Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Knocked in

So I got a comment on my extraordinarily succinct post about the movie Knocked Up (wherein I spent two sentences merely agreeing with the good reviews the film got) that pointed out a post on The Nation's site. That post alluded to another post on Slate (which took to task the treatment—or lack thereof—of abortion in the film), then spoke somewhat critically of the scenario that provides the plot of Knocked Up (schlub has one-night-stand with hottie).

My friend's comment inquired about my thoughts on those pieces.


I wasn't looking to analyze the film or any suggested message. That was why I pithily parroted the gist of the reviews I saw. But now that a sort of gauntlet has been thrown…

I'm a bit more inclined to focus on the Slate piece, and on that I suppose I think that trying to make Judd Apatow's comedy into the example of how movies (and, by inference, TV) "handle" abortion in the current climate is twisting it for one's own agenda.

I grasp that everyone has those topics that can't help but push their buttons, and that's what inspired these writers, and that they need to generalize to emphasize their theses. I am not criticizing using artistic pieces as inspiration for discussion; that's what every term paper about literature has been.

However, the movie is called "Knocked Up," and if Alison just has an abortion (as her mother suggests), one really doesn't have much of a plot. It's all good and well to suggest (as the writers on those sites do) that Apatow pusillanimously dances around the topic, but I think that's obligating the film to be more than I got the feeling (when watching the movie) it was trying to be. To dwell too much on abortion would have changed it into a "message" movie or a satire, but that's what Citizen Ruth brilliantly was (the Slate piece astutely mentions that); Knocked Up was a comedy that wasn't trying to polarize anyone—it was trying to be funny.

The humor stemmed from imposing the ultimate in responsibility on one who sought a much lower level of responsibility. Ultimately pretty straightforward fish-out-of-water sort of thing, in a manner of speaking. If Seth Rogan's Ben character had been dashingly handsome and ridiculously successful, that would force the comedy to revolve around the taming of a womanizing lothario rather than the forced growth of a "schlub"; while that very well could have been funny, I'm of the opinion that it wouldn't have been the movie Apatow set out to make.

The women who wrote these pieces are entitled to their interpretations, and can cite those interpretations in their arguments. Such is the beauty of art. However, to lament how a comedy with a title like "Knocked Up" is not "A Referendum on Contemporary Reproductive Rights" does strike me as putting a bit too much onto it.

Conceivably if you want a movie that addresses the issue of abortion more head-on (or a movie where the hot guy chooses the frumpy woman), the best solution might be to make one. Heck, then when it bombs at the box office you can complain about how the public didn't go see your movie and the inherent sexism in our society. There'd be no ambiguity about what the film maker thought, because you'll be the film maker; you won't have to speculate about your own political/philosophical inclinations.

Of course, that was just my reaction; I could be wrong.

Thus you may get some idea why I spent only two sentences on the movie in the earlier post. I wasn't looking to contribute to a lot of artificial bluster created by this nonsense known as the blogosphere. And now I have; I became part of the problem (and unnecessarily generalized just there, so I can fit in).

But never let it be said I don't try to make my fans--er, my readers happy.


  1. Interesting. I really enjoyed Knocked Up and my hyper-sensitive sexist-radar didn't go off at all. It did, however, go off in Waitress (as mentioned in the Nation article), where a woman in a horrible abusive relationship doesn't even consider an abortion, but rather suffers through a pregnancy resenting her fetus until the magic moment when she sees her daughter's face and changes her life...please. I hated that movie because of the horrible ending. And Transformers. Loved it. Except why are there no girl Transformers and why do the only two female characters in the movie have to dress like hookers even though one is supposed to be in high school and the other just out of high school? What message are young girls getting from THAT? (See? hyper-sensitive.)

  2. Were I inclined, I could really take to task the writer in The Nation about how she dwells on Seth Rogan's physical unattractiveness and Alison's intense attractiveness, and suggest that is inherently sexist. She wouldn't get it, I'm sure. I can't help but see some schoolgirl crush on the BMOC in her past.

    The movie seems to suggest that women are not so focused on physical appearance, that they can find attractive qualities in a man who doesn't end up on E!'s hot celebrities list. How fucking non-shallow of them!

    But I'm not thusly inclined.
    People are allowed to be as inadvertently sexist as they want. This is America. [Please hum the Star-Spangled Banner for effect.]

    If I've learned anything, it is this: To even appear to be critical of others in any way is to draw the ire of others. One must have unassailable assertions to express an opinion about something. It is an act that essentially screams "Come find what I didn't think of or what minor errors I made!" I am not looking to attract that sort of reaction.

  3. Well, just started a fire-storm of comments here, didn't I?

    Okay, I really don't have a dog in the fight so to speak (I really have zero agenda), but it struck me after seeing your concise positive review and then happening upon the article I linked to that there are many aspects to a piece of art even if not the intention.

    There is a message and impact to even a piece where the creator's intention is not to have a message or impact. The eye of the beholder and all that...

    I didn't read the critical review of the movie as being that terribley scathing honestly. I also didn't so much read it as her saying the movie should be a referendum on anything so much as it pointed out what message was there even if no message was intended. It rang true to me that our entertainment isn't willing to come to terms with some realities.

    Another example of this I've seen is in beer comercials. Being a hockey fan has afforded me the oppertunity to see Canadians ones, and it struck me that Canadians are willing to accept sex as simply part of the human experience. Like real people do it in real situations (and in this case with beer being involved). American commercials seem to have to have some sort of fantay aspect involved when sexuality is brought in (i.e. the tab is pulled and the landscape goes all frosty cool and women start dressing more scantily for some reason).

    I suppose there is some contemplation to be had on responsibility and also on tolerance in how you take in things, but what I found interesting here was the criticism on society seeing what messages float to the surface from something as supposedly innocuous as a good time comedy romp.

    I mean, in a slightly similar vein, I always kind of felt wierd about Toy Story also despite that being such a family-friendly-good-time-feel-good-no-deeper-message production. You've got some pretty seriously depressed and suicidal characters there to be just taken for granted in a kids movie to me. "You mean no one is outright disturbed by toys wanting to snuff themselves? Okay..."

    Anyway, I just thought it interesting the narrative that we're willing to take for granted. We've got a Justice of the Supreme Court right now referencing Jack Bauer in his arguements in favor of torture. Not trying to go political there, but just saying clearly even trivial art shapes the way we view ourselves.

    Didn't want to argue abortion, but did find it interesting what we're willing to just accept as part of entertainment and wondering how much effect that has on how we then turn around and view the world.

    I understand the concept you're talking about in the comment about being critical opening up to knitt picking. It's not the norm, but I do like to try and see many facets of something instead of jumping on one as the absolute to dennounce the others from. I mean, is this movie just a comedy? Yeah. Is it also a statement? Well sure. Not out to attack either side so much as play with both of those and see what else...


So, what do you think?