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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

male gaze alert: ‘Grown Ups’

[some might consider this a spoiler for one of the jokes that Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf probably think is one of the more clever ones in their script. tough shit]

Oh, Grown Ups, you are too, too predictable. You load yourself up on male-gazing, making a big deal in particular about how disgusting it is, to the male eyes of David Spade and Chris Rock, that Rob Schneider is not only married to Joyce Van Patten, a woman a good 30 years older than him, but that he would actually tongue-fence her in public. (In the film, it’s not the sweet, simple kiss that appears in the trailer.) You make a huge extended joke out of the film’s five juvenile protagonists ogling 20-year-old Madison Riley, blond and skinny and tall and all legs in short shorts — that is, she’s “hot” — bent over the engine of a car that Spade’s character has deliberately disabled so that she’ll (hopefully) pose with her ass in their faces all day. The male-gazing — of either approval or disapproval — extends to the sisters of Riley’s character, one of whom is suitably “hot” while the other isn’t. Much putative hilarity is mined from this disparity, and from the fact that they are all the daughters of Schneider’s schlub from previous relationships.

The “ugly” sister is played by Ashley Loren, who is, in fact, adorable:

The stage is set, then, for the Grown Ups baseline: When men look upon women and determine their worth and desirability based upon their physical appearance, this is a Good Thing, a Correct Thing. It is the proper place of men to dole out such approval or disapproval, and it invariably renders the correct “objective” appraisal of a woman’s worth, or lack thereof.

And what happens when women do the same?

Grown Ups culminates — I hesitate to use the word climax anywhere in the vicinity of this deplorably unsexy tripe — in an extended sequence that takes place at a water park. And one of the jokes that runs through this sequence involves all the wives hanging out together and ogling a buff blond god across the big pool. He’s played by Alec Musser, and this is what he looks like:

That’s not a still from the film, but it’s a good representation of how he appears in it: mostly naked. He’s too chiseled for my taste, but the point is taken: this is a Desirable Man. Many women, perhaps most women, would gaze upon him with lust in their hearts, or would at least get their heads turned for a look at what our culture says is an ideal specimen of modern manhood.

So, the wives are giggling and making some naughty comments bertween themselves about the gorgeous guy posing across the pool, and finally Maria Bello takes off her coverup to flash for him the babe-ilcious body she has in her cute bikini. And of course Buff Guy comes over to talk to the women. And the moment he opens his mouth, the women bust out laughing, because his voice is girlishly high-pitched, and he speaks with the most outrageous caricature of what I think is supposed to be some sort of Canadian farmboy accent. Musser is from the New York metropolitan area — this is not how he would speak.

But even if it were really his voice and his accent, the “joke” is still the same: When women judge men by their bodies, they get chastised for it. Form an opinion about a man’s desirability based upon how he looks, and you’re in for a rude awakening.

When men do the same, however, it’s just good clean fun.



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