Saturday, February 26, 2011

The DudeMance Ideology

I want to start off by declaring my agreement with Roger Ebert: Hall Pass looks like the waste of two hours he suggests it is. Its lasting contribution will be to go to DVD and give passersby a brief, indifferent pause wondering which of several indistinguishable bromance-mumblecore-dude -- dudemance -- movies it was. The one where Seth Rogan or Jack White or Owen Wilson played a fumbling, wise-cracking stoner? Or was it the one where Steve Carrell or Ed Helms played a naif? Didn't Ben Stiller or Michael Cera play a star-crossed neurotic?

That said, I wish Ebert had not gone here in his review:

When was the last time you saw a man under 30 in the movies who had a stable marriage, a job, children, and a life where he valued his wife above his buddies?
I think we should try to be the change we want to see in the world, and if we want to see a cessation of movies that wrench comic and dramatic value from the equation of maturity with sexual probity, we can start by not quite so emphatically reaffirming that equation.

I prefer to take my cinematic meditations on maturity straight, so to speak: Stepbrothers, The Hangover, and Greenberg represent grown men acting like adolescents, but manage to do so without putting the matter strictly in terms of sex -- there are, these movies show, distinctions between adolescents and adults that don't involve the relative placements of penises, vaginas, and marriage licenses.

But to answer Ebert's question, I could mention Mel Gibson's character in Braveheart; Sean Penn's character in Mystic River -- or for that matter, Tim Robbins's character in Mystic River; Liam Neeson's characters in Rob Roy and Taken; the father character from Funny Games (both the German version and the more recent American version); Leonardo DeCaprio's characters in both Inception and Revolutionary Road; Ben Stiller's character in the Fockers movies. It would be easy to go on listing examples. Granted, several of these men are well over thirty, or seem to be, but each is devoted to wife (if alive) and family (if alive) well above their male friends (if alive / extant).

The direct answer to Ebert's question is recently and often, and the elaboration of that direct answer is and it is neither exceptional nor rare. It is an aspect of characters, settings, and scenes from which different kinds of dramatic or comic conflicts ensue and develop. The abundance of dudemance films in recent years is, if anything, a minor aberration that will be soon enough forgotten as it evolves into something else or fades away unmourned. Meanwhile, we will do ourselves a favor to recall that the moment's prejudices, predilections, pet-theories, and ideological constructions are, when false and unhelpful, worth contesting rather than perpetuating.

More on these topics from Eli Horowitz here.

No comments: