Apatowcalypse Now: Methinks the Dudebro Doth Protest Too Much

Because she hates me (just kidding), Shaker Nancy sent me a link to a Jezebel post which links to a piece at Moveline in which Judd Apatow explains that he's not a sexist.

Maybe he's funny after all, because THAT MAKES ME LAUGH!
"I think, really, what a lot of these issues are is that women are romanticized in movies," he said. "[My] movies go pretty hard at having women have as many problems as men. They make mistakes that are as big as men's. So when someone says Knocked Up seems sexist, I'm like, 'Really?' I mean, Seth [Rogen] has an earthquake, and he grabs his bong before his pregnant girlfriend. That's pretty bad. But I try to weigh it evenly so it's not really about men or women; it's just about miscommunications and us at our worst. Because people at their best I don't really want to watch in entertainment. I don't really want to watch mature people or smart people or people who do the right thing. I like to meet them in life, but I don't find them entertaining. And certainly not funny. So I feel like the worse people are, the more amusing [it is] and the more I root for them to figure their shit out."
Possibly even worse than the "You're just humorless" criticism-deflection is the "You just hate how equally I treat women" accusation, as if the critics of Apatow's treatment of women (and/or men) are really, secretly just mad because his portrayal of women is so real and WE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! We can only tolerate women being portrayed as flawless saints, or something.

I've met this strawfeminist before. She likes to hang around lots of dudebros who engage in lazy sexist tropes about both sexes and call it keeping it real or edgy.

Something that Judd Apatow does not realize: The "problems" with which female characters are burdened can themselves be sexist. If, for example, you give your male lead the "problem" of preferring his bong to his girlfriend, and give your female lead the "problem" of being in a relationship with a man who chooses his bong over her, instead of, say, the "problem" of extricating herself from a relationship with someone she loves but who clearly does not sufficiently return her feelings, that is stupid—and it's stupid in a way that's sexist, because it turns the female lead into someone who centers and prioritizes the male lead, which is frequently the only thing she seems to have in common with him.

Giving a female character "problems" doesn't count if they're nothing but appendage problems—that is, being an appendage of a male character. If a female character would no longer have any of the flaws with which she's been imbued if she dumped the male character to whom she's inexplicably attached, that's not parity. Especially when she's also the magical solution to all the male character's flaws: If only he'd grow up and appreciate this good woman!

She's better off without him; he's a better and complete man with her. So they end up together! Yay!

Wait. Yay?

Something doesn't quite seem to work in that equation.

Oh, well, never mind that niggling feeling in the back of your mind about how we've been shown in myriad and sundry ways throughout the entirety of the film that the female character's biggest "problem" is being in a relationship with an immature dipshit who alternately takes her for granted, wants her to be his mommy, and resents her for having needs of her own, which sort of undermines the idea that their being together—forever!—is a happy ending for her.

What are you—some kind of humorless feminist who doesn't like seeing men and women being treated equally? Snort.

Things get rougher for female characters in films Apatow merely produces to advance the careers of the soldiers in his Man-Boy Army. The Seth Rogen-penned Superbad is little more than an extended treatise on the awesomeness of date rape (and shares in common with the Seth Rogen vehicle Observe and Report the hilarious twist that drunk sluts want you to fuck them!), and the Jason Segel-penned Forgetting Sarah Marshall contains within it the most egregious example of an Appendage Girl (played by poor Mila Kunis, who deserves so much better) I believe I've ever witnessed on film.

Sady's description of Appendage Girl (who she calls "Some Lady," because she doesn't even need a name, given the purpose she serves) is exquisite:
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.

…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.
Appendage Girl/Some Lady's only "problem" appears to be having a picture of her boobs publicly displayed in a men's bathroom—which, let's face it, isn't her problem as much as a problem for Peter: The Dude To Whom She's An Appendage, because THOSE ARE HIS BOOBS!

Don't worry, sensitive readers. He takes care of it.

And that's when we find out that Appendage Girl only really had a problem so that her dudebro in shining armor could fix it. Which is really great, because, dude, he really needed to feel like a hero. Lucky she had that problem he could fix. To make himself feel awesome.

This, by the way, is a film that would never work—no less have been a huge success—if the genders of its main characters had been reversed, if it had been "Forgetting Stan Marshall," a comedic romp about Polly Bretter, who, in the midst of crazily pursuing her ex across the country, serendipitously meets a nice young gentleman who not only finds her revenge stalking charming enough to help out, but finds endearing every objectively unpleasant foible that caused her ex to leave. People watching "Forgetting Stan Marshall" would ask: Why does that guy like her? And when the film replied, "Duh, because she's AWESOME," as she connived to get her ex back in bed only to sexually humiliate him, those people would say: "What?"

And possibly: "I strongly disagree."

Apatow finds it "amusing" and "entertaining" that the people in his films are totally fucked up. And maybe if I were a dudebro, I'd share his opinion. But, as it happens, I'm a woman with Actual Real ProblemsTM, some of which have something to do with the privilege that allows men to ignore the breadth of womanhood. And, more pointedly, to hold in contempt those parts of it that aren't of some use to men. So I just can't find the funny in his funhouse mirror version of parity.

And I'm not sure he really understands the meaning of the word sexism.

Perhaps Katherine Heigl can explain it to him.

[Previously in the Apatowcalypse: Man-Child-Rising, Rise of the Dudebros, Dawn of the Dudebros, Lord of the Dudebros, When Dudebros Collide.]

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