Quantcast
subscriber help

since 1997 | by maryann johanson

the ugly truth about (some) boys who like ‘Knocked Up’

Peter Howell in the Toronto Star claims to have for us “the ugly truth about Knocked Up”:

Funny, isn’t it, how willingly we buy movie plots about impossible casino heists, miraculous spider bites and rock-star pirates.

And yet something as simple as a beautiful woman getting involved with a not-so-beautiful man strikes some of us as the height of absurdity.

Oops: here it is. No one must deny men their fantasy that no matter what they look like and how unsocialized they are, a gorgeous, smart babe will want him.

But Howell’s not done:

What would be far more unbelievable onscreen, frankly, would be a situation where a good-looking guy gets a homely girl pregnant and then decides to stay with her.

Funny, isn’t it, that some folks can more willingly buy movie plots about impossible casino heists, miraculous spider bites and rock-star pirates than they could buy something that actually subverts the culturally approved status quo.

(Technorati tags: )



Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/flick/public_html/wptest/wp-content/themes/FlickFilosopher/loop-single.php on line 106
posted in:
movie buzz
explore:
  • t6

    If we really wanted to buy into sexist cultural stereotypes for real, then there would be no way she’d stay with that man.

    Why? Because the function of men in society is to be rational and rich…and have a car, I think…and do math well. The function of women is to be pretty and be the Angel of the Domestic sphere. The female in the movie, while having a successful job which isn’t so great, gets pregnant and all of that jazz…so she’s okay. But from every description I’ve read the male of the film does not live up to his 1950s obligations of manhood.

    So he fails as a man and no woman would ever stay with him.

    It seems what we have is a group of men who want women to fulfull 1950s roles, yet they don’t want to have to fulfill 1950s roles themselves…they want to continue to be shlubby man-children and have the freedom of self-determination of the 21st Century while making sure their partners don’t.

  • MaryAnn

    It seems what we have is a group of men who want women to fulfull 1950s roles, yet they don’t want to have to fulfill 1950s roles themselves…they want to continue to be shlubby man-children and have the freedom of self-determination of the 21st Century while making sure their partners don’t.

    Well, and there’s the conservatism of the film I’ve been talking about.

    Because the function of men in society is to be rational and rich…and have a car, I think

    And yet there are women — perhaps not many, but we do exist — who are not looking to men for these things. Well, rationality, yes, I want that in a man (and in women, too — in everyone). But I don’t care how much or how little money a man has as long as he’s smart, creative, funny, and good in bed. I can take out the garbage and kill the big bugs myself. I am perfectly capable of providing for myself financially. I am also capable of driving myself… in fact, I prefer to drive (I’m a terrible passenger). But sex is more fun with someone else, and so is laughing.

  • Cthulhu

    Can I just say that I do find it amazing the level of bile your initial review stirred up.

    If you’d said the the Empire Strikes Back is the worst film ever, or that Aliens was a terrible sequel then I could understand it…But it’s almost like you’ve committed some form of act of global heresy.

    But then again, the world would be a boring place if folks didn’t get wound up about silly things like this.

  • There’s a lovely drama from about fifteen years ago called Dogfight that embodies the very dynamic that I think the article is hinting at. River Phoenix is a young army private in the 1960s who engages in an odious contest with his fellow recruits: they each try to pick up the ugliest girl they can. He picks up Lilli Taylor, who’s not especially attractive in the film, but has a lot more going on that surface appearances. The dynamic that forms between them — both before and after she finds out what he’s up to — is one of the most thoughtful and unique I’ve seen in recent years. Naturally, the film is directed by a woman. M-A (or anyone else out there), I’d love to hear what you think of it if you’ve seen it and how (or if) it challenges the kind of gender dynamic in films like Knocked Up.

    I’m surprised at the vitriol this has stirred up too… and I couldn’t disagree with M-A more about the film. She doesn’t like it, she says why, and her opinion is thoughtful and well-constructed. Why the hate?

  • Moe

    Howell’s not speaking in generalities. Nor stating that every ugly man deserves a super-model babe.
    He’s simply stating that he (and I (many many times)) have seen gorgeous women fall for jerks of a biblical scale and asked ourselves, “what does she see in him”?

    Every geek in high school as witnessed that.
    I haven’t seen the flick, but i’ve given up long ago trying to figure out why good looking girls like Allison make such dumb decisions.

    That part seems true to life, to me at least. ;)

  • MaryAnn

    He’s simply stating that he (and I (many many times)) have seen gorgeous women fall for jerks of a biblical scale and asked ourselves, “what does she see in him”?

    No, no, no: Howell is not talking about “jerks.” He’s talking about guys who are less than movie-star gorgeous. Not the same thing at all.

  • I’m not quite sure what your complaint is, Maryann. It sounds to me like he’s saying that many audience members feel it’s unbelievable that attractive women might like homely men, but it shouldn’t be, since it happens in real life. What’s wrong with that?

    “What would be far more unbelievable onscreen, frankly, would be a situation where a good-looking guy gets a homely girl pregnant and then decides to stay with her.”

    I would love to see that movie- or any movie where the guy is more attractive than the girl. Why does she always have to be a beauty queen, but he can look like anything on the attractiveness scale?

    As for “believability,” I think what he’s saying is that audiences would definitely not accept a beautiful man with a homely girl. I think you once said you’d like to see a movie where a plain, unattractive (by Hollywood standards) girl gets together with George Clooney, but that Hollywood would never touch that idea.

    “He picks up Lilli Taylor, who’s not especially attractive in the film, but has a lot more going on that surface appearances.”

    I haven’t seen the movie you’re describing, but it sounds like one of those endless teen movies in which they take some attractive actress, tie her hair in a bun and make her wear glasses, and then the movie tells us she’s the “ugly girl.” Then the guy falls for her anyway, at which point she shows up at the dance, or whatever, and is her normal beautiful self. That’s just as uninteresting, but maybe this “Dogfight” is something else altogether.

  • MaryAnn

    *Dogfight* is something else entirely. And yes, I agree that Lili Taylor is far from ugly, but she’s also far from the usual image of women in Hollywood movies, in which anyone not blond and skeletal is “ugly.”

    I’m not quite sure what your complaint is, Maryann. It sounds to me like he’s saying that many audience members feel it’s unbelievable that attractive women might like homely men, but it shouldn’t be, since it happens in real life. What’s wrong with that?

    I’m pointing out the smug sense of entitlement Howell seems to be embracing, that homely guys are entitled to hot babes no matter whether or not they’ve got anything at all on the ball, which is part of the problem with *Knocked Up.* Ben doesn’t not deserve Alison because he doesn’t look like George Clooney but because he doesn’t have anything to compensate for that: he’s not particularly smart (he comes across as, at a minimum, shockingly ignorant, in fact), he’s not witty (at least not in a way that Alison appreciates, even if Pete does), he’s not ambitious like Alison is. He has nothing to offer Alison except a sperm donation. But Howell thinks this is still more believable that acknowledged outright fantasies like *Pirates of the Caribbean* and *Spider-Man* that make absolutely no pretense to being representations of actual reality.

    I think you once said you’d like to see a movie where a plain, unattractive (by Hollywood standards) girl gets together with George Clooney, but that Hollywood would never touch that idea.

    I have said that. But Howell seems to think that Hollywood SHOULDN’T touch that.

  • The first quote from Howell’s article had me inclined to write him off as just another sexist jerk, but now that I’ve read the whole thing, I can’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Would I sympathize with him more if he explicitly wrote something like “We’ll never see a movie in which a handsome guy stands by a homely pregnant girl (and it’s a good thing too)”? No, of course not.

    But the issues he discusses are more complex than that, and the comparisions he brings up in regard to Bogey and Bacall or Tracey and Hepburn bring up an interesting point. Neither Bogart nor Tracey matched the conventional image of the matinee idol yet both were accepted by both male and female fans as valid love interests. A point which seems even more interesting when you consider that Bogart spoke with a lisp. Last thing I checked, most straight women don’t exactly consider a lisp paricularly sexy, yet Bogart managed to make it for him the same way Jimmy Stewart made his speech impediment work for him.

    Would I put Seth Rogen in the same category as Bogart and Tracey? Not really. And I must admit that I couldn’t help seeing the trailer for the movie “Knocked Up” as a male wish fulfillment fantasy just because the looks and personality of Rogen’s character did not make him seem all that believable as a love interest.

    Now if the female lead in “Knocked Up” had gotten involved with a slacker who looked like James Franco, that might have worked–or at least been more plausible to the average movie-goer.

    As for the whole “homely girl versus handsome boy” scenario, would not the success of “Ugly Betty,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and the “Bridget Jones” books suggest that the times are a-changing in regard to this scenario? A “handsome guy and homely girl” version of “Knocked Up” may seem impossible now, but a few years from now…Who knows?

  • MaryAnn

    the issues he discusses are more complex than that, and the comparisions he brings up in regard to Bogey and Bacall or Tracey and Hepburn bring up an interesting point.

    Howell’s likening of Ben and Alison to Bogey and Bacall or Tracy and Hepburn is nigh on criminal. And I’m sure he knows it.

    As for the whole “homely girl versus handsome boy” scenario, would not the success of “Ugly Betty,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and the “Bridget Jones”

    *head exploding* Are you seriously suggesting that Renee Zellweger in the Bridget Jones movies is “homely”?

  • Okay, in my personal opinion, Renee Zellweger is not homely, but she’s not conventionally beautiful either, and she’s certainly not physically attractive to the extent that Hugh Grant or Colin Firth are physically attractive.

    And since the whole premise of the “Bridget Jones” books and movies was that “pretty girl wins the love of a handsome guy” but rather “not so pretty girl wins the love of a handsome guy,” it seems pointless to argue that they’re not part of the “handsome guy and homely girl” genre.

    If you wish to evaluate it differently, of course, that’s your choice.

  • Josh Gilchrist

    I can sort of see the connection between the characters that Hepburn/Tracy and Bogey/Bacall played and the characters in this. There are slight similarities, albeit there.

    And about Zelwegger, I am sorry but the only time I ever found the woman sexy is in the Bridget Jones movies. She looked much better in those films. She looked like a real woman, and the character was wonderful too

  • MaryAnn

    And since the whole premise of the “Bridget Jones” books and movies was that “pretty girl wins the love of a handsome guy” but rather “not so pretty girl wins the love of a handsome guy,” it seems pointless to argue that they’re not part of the “handsome guy and homely girl” genre.

    But she’s not homely. Which means the premise of the FILMS fails. I don’t think it’s pointless to talk about the failure of the films on this level.

  • Josh Gilchrist

    True. The Bridget Jones films did have a bad message, that even if a woman gains a few extra pounds that automatically makes her ugly.

  • MaryAnn

    Especially since Renee Zellweger looked so much better “fat” in the Bridget Jones movies than she looks when she’s clearly been starving herself.

    (Necessary disclaimer that I wish weren’t necessary: Of course some people are naturally very thin. But not as many as Hollywood would have us think.)

  • Josh Gilchrist

    I actually brought up how Rennee looks better in Jones at work last week. A female argued with me that it was not true. It’s all part of the social rule that a woman has to look like a skeleton to be considered desirable.

  • I remember admitting my admiration of Sigourney Weaver’s beauty to a member of MaryAnn’s generation back in the 1990s and she looked at me as if I admitted to having a crush on the Ruth Gordon character in “Harold and Maude.”

  • Cthulhu said: “But then again, the world would be a boring place if folks didn’t get wound up about silly things like this.”

    Personally, I think MaryAnn is doing far more than her part to combat boredom by getting so insanely wound up over the “silly thing” of this movie. I find the level of bile and vitriol she unleashed on this film ridiculous.

  • MaryAnn

    I find the level of bile and vitriol she unleashed on this film ridiculous.

    It IS fun, though, isn’t it? :-> In a bizarre, sad sort of way, but still…

  • MaryAnn

    I remember admitting my admiration of Sigourney Weaver’s beauty to a member of MaryAnn’s generation back in the 1990s and she looked at me as if I admitted to having a crush on the Ruth Gordon character in “Harold and Maude.”

    I’d say: You need to start hanging out with a better class of geek. Sigourney Weaver is awesome. Ruth Gordon was awesome, too. :->

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This