the take

Is the Problem With Men in Movies Today That They’re Boys, or That They’re Women?

Photoillustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images, Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images (woman)

In side-by-side essays in yesterday’s New York Times, esteemed critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott take stock of American cinema now that Judd Apatow has wholly remade Hollywood in his own image. Perpetual jester Scott laments that too many leading men are stuck in arrested development, citing several of Apatow’s serial protagonists along with prototypical moron-hero Adam Sandler, who returns next month in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (co-written by Apatow): “The attachment to the emotional world of childhood and adolescence — along with the fetishistic, fake-ironic clinging to tokens of that world — is so widespread that it almost escapes notice,” he writes. “Impulsive, self-centered, loyal to our pals, anxious about women, physically restless, slow-witted and geeky: that’s just what we’re like, isn’t it?” No! And it’s high time Hollywood started producing some comedies for grown-ups! (In the interest of full disclosure, we’ll concede that this post was written by a 26-year-old who spent nineteen hours this past weekend playing Grand Theft Auto IV in his pajamas.)

Dargis’s piece is mostly about Hollywood’s increasingly egregious summer seasonal allergy to leading roles for women, but she notes that Apatow deftly skirts the issue by “turning his slackers and dudes into, well, leading ladies … These guys talk plenty dirty, but they’re also kinder, gentler, softer and way weepier than most of their screen brethren. They ache just like women and break like little girls, but they always, always score.”

We can’t help but feel her larger point is undercut somewhat by her outright dismissals of this summer’s movies that do star women (on Sex and the City: “as that HBO show’s fans know, its four bosomy buddies are really gay men in drag”) and her two uncalled-for attacks on poor Brittany Murphy (“Cameron Diaz stars opposite Ashton Kutcher in the comedy What Happens in Vegas, in a role that shrieks Brittany Murphy five years ago,” “[Anna] Faris, who could be the next Judy Holliday but without the right material will, alas, probably end up the next Brittany Murphy” — come on, Manohla, her career isn’t THAT in the toilet!), but with regard to the emasculated male stars of Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, she’s pretty much spot-on. Would it kill Apatow to make a comedy starring females for once? It’s not like he doesn’t have a ready stable of talented actresses all ready to go. We hope this happens, not only because it would be awesome, but also because Jason Segel is a horrifically ugly woman.

Is There a Real Woman in This Multiplex? [NYT]
Here Comes Everyboy, Again [NYT]

Earlier: Where Are the Roles for Superwomen?

Is the Problem With Men in Movies Today That They’re Boys, or That They’re Women?