Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Why Can't Dudes Have Sex in the Popular Movies?

If you fly a lot, you'll either be caught up on your fine literature reading or more likely on the comedies that are available in the iTunes store, home of DRM and overpriced rentals. (Also home to movies that are difficult to watch on planes, because suddenly there's boobies on your bright portable device and you're like "Oh my God, there's an eight-year-old about 20 inches behind me.") After the comedies that launched a thousand post-"Are Women Funny" magazine pieces, then in the iterated form of "Are Women Box Office" magazine pieces—those would be about Bridesmaids and then about Anna Faris, because of course we're all so very concerned about box office, since we're all Hollywood executives—there's a weird moment now when it's not really clear what comedy is and what comedy is okay and what's a boy comedy and what's a girl comedy, which all ends up meaning that dudes can't really have sex in movies anymore.

This current weirdness might end up helpful for us real people; the gendering of box office is totally a question for marketers and studios and trade paper journalists, not the vast majority of us who actually just like to go see movies that we like. Why should I care if women have to "coerce" their boyfriends to attend a movie that stars a lady? Why should I care if something is a "bro" movie!

For the "spate" of lady comedies, Bridesmaids was back in May and Bad Teacher came in June and What's Your Number? was in late September, all being followed up by the artsy pedigreed version of the foul-mouthed lady genre, Young Adult, arriving in a week.

For the boy movies, well, August brought The Change-Up, which borrows the conceit of a magic fountain (I knowwww) from When in Rome (garbage) to create wonder and mishap! Hoo boy! In which: a dumb skeevy dude and his married overachiever best friend change bodies and the loser guy learns about how to succeed and the overachiever dude learns to mix things up and amazingly, they both totally avoid having sex with people because the screenwriters would find it un-overcomeable. It's ridiculous; it's like, one minute the skeevy dude in the married dude's body is like "I'M GOING TO BANG YOUR WIFE" and then he's overcome by feelings and can't and the uptight dude in the player-dude's body is like "I'M GOING TO BANG THIS HOT WONDERFUL CHICK" and then he just can't because of also his feelings.

So… somehow, no one ends up having sex.

Lots of everyone criticized the (actually rather delightful!) Anna Faris vehicle What's Your Number? for being sex-negative and slut-shaming and whatever (I mean, sure, the point of the movie was that she was kind of a whore for having slept with 19 people, which, haaaaaa, uh oh am I in trouble) but in the end at least she could have sex. (To be fair, her romantic attachment object in the film also has the sex with people, or at least we see ladies regularly leaving his apartment, but that's evened out by her having "been around.") And in Bad Teacher, our striving lady hero totally does her financial-romantic target but it's only because she seduced him and she gets to have sex with him because he wasn't The One For Her Anyway and meanwhile the whole movie the Right Guy For Her remains chaste to get her attention. She can do dudes, or at least Timberlakes, and actually does, but The Right Guy can't.

Weirdly, when you start to look at it, it starts to seem like men cannot have penis-in-vagina sex in pop movies pretty much! For instance, the only real sex that happens in either Hangover movie, as far as I can recall, and admittedly it's a bit of a blur, is in the sequel, directed by Ang Lee's son (oy!), when the groom of that movie's bachelor party has sex with a prostitute. A male prostitute, as it turns out! Penis-in-vagina for men is a dealbreaker: somehow, test screenings or something have convinced Hollywood that the audience (either the men in it or the women in it or both) will totally reject men actually having sex. Even (especially?) in the rom-coms; the formula there of sleazy dude plus lady prevents Josh "Snacky" Duhamel from having sex in Life As We Know It, whereas uptight K. Heigl (blurgh, crazy eyes!) shacks up with some dude while she's on hiatus from her Unexpected One True Snacky Love—despite that he's supposed to be the one that's "been around." (This is pretty much exactly what happens in The Ugly Truth, too! AKA, the last movie in which Gerard Butler will ever be hot.)

I'm sure there's a thousand exceptions that I'm totally forgetting. But somehow there's become this thing where it's a total betrayal that no one can write their screenplay out of if dudes have sex. Good news though: now Gerard Butler will solve all that with 2012's Playing the Field, sure to be nominated for zero awards. Here is the studio summary: "A former professional athlete with a weak past tries to redeem himself by coaching his son's soccer team, only to find himself unable to resist when in scoring position with his players' restless and gorgeous moms." Wow, it sounds like he'll actually maybe have sex in it, before he gets reformed. Likely however no plane ride is boring enough to make me watch that.

45 Comments / Post A Comment

MythReindeer (#5,553)

I've always said that my life is like a movie.

roboloki (#1,724)

@MythReindeer i'm living a tragic comedy, apparently.

Cory (#271)

I have missed Choire's longer-form rant-y/exploratory/thought-y things so much.

yes! more please every day.

@Cory I wouldn't mind seeing it in the form of a newsletter.

davetar (#1,114)

Hard to believe that this was the same Hollywood that gave us an eight year-old boy in the body of Tom Hanks having real actual adult sex, in a warm-fuzzies comedy no less.

melis (#1,854)

@davetar Not sure if you're referencing Big or Forrest Gump, but yes to both.

deepomega (#1,720)

@melis Joe vs. the Volcano actually.

Tully Mills (#6,486)

@deepomega No, I think they're talking about Turner & Hooch.

NFK (#8,747)

@Tully Mills No, you're all wrong, he's talking about Castaway.

Max Clarke (#3,635)

Pretty sure all the sex-having, and the halfway-decent writing, has gone to HBO.

BadUncle (#153)

Sex? What does that have to do with cars transforming into robots?

deepomega (#1,720)

@BadUncle Well they almost bone inside one of the carbots in the first one, so….

jfruh (#713)

What about Extract, the Mike Judge movie from a couple years back? Kristin Wiig totally won't have sex with her husband Jason Bateman because he works too much, then for reasons that sort of made sense at the time Jason accidentally hires a male prostitute to have sex with her, and they totally do it! A lot, it is implied. Later Jason Bateman has a tastefully edited-around one-night thing with Mila Kunis, and he and Kristin Wiig end up staying together? It seemed weird and confusing at the time and even more so now as I type it out.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@jfruh I can't believe I'm kind of annoyed that the second half of Extract just got spoiled for me. It's an amazing world we live in.

r&rkd (#1,719)


Mr. B (#10,093)

I keep thinking of exceptions (Sideways, The Tao of Steve) and then realizing they're all, like me, kind of old.

Trilby (#3,897)

Oh, poor dudes! The deck is just stacked against you poor downtrodden dudes who don't get to have sex in movies. What a world we live in!

What about Mickey Rourke in Diner?

jfruh (#713)

@Clarence Rosario I just watched this movie for the first time the other night! Is every single person in it supposed to be utterly unlikeable?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@jfruh You mean it wasn't produced by the Chamber of Commerce of Baltimore?

JoshUng (#11,371)

Good Luck Chuck has Dane Cook banging half the city. Sure, the movie stunk, but it did the unimagineable, which is to make guys wish they were Dane Cook.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Sure, everyone likes the sex in their movies, but next thing you know, there'll be sex on the Internets.

BadUncle (#153)

@SidAndFinancy Why are there no ".prons" domains?

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

It's really simple:

At the beginning of the story, dude wants to get laid. Duh! But if he just goes and does it, then where is the twist? There is no "story" in that! For women, it's the opposite. She starts by saying "no" (duh!), therefore, she has to say "yes" in the end.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@Niko Bellic So you're saying I do have a chance?

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@SidAndFinancy You? Of course, but only after the movie ends and everyone goes home, and then a few more days/weeks/months/years go by without anything interesting happening and no one really cares about it anymore, you the least of all. That's called "indie" or "real life", and it doesn't do well with test audiences.

deepomega (#1,720)

I assume it's because America thinks dicks are really, really gay.

El Knid (#10,432)

I'd wager that the problem isn't so much that screenwriters find it "un-overcomeable" to have men have sex with a woman other than the one they're 'supposed' to end up with in their movies, so much as it is the studio reps – armed with reams of focus group testing data – telling them they have to take those kind of scenes out because the audience will find it un-overcomeable, and the sad, but unavoidable, fact is that they are probably 100% right.

The big change-over seems to be that Hollywood has pretty much entirely ceded the romantic comedy genre to women. It took a while, but at some point they started realizing that women might actually leave their homes without their menfolk and go see movies together. And then when home video became the dominant mode of taking in movies, it became that much easier for the geriatric men who still make most of the decisions to envision a market for rom-coms dominated by the female gaze – well, at least, their conception of it.

Sadly, they calculated, rather correctly, that they have a better shot of getting smart women to 'slum it' with Heigl-fare than they do of getting those women who can go see The Ugly Truth on opening weekend without a hint of embarrassment to go see anything that doesn't perfectly conform to the simple romantic conventions they expect.

Fearlessleeder (#2,618)

@El Knid A lot of that is true, but what also gets overlooked is the over self policing of the ratings system, that instantly makes a film with an erect penis in the movie, a NC-17 rated film. The specter of heavy handed government involvement in content has scared Hollywood into policing itself to ensure that the largest audience possible can see the film in theaters.

hockeymom (#143)

What about Bella and Edward?
Or does that not count because:
1. They were married
2. He's a vampire, so not really a dude?

deepomega (#1,720)

@hockeymom I think a trilogy of movies in which the dude gets laid once, total, is only defending the thesis.

hockeymom (#143)

@deepomega This is true.

katherine (#10,025)

What about Friends with Benefits and its roughly 5 rip-off movies, or maybe that itself was the rip-off movie?

King Canute (#186,813)

@katherine Sadly I have seen this movie… Justin Timberlake doesn't sleep with anyone else besides Mila Kunis, whereas she gets to sleep with hunky cancer doctor guy

freetzy (#7,018)

When you group all of these movies together like that, it makes me really, really happy I have a small human living in my house and hardly ever get to see movies in the theater anymore.

Bittersweet (#765)

@freetzy: Ditto. And the ones I get to see in the theater are Pixar and Harry Potter and the Muppets.

BadUncle (#153)

FWIW, John Waters featured several men having sex in his movies.

jaskyikor (#186,841)

why o why

JulieSK@twitter (#186,926)

Ang Lee's son didnt direct Hangover. He played the lost brother of the bride.

LHOOQ (#18,226)

No one could have sex in The Change-Up because society hasn't agreed on the protocol for body-swap sex. Is it

a) It's not cheating if you have sex with the wrong body but the mind of the person you're in a relationship with
b) It's not cheating so long as the body is the body of the person you're in a relationship with
c) It is cheating but a body swap is a free pass situation so it doesn't count
d) It is cheating and it is still a total betrayal so no one can have sex ever again, or until the swap ends
e) You can have sex so long as all involved parties knowingly agree to it

In summary, body swap plots are stupid.

A Fox (#187,111)

Crazy, Stupid, Love. Ryan Gosling obviously gets lots of sex, and although Emma Stone might before she and Ryan hook up (although it's not clear that she and Josh Groban do the deed, and I can't remember if she and Ryan have actual sex, or if they just talk about it a lot), Julianne Moore gets some (and therefore Kevin Bacon gets some too), but (spoiler alert) Steve Carell gets I think it's nine ladies into the sack.

lapgiraffe (#73,190)

The genre is a fantasy outlet for women. In movies like "The Change-Up," the women who see this (who the studio strives to get in the theater door) want to believe that good, honest men won't use a free pass to act on his wild manly impulses, that love or something of the sort is enough to keep them reigned in. And speaking of, what about that "Hall Pass" film. Didn't see it, but my understanding is that these dudes don't even end up having any flings, even then they are sanctioned by their wives!

If you've ever heard of the theories that Hollywood gave us films of decadence during the Depression to offer an escape from the misery of real life, it's the same principle. Every other week there is another noteworthy man cheating, whether it be with prostitutes, rent boys, or every lady they could get their hands on, the news is a constant parade of unfaithful men. For women, it brings a lot of anxiety, I'm hearing it and seeing it, some wanting to talk about it and others wanting to ignore it, but it's palpable. So if a lady today wants to escape the anxiety of her real world, she goes to see a film where the man never cheats, he never gives in to his sexual impulses, and this is possible because of a wonderful, sassy, smart, funny, successful, and beautiful woman. It's actually kinda sick – if a woman can be that perfect, put-together picture of romcom success, she will land the man who will love her faithfully forever.

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