Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Stranger's Paul Constant on young whitish men who can't grow up, cf. The Resurgence on a prophetic proposal

For those who don't know The Stranger, language warning right at the top.  If you want to skim over language salty enough to have come from some mines in Siberia you can just read the stuff I've highlighted in bold.  ;-)

Paul Constant
Friday June 29, 2012

... According to modern popular cinema, the single greatest problem that the United States faces in the 21st century is youngish white men who just can’t manage to grow up and accept adult responsibilities. 

Almost every comedy in the last ten years is about a man-child who has to learn to grow up and find responsible adult love while still retaining his essential man-childness [emphasis added]. The American moviegoing public supposedly can’t get enough of that fucking story; we’ll go see it again and again and again. 

John, Mark Wahlberg’s character in Ted, is the man-child of the week. His childhood is manifested in Ted, a teddy bear that came to life because of a wish John made when he was a boy and then just stuck around. But! John needs to grow up because he’s in love with a great woman (Mila Kunis) who wants him to grow up. But! Ted wants John to keep doing childish things—snort coke, fuck hookers, and make fun of bad movies—with him. And! A creepy man (Giovanni Ribisi) wants to kidnap Ted and keep him for himself. 

If you are at or above a fifth-grade reading level, you can probably put these three sentences together into a screenplay pretty easily. The characters in Ted make fun of movies like this—crappy, cliched by-the-numbers tripe—and they’re starring in a movie just like the movies they make fun of. Somehow, the smirk Ted puts on is supposed to make that all right. It doesn’t. [emphasis added]

Perhaps the most loving, most prophetic thing the church can do is to call men in their 20s to love Jesus, read their Bibles, get a job, to leave their parent’s house, and to love one woman—according to the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and the New York Times, no one is doing that.

No one ... ?  I admit I'm wondering if Bogardus has heard of some actor named Seth Rogan.  I'm wondering if Bogardus never heard of some film called About a Boy. Bogardus may not have noticed that the necessity of young shiftless men settling down and being reliable for the sake of a woman shows up as a theme in a film like Shaun of the Dead. Finding a renewed sense of identity in affection for a member of the opposite sex or taking on some kind of parental, protective role is the gist of, say, Zombieland, for instance. This idea that someone "no one is doing that" requires an ignorance of popular culture that beggars belief.  If it becomes a point for complaint in The Stranger that every comedy in the last ten years seems to hammer on this topic that, too, may be a sign. Of what, well, I don't have to spell out everything the way a by-the-numbers romantic comedy would.


JS Bangs said...

Well... note that the Resurgence post didn't say "no one else has noticed this." The fact that the behaviors described by Resurgence are the subject of bad rom-coms suggests that the trope is recognizable, which in turn suggests that it still exists. Heck, I can think of several people who appear to embody the trope, including (to a certain degree) myself.

And "no one" should probably just be understood as hyperbole.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

The thing about the trope, though, is that it is not simply the diagnosis of the illness; it is also inextricably bound up in the prescribed cure. That's the nature of Constant's complaint and one that casts doubt on the credibility of Bogardus' claims about mainstream publications even as hyperbole on the subject of "no one is doing that".

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Not that I take Constant's hyperbole to be more accurate than Bogardus' as a whole. It isn't any more the case that "almost every comedy ... " than "no one is doing that." The nature of Constant's complaint wouldn't be possible if it were actually true that 'no one is doing that'. For that matter, Bogardus is pastor at a church whose president has spent the last fifteen years doing exactly "that". I suppose we can all nod and wink and pretend that you don't count your own team's activities to ameliorate social ills, though. ;)