Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rant - Teen movies cashing in on lesbian sex for male fantasies?

Movie trailer- Scott Pilgram Vs. The World

By guest commenter- M.A.

“I’m Straight, Irate, and I am NOT paying for this C-R-A-P!”

I just got through sitting with my nieces through the most overrated teen flick of the summer and have come home to rant. This is a brief rant, but I really mean it.

You know the twenty minutes of previews, advertisements, and other random crappola cinemas feature before showing you the movie these days? I try to be a good sport and not roll my eyes at what passes for teen entertainment at present. Do filmmakers believe U.S. teenagers have no intellectual depth at all? Glamorized substance abuse, keggers, academic underachievement, and lavatory humor do not a meaningful cinematic experience make. Or even a mildly entertaining one.

Okay, I admit, sometimes I witness an inspired clip and smile, but more often than not I’m inwardly shaking my head and wondering, “What’s up with all the mind fodder?”

Anyhoo, I semi-reclined in my seat and nibbled my nachos, prepared to bear it with good grace in the name of enjoying quality time with my brother’s kids. A lengthy trailer/infomercial for “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” blared across the screen, resplendent with slacker teen cluelessness, magenta-haired heroine, bad techno-rock accompaniment, and loud combat sequences more common to video games than good films hammering out what passed for plot. Oblivious teen musician/nerd A.K.A. Scott Pilgrim falls for Ramona Flowers, a U.P.S. delivery clerk, who agrees to date Scott if he’ll sign for his package and let her get back to work. The relationship unfolds to reveal Ramona’s colorful romantic history when Scott discovers he must defeat each of his lady’s seven ex-lovers in order to date her now. The dreaded seven exes include a girlfriend in bizarre, gothic dominatrix get-up and a pair of twins Ramona enjoyed, er, seeing at the same time.

All right, I’ve seen worse movies than that. I would have just let it go in one ear and out the other except for a line or two of dialogue.

At one point, Scott’s buddy advises him to let Ramona know how serious Scott is about her, “Break out the L-word.”

“Lesbian?” Our clueless hero seeks clarification.

“The other L-word.” (Good buddy MUST be wondering why he’s friends with a dolt)

Annoyance stabbed me as a riff of giggles accompanied this Oscar-worthy material. Annoyance along the lines of Did he say that? Oh no he did NOT say that! Yes he did! Good heavens, people are laughing at this trash.

Another clip portrayed Scott baring his soul to Ramona with the thrilling admission: “I lesbian you.”

I fumed. And, truthfully, I marveled at myself for fuming. I could not get my pal Nicki, a lesbian with a young adult daughter, out of my head. What if Nicki and her girlfriend took their kids to see this movie? GBLT viewers, their friends, their families, and other interested parties paying admissions and concessions costs were all treated to this same disgusted moment, are they as peeved as I am, or is it no big deal? Last but not least, why am I so offended since I’m not a member of the group targeted in this “humor?”

I recall my anthropology instructor lecturing our class upon the process of an outsider acculturating to a group. Fluency in language is an important step, but so is the ability to relate to the group’s sense of comedy. If you understand a culture’s jokes, you’re “clued in” to that culture.

What about relating to what isn’t funny to a particular culture or class? Imagine how viewers might have responded if the word “lesbian” was replaced with the word “negro” or some other racial/ethnic slur? On the one hand, I see the cuteness in substituting the term “lesbian” for “love” and suggesting lesbianism is valid and positive, but for me the intent (if that was the intent) falls flat and comes across as yet another crass pot-shot at the lesbian community as fantasy objects of stupid teen boys.

This is one film I won’t be watching.

Trailers for “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” may be viewed at http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810070753/trailer and at http://www.scottpilgrimthemovie.com/


LVLM said...

It's hard to tell just from the clip how it plays out in the movie. I can see that watching it as a trailer in a theater with people laughing at the double meaning of using "the L-word" to get laughs as insulting.

And if you'd do that with other slur words, it's even more glaring.

However, if until that point when that was said between the two guys there was much talk between the two main characters about her past female lover and it wasn't treated as something salacious or thrown in there with no connection, then in context it might not be offensive.

The trouble is, these days it's becoming more and more common for younger teen films to include what seems to be the popular trend of young women having things with other women.

I follow AfterEllen and Autostradle and there are constant postings about this singer saying they are bi, that actress saying she's bi and so on. So it seems almost to be something that will be part of teen films and especially films that appeal to young men for good or bad, because it's trendy now.

JenB said...

Hmm...I've seen this trailer a couple of times, and I didn't even flinch at the lesbian thing. In fact, I laughed. I thought it was cute. But that's because I thought it was used as a play on the show title (The L Word) and not as a slur.

Now, if he'd said "dyke," then yeah, I'd have been annoyed. But I don't consider lesbian a slur. It's just a descriptive term to me.

Also, I'm not so sure the trend of being gay or bi is all that harmful to the younger generation. I'm having a hard time condensing my thoughts on that one, but in short, at least the kids are tolerant of their gay friends, whether they're gay for real or just gay for show. Once the trendiness coming out dies down, it'll just be something normal and acceptable. And that's okay with me.

Mfred said...

I'm oddly on the opposite side over this preview (I say oddly because, hey, I'm the person who got upset over Ricky Martin, for eff's sake).

I haven't read the comic, but I've heard that the Scott Pilgrim comic is a fairly queer-positive work. There are other gay characters in the story, with good storylines, etc.

Before the movie came out, I read a lot of internet chatter over the fear that the gayness in the story would be excluded, for that great fear of being unpalatable to so-called mainstream America.

Seeing the preview, I actually liked the use of "lesbian" as a sort of punch line. I chuckled. I really didn't feel it was being used as a slur at all.

There are a lot of visual clue-ins in the preview for that other great "sub culture" - NERDS. My enthusiasm for this movie is based on that sense of inclusiveness and appreciation.

Also, I don't quite agree that "lesbian" is automatically a slur word in the mouth of straight people. It certainly has a history of being used as an insult, but I don't think it qualifies as a one-to-one substitute for ethnic/racial slurs such as the n-word. There are plenty of gay jokes that do.

And it is true - being a member of one minority (nerds) does not automatically mean respecting or valuing a second minority (lesbians), but I didn't get the sense that Scott Pilgrim was like that. I didn't see the preview cashing in on lesbian sexuality the same way, for example, American Pie did.

LVLM said...

Jen- I think it's a good thing as well about more exposure of gay or bisexual characters in movies geared towards the younger crowd. I don't think they look at that in the same way we who are a bit older do. It's just becoming normal.

And not speaking about lesbians specifically but subtle gay bashing in other movies geared towards young men is probably more prevalent.

I don't know if you've seen these two girls, but they are hilarious. They do movie reviews and they are lesbians and will call crap when they see it.

They did so on "Hot Tub Time Machine." And then they talked about the offensive gay jokes, which I think is just as pervasive in male oriented juvenile comedy.

At any rate, these two do hilarious reviews and there are several of them.


Mfred- see, I had no idea this was a comic before hand, although it was clear from the previews that it's a comic based movie.

I can see where the take on it wouldn't necessarily match a serious contemporary drama or comedy that uses off color humor to get laughs.

Cathy in AK said...

While I don't think in this particular instance "lesbian" was intended as a slur, I am getting a wee bit tired of gratuitous girl-girl scenes or references popping up in just about every form of media. If it's relevant to the story, fine, love it, bring it on. But to add "shock" value or to seem "naughty"? Please stop. Not all of the audience is made up of 16 year old boys. And yeah, ditch the mean spirited gay male jokes too.

But at the same time, there are increased instances of younger generations being more comfortable with all manner of sexuality. That's a good thing, despite the mixed messages the target audience may be getting from various sources.

I just watched "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" where two of the characters being gay was just who they were to their straight male friend. Very nice.

I'm hoping this type of representation of both young lgbt and the straight folks around them grows in popularity.

Jill Sorenson said...

I didn't watch the clip but jeez, I hope it's okay to laugh at this stuff sometimes! If not, I'm going to have to stop listening when Joel McHale tells Justin Beiber jokes.

LVLM said...

Jill- I feel a bit as you do. I mean, I enjoy watching South Park when it's on and find most of it funny even if they do cross a line often. Shame on me maybe, but I do.

What's interesting is that I'm currently doing a cultural awareness class. The author of the book we are using goes into humor. He says that American humor is funny because we live in a rule based, structured society and therefore, our jokes are based a lot on at that which breaks those rules. Like how comedians often use cultural, racial, gender stereotypes in jokes because it breaks the rule of being PC and helps us laugh at ourselves.

The L- word here is a play on the TV show The L-Word, which of course is about lesbians. It's a joke I think based on shared pop culture associations more so than a slur. But I'd have to see the whole movie to get the full context.

LVLM said...

Cathy- I was wondering about the opposite thing as in the new movie coming out "The Kids Are All Right"

The trailer for it implies that typical charming, roguish male entering into the lives of lesbians is going to be a m/f romantic-ish comedy.

I've been reading the buzz on it and so far the lesbian world has been giving it thumbs up even with the implied and not so implied thing that one of those lesbians might jump ship for a taste of testosterone.

This is one where the trailer intimates the opposite of lesbians for male titillation, that some guy will charm their way into a lesbian's life and turn them because he's the one.

Cathy in AK said...

LVLM, Maybe I'm not seeing the same trailers your are for "The Kids are All Right" because while I get the gist that the guy becomes part of their lives, the couple seems commited. Could be that I'm just not watching all the way through, tho :)

I sure hope the movie doesn't have him "turn" one of them. That would be a disappointment.

LVLM said...

Cathy- the trailer that intimates some m/f stuff from one of the lesbians as well as some discussion about it.

In this trailer there's a slight kiss between Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.


Personally, I think it's going to be a good film and one that puts lesbians in a normal light.

LVLM said...

Ok, that last comment didn't make sense in the first part, sorry. LOL

M. A. said...

It's truly sad it's taken me so long to get back to this blog. Sorry, I've been burried under schoolwork. I solemnly swear I will never, never, never, NEVER take 12+ credit hours during a summer session again.

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to discuss the topic. I'd love to say I see it differently because of your viewpoints, but I really don't. I think it boils down to personal taste. I watched the trailer again, and honestly, I still feel offended by it. Yes, I comprehend it is a joke and not intended to offend. I just don't appreciate the humor.

The discssion in this particular blog did make for interesting reading, though. Thanks for taking the time to consider the trailer/s and to respond. Hope you're all doing well. : )