always talk and behave in a P.C. way, right?

    P.C. *shudder*, semantic bullshit used to further divide ‘groups’ and in the process of word altercation, end up not only causing confusion but awkwardness as to what the “correct” term should be at any give moment.

    The late great George Carlin expresses it better than I, though:

    1. (P.C. in general)

    2. (Black)

    3. (Indians)

  2. Well being both black and gay, I OFFEND MYSELF!

    You’re quite right about Apatow’s comedies, especially Superbad.
    It’s sports an understanding of same-sex affection that’s striving to overcome residual queasiness about “Teh Ghey” (as the children say nowadays.) The climax of the film is Jonah Hill’s confession that he loves Michael Cera. And his last lingering look at him as they part ( separated by circumstances pertaining to class, which is a far bigger “No No” than sexuality in American culture) has been much remarked-upon.

    Have you seen Knocked Up ? It’s quite good. Apatow truly understands the desire of middle-class American men to remain adolescent schoolboys forever. It reaches a comic yet deeply insightful climax when Paul Rudd’s wife, convinced that he’s been sneaking off for trysts with another woman, discovers that instead he’s been leading a “Fantasy Baseball” competition. Her friends think she’ll be pleased because it isn’t adultery as she feared. But she says “No, IT’S WORSE!!!”

  3. Yes, Knocked Up is the sharpest of the lot, probably. 40 Yr Old V defintely has merits, more so than the title would suggest, and I also really like Anchorman. Zoolander is pretty good, and DOES have a gay character. Alright, he’s the villainous fashion designer, but I know at least some gay people admire him.

    Fiona said of Superbad, “So this is about how men basically never grow up, right?” which is certainly one aspect. As you say, the TYPE of man profiled is fairly specific.

  4. Ah, but leave us not forget “McLovin”! Easily the most scintillating comic creation to hit the screen since “The Weenie King” in The Palm Beach Story, he represents the triumph of Nerd-dom in a way that’s positively transcendent.

  5. Chris B Says:

    One thing I wish Apatow would take on board with his productions though: LENGTH! It gets worse with his “extended editions” for DVD, ugh! I’m serious, so much redundant material could be stripped, especially from SUPERBAD with many repetitive, unfunny moments regarding the police.

    Ever watched Freaks & Geeks, David C? Quite enjoyable.

  6. I must do Freaks and Geeks sometime. Agree with the length, some things were meant to be DVD extras, not crammed back into the films.

    McLovin is very fine, I agree also. Although my favourite Sturges character might be Rudy Vallee, also in The Palm Beach Story.

    Finest. Schnook. Ever.

  7. And Mary Astor in The Palm Beach Story has always been my role model.

  8. One could certainly do worse.

    “Nitz, Toto, Nitz!”

  9. Yup, exciting stuff.

    This better be worth the wait, or I’m gonna dig Fritz up and ping his eyepatch.

  10. Are you familair with Greg Mottola’s previous feature, Daytrippers? It was made several years back and stars Hope Davis as a suburban housewife who suspects that her husband, Stanley Tucci, is stepping out on her. And being Stanley Tucci of course he is — but not in the way she or anyone else imagines. Co-stars include the essential Parker Posey as her sister, Liev Schreiber as a guy sweet on Parker, and Anne Meara (Ben Stiller’s mom) as her mother. They all take off from Queens and head for New York. As someone who lived in Queens as a child and travelled to New York constantly the film has a special resonance. There’s a divide between the ‘burbs and the Big Town — which is the Land of Sin. But ‘burbsters aren’t exactly naive, and Mottola works wonders exploiting sibling relationships (the sisters aren’t at odds but they’re very different people) and the perils of dating (Schreiber wants Posey BAD, but it’s not going to work out and we can tell well before he can, even though he’s a nice guys and she’s NOT an evil bitch.)

    I thought about all of this in relation to Superbad which ends on a a note of true poignance that’s quite un-Apatow-like. If Apatow’s theme is the prolongation of childhood then Superbad has a place apart as it’s a film about the very moment when childhood ends. The boys are parting and in very specail way it’s like Death Itself.

    In some ways its a milder version of Y Tu Mama Tambien, which finishes with the most devestating ending I’ve ever seen (Narrator: “They shall not see each other again.” Gael Garcia Bernal: “Check!”) I expect the Superbad boys will corss paths several years down the line. But they won’t be the same people and it will all be inexpressibly confusing and sad for them.

    “McLovin,” however, will roll right on unscathed.

  11. K. Connolly Says:

    Well, give Superbad marks for at least highlighting genuine male emotional confusion even if it doesn’t understand the sexual side of the territory its characters are in. The two leads love each other, which adds something to a film which is basically about scoring beer and striking out with girls. Part of the success of this and other films is they’re just stupid, really, but very smart about their stupidity. And when they start to think they should be smart (see Kevin Smith’s career nose-dive) they lose their way.

    Over here, people talk about something being “gay” in the “high school” sense of the word. Which is a guilty way of talking about things that make you uncomfortable without risking being labelled a homophobe because they make you uncomfortable. And things that make people uncomfortable are of course wide open to funny.

    I prefer the tentative and slightly dorky attempt to acknowledge that here than the stereotypes played for cheap laughs (Zoolander) any day.

    At least they’re laying off the Asians. John Hughes, who (in some ways justifiably) is the hero of this new wave of high school comedy filmmakers completely ruined 16 Candles with his horribly racist incidental Asian character. It’s otherwise a rather sweet film, but unwatchable.

    I agree with David E about Daytrippers. Underrated and smart and far better than recent wannabes (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno etc.).

  12. What happened with the Asian character in 16 Candles was accidental. A lot of it had to do with the gonzo enthusiasm of Gedde Watanabe — a truly amazing character who should have had more of a career than he did (see him also in Ron Howard’s very underrated Gung Ho.) Gedde was just a teenager when he starred on Broadway on Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures singing “Someone in a Tree” — the song Sondheim declares is his absolute favorite of his own works. I do wish Gedde had more opportunities out here. But the industry has changed overall, and it looks like Alec Mapa has cornered the market on wacky gay Asians.

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