Social conservative bent to comedies getting completely out of control

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, April 30, 2009 15:52 EDT
google plus icon
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

The NY Times review of the new Zac Efron movie “17 Again” had the most intriguing warning at the end.

“17 Again” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Girls are particularly cautioned.

The review implied that this particular caution was due to the severe misogyny in the movie. Intrigued, I went and saw it, to review it for RH Reality Check. What I found was that it’s an incoherent abstinence-only screed disguised as a movie. Which is to say that it promotes abstinence and teen pregnancy at the same time. Which is standard in Christian right thought—they promote abstinence as the course for proper young ladies, bu they know that’s not going to work, so they also and obviously believe that the inevitable result—teen pregnancy—is actually a good thing, as long as it compels a marriage. Because early marriage is puppy rainbow kisses! Efron’s character, who is an adult man who has gone back to being 17, spends much of the movie running around telling young women that they shouldn’t have sex, that they should have babies as soon as they have sex, and that if you express sexual desire you are disgusting and have no respect for yourself. But, as we find out, the reason he’s returned to being 17 is to learn that knocking up and marrying his girlfriend in high school was the best thing that ever happened to him, because who needs college when you can have early puppy rainbow kisses marriage?

This pro-teen pregnancy movie is marketed directly at young women, mind you. As I detail in the review, it’s also exactly as misogynist as you’d expect something that’s pandering so blatantly to right wing Christians would be. For some reason, Margaret Cho is in this movie. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.
Elizabeth Banks gets the tone of this movie exactly right.

It basically says: Go for it! Have a kid when you’re 18. Throw another one in for good measure right after and you’ll get a nice house, deck and hammock included, your baby mama apparently won’t need to work, your kids will eventually have iPods and get into Georgetown and the person you picked (when you were 17) is actually your soulmate! Don’t worry if the condom breaks — it’s cool! It’s totally worked out for Bristol, ya’ll! (Is it me or is Levi cute?)

Oh, but we’re told that it wasn’t all perfect. For instance, the main character has to do his own yard work. That’s the depths of the charmed life of poverty that the filmmakers could imagine afflicts people who skip college to marry and have kids and live in the suburbs. If Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston won’t make all the wingnut dreams of teenage connubial bliss come true, then by god Matthew Perry and Leslie Mann can be paid to step in and do the job.

But this isn’t even the worst example that’s come across my radar screen of Hollywood pushing wretched patriarchal fantasies at us. That award (for now) goes to a movie that’s still filming called “The Baster”, starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. Check out this summary:

…..Aniston’s character decides to have a baby with a sperm donor, only to have a friend (Bateman) swap the anonymous sample with his own as he is secretly in love with her.

Hell, maybe it’s going to be a movie about how forcing your friend to bear your child against her will is not only not cool, but probably a form of sexual assault. Maybe she’ll kick him in the nuts and call the cops. Maybe the cutesy picture of Aniston and Bateman making out on camera was just floated out there to mislead people. Maybe monkeys will fly out of Aniston’s butt at some point in the movie.

Movies like “17 Again” and “Knocked Up” play footsie with the idea that a man can claim ownership over a woman by getting her pregnant. “17 Again” really advances the cause, with the main character even making a “joke” at one point that if his ex-wife was living in Afghanistan and tried this dating stunt like she was a free woman, she’d be executed. (I’m not kidding.) Seems like this movie “The Baster” is going a step further—now you don’t even need your target’s cooperation to lay claim to her.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.