Monday, September 03, 2007

Superbad and the birds and the bees

The Washington Post's Desson Thomson has a sweet, touching, and very funny piece about taking his 15-year-old to see Superbad.

As I sat there with him, the exploits of three socially maladroit high school seniors on a mission to lose their virginity and become cool in the process no longer seemed like the sleaze-fest I had initially thought it to be, but an extended empathy encounter for him.

Thomson finds the movie communicates with his son the way his birds-and-bees talk did not. And that the movie gives them a way to connect that is very precious at an age when kids find it hard to express their feelings to their parents.
Ironic, I thought, that an R-rated comedy tells it like it is for moviegoers who are too young to actually go see it on their own. Finally, I asked my son that potentially groan-inducing, must-immediately-walk-away-from-Dad question: "What did you learn from this movie?"

"I learned that people that age are obsessed with sex -- a little bit too obsessed," he answered. And he didn't walk away.


Big Dave T said...

No, no, no . . . this father apparently missed the boat here. It's not that people that age are obsessed with sex, it's that Hollywood thinks kids that age are obsessed with sex.

Having just seen "Knocked Up", another vulgarity trip into Hollyweird's vision of today's youth, I cringe when movie reviewers give writers like Apatow, Kevin Smith, etc., some kind of subliminal credit for understanding today's youth. They DON'T!

I remember a very few kids from my youth whose language was saltier than a sailor's but nobody but the grossest of gross would throw out the "f" word as often as the "everyday folk" in these teenage sex fantasies.

To insinuate that these kind of movies could substitute for or initiate a cultured, respectful view of man/woman relationships at any age or level just boggles my brain. And I think if anyone should object to this, it should be you MM.

Sorry for the rant. I keep telling myself that I'm going to limit my comments and just lurk here like I used to, but sometimes stuff just gets to me.

Nell Minow said...

Rant away, BDT! I really enjoy hearing from you. As I said in my review of the movie, "it works because the vulgarity is in the context of a very sweet story about growing up and leaving home. It centers on the themes and people from the previous work by Judd Apatow (who produced) and Seth Rogan (co-screenwriter).

Once again we have immature boy-men who are hungry for sex but afraid of women. This time, at least, the immature boy-men have an excuse -- they are still in high school. It's not arrested development. It's just development. But just as the sweetest relationship in Apatow's last film, "Knocked Up," was between two men, the tender love story at the heart of this saga is between two friends, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera). They discover, like Dorothy, that what they have been looking for was at home all along.

Some of what they were looking for, anyway. This being high school, they are also looking to have as much sex as possible as soon as possible, and if they cannot actually have it, they are interested in talking about it as much as possible. And most of the movie's heart and humor comes from the combination of their obsessive fixation, explicit descriptions, and -- this is a key point -- endearing cluelessness. It is clear that their almost Tourette-ish stream of endless obscenities, vivid and imaginative as they are, are really less an expression of their actual interests and intentions than they are a sort of terrified incantation to ward off their greatest fears: humiliation, incompetence, powerlessness, being laughed at."

I am not as big a fan of Apatow as many critics. But this movie was written by teenagers (the screenwriters began it when they were in high school) and for teenagers. I'm not recommending that any other parents take their 15-year-olds to this movie. But I was touched by the Post story about how it made a subject that is very hard to talk about a little bit easier for one father and son.