Saturday, November 21, 2009

Film Review - Knocked Up

I chose to screen the film “Knocked Up” for this assignment because I seem to be the only person of all the people I know who was not seen the movie. It was a pretty funny movie and I did enjoy it. The film was basically about the relationship between a guy named Ben who is the stereotypical slacker male character and a girl named Alison who is a seemingly well off, successful woman. One day Alison ends up getting a promotion and decides to go out with her sister to celebrate. It’s at a club that she meets Ben where they hit it off, partially because of the alcohol consumption, and end up going home together. One thing leads to another and they’re having sex. Eight weeks later Alison finds out that she is in fact pregnant and there is only one person who could be the father, Ben! So basically from here on out the story follows the ups and downs of them trying to decide what to do about the situation and about them trying to form some sort of relationship, whether it be romantic or not. It shows the trials and tribulations that two people go through while in the pregnancy stage and does it all while still being comical yet at some times (although very few times) touching.
From before I even took the movie out of the box I encountered some problems with the movie and how it relates to masculinity. On the cover of the DVD case it has a picture of the main character Ben and says “What if this guy got you pregnant?” Now, I had to stop and think to myself about this. What are they implying? Just because he’s not a hypermasculine looking man or a man that you would find on the cover of GQ doesn’t mean that we should judge this guy. He could potentially be a better father then all the men who look significantly better then him but we’re forced to look at his appearance first and base whether or not we would want him fathering our children solely on his looks. This ties directly into how men are portrayed in the media and which men receive the positive feedback in the media. We don’t base our judge of character on a person’s actual character anymore, it’s initially based off of looks and then maybe we’ll decide if they have a good personality or are a genuinely good person once we find the people who are more visually appealing. I know I’m reviewing “Knocked Up” but it reminds me of the movie “Shallow Hal” and I think that if our world were more like that movie things would be better. If when we viewed a person we saw their beauty based on their true personality, then the world would be a much better place. This is all still in place because we allow it to be. Just like Andrew Boyd said in Men Speak Out “That most women still prefer the heterosexual male myth shows just how far we still have to go” (p. 85). By asking the question on the front of the DVD case, it only perpetuates the problem and basically tells women, in a joking manner, that “this is not the type of guy you want” or “if you’re going to have kids with someone make sure he doesn’t look like this guy!”
Throughout this film there was the theme that has been present all throughout our semester in which men need to make their masculinity known to one another by doing several things. The opening scene of the movie is a group of males hanging out in a backyard physically fighting (although playful) with one another. They wrestle, box with gloves that are engulfed in flames and joust one another. This is their way of bonding yet still showing that it is very masculine so it couldn’t possibly mean anything more than what is shown. From here it becomes more evident that the men need to justify their power between each of them by asserting their masculinity by calling eachother feminizing names. By calling eachother “pussy”, “fag” or saying that the other guy “has a vagina” they show who the dominant one in that given situation is. In doing so it reinforces not only that women are weaker then men by using traits of women in negative connotations but it also reinforces that men need to be hypermasculine and in our very heteronormative world in order to fit in to the “boys club”. Although throughout this film the men say things and do things to one another to prove how “manly” they are there is still a hint of homoeroticism which is strange to see from men acting such a masculine manner. There is one scene in particular in “Knocked Up” that speaks to this specifically. When Alison sends Ben an email to get his phone number so that she can tell him she’s pregnant him and his friends assume that she wants his number so that they can meet up again in order to hook up with one another. The entire time he’s on the phone his friends, as well as himself are all humping the air and making sexual noises. If the fact that there were five grown guys in a room just humping air while making erotic noises isn’t homoerotic enough then fast forward one minute into the scene where one of the guys actually mounts another one of the guys and basically imitate intercourse with their clothes on while Ben is on the phone and the rest of the guys continue to hump air. This scenario is just like Hugo Schwyzer says in Men Speak Out “Women are pawns used to prove one’s masculinity”. In this case it’s definitely true. Ben is proving that he’s masculine because he’s getting a phone call about potential “pussy” later that night. As for the other guys, I guess you could say they were using their re-enactment of intercourse with women to indicate that they themselves were masculine and that they love sex and love having it with hot women. We spoke a lot in class about how men objectify women and do it largely while in groups of men. It is less common to have a man cat call a woman when he is alone because he is initially doing it as a way to connect with the other men that he is with.
In the end of the movie you could say that Ben goes against the grain and changes who he was to be someone different. But really he’s just changing to become a better person and if he’s seen as less masculine because of his character changes then we have a bigger issue at hand here aside from his change of character. Society needs to stop reinforcing these negative images of what it means to be a man and what actions and looks classify masculinity. It’s only when we do this that we will begin to see a change in our world for the better and only then will we start to see happiness and equality.


Sara N said...

I also love that movie and all things Judd Apatow (in the words of my mother, "AND he's Jewish” :). I especially liked your analysis of the question “What if this guy got you pregnant?” on the front of the box. I found it very insightful to point out what this question might be pointing to, as I didn’t initially connected it to portrayals of masculinity. But, it is an excellent point about the ways in which media and culture have a reciprocal relationship. The media is never simply presenting things the way they are in the real world (whatever that is), rather, the way we make sense of the world is partially related to how things are presented in the media. And how things are presented in the media is influenced by how we make sense of the world! It is curious how the message of the movie seems to be he is a great guy despite that he is not the prime example of masculinity. Not, here is a great guy, period. I think you are absolutely correct when you write “Just because he’s not a hypermasculine looking man or a man that you would find on the cover of GQ doesn’t mean that we should judge this guy. He could potentially be a better father then all the men who look significantly better than him but we’re forced to look at his appearance first and base whether or not we would want him fathering our children solely on his looks.”

Additionally, I love case studies of male homoeroticism. They are literally everywhere but they get recuperated back into hegemonic masculinity because “men and women both take great pains to ensure that male—male sex is a line that just isn’t crossed by “real” men, no matter how homoerotic the horseplay gets” (MSO, Tye, 83). Hence, “no homo.” Whoever came up with that line understands the inner workings of masculine constructions. Another interesting scene from an Apatow movie is the classic “You-know-how-I-know-you’re-gay?” scene from “40 year old virgin.” I won’t ruin it, but it does directly relate to the “fag discourse” Pascoe talks about in “Men’s Lives.” She describes it as a “verbal game of hot potato” which is embodies in this scene.

Lastly, I really liked the quote that you used from Schwyzer I was thinking about it when I was reading your post but I couldn’t remember where to find it! I absolutely agree that women are used, more often than not, as masculine status markers to assert ones heterosexuality. Coupled with the casting out of homosexual desire, this becomes a dangerous recipe as we have seen. The power of the mind is fascinating. We have tricked ourselves into thinking that this model of masculinity is markedly better even though it is extremely limiting, harmful and potentially toxic. So tell me again why Ben wouldn’t make a better father than Stone Cold Steve Austin?

Kevin Alvarez said...

I have never seen the film but I never realized how the film was marketed. It was almost as if the punchline of the film wasn't that you were impregnated by some stranger but that this man who is portrayed as some kind of loser got you pregnant. The butt of the joke was this man who was not financially successful, toned and ripped, and hypermasculine.

It makes me think of another film, the 40-year old Virgin, in which the butt of the joke is that there is a man who has not had sex by the time he is 40 years old. During the course of the film he is required to fulfill all kinds of stereotypical male roles in order to obtain the affection and attention of a woman he is attracted to.

It really is interesting that in this era of comedies with leading men that do not fit the stereotypical male image that we are not learning that "normal" men can be heroes and whatnot, but that they're the joke. The Michael Ceras and Seth Rogens of the world aren't being accepted into an expanding definition of masculinity but are being used to differentiate between these men and what real men should be like.