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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

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    Judd Apatow, Conservative

    By kyle | August 10, 2009

    I like Ross Douthat, particularly his movie reviews, but he and I are on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to his sort of faith-based reading of pop culture. Today he offers a column about how Judd Apatow’s movies are deeply moral and conservative. One hero retained his virginity until age 40 (a condition that was mocked as utterly ludicrous, though also pathetic, and was not in any way shown to be a wise idea). I am a bit stunned by this sentence:

    “No movie makes the idea of saving (and saving, and saving) your virginity look as enviable as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

    Wow. This character is emotionally, developmentally, almost physically crippled by retaining his virginity. Can there be anyone else who views “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” as making the case that putting off sex is the way to happiness?

    Douthat also notes that Apatow made a movie about a woman who accidentally got pregnant yet kept her baby. But that was only because the movie would have been over in five minutes (and not a comedy) if she got an abortion. The movie didn’t make a pro-life argument; it simply hurried by the decision to keep the baby because that was the path to comedy richness. I think Douthat’s social conservatism is overwhelming his sense of what makes a movie.

    [Spoiler alert} As for “Funny People,” how conservative is it? It’s in part about a woman who, after a vigorous extramarital bonking (that the movie never hints is immoral or wrong) and a couple of warm conversations, decides to dump her entire family for a rich and famous guy. She reverses this decision not because of morality but because she starts to notice that the rich and famous guy is a jerk who will be a lousy father. In other words, it’s not her sense of duty or fidelity or obligation that informs her decision. She acts selfishly (writ large; of course a parent’s selfishness includes his or her kids) all the way.

    Topics: Comedy, Movies, Politics, Religion | 5 Comments »

    5 Responses to “Judd Apatow, Conservative”

    1. Charlie Says:
      August 10th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

      I disagree with the extremes Douthat uses, but also feel Kyle is looking too broadly. There was nothing enviable about Steve Carell’s character in “40YOV,” but he was a character worth rooting for. No one can pretend that getting pregnant from a one-night-stand works out as happily as it does in “KU,” still it was a great story. However, the conservatism lies in the sentiment attached to these films. In 40YOV, Andy was awkward and had his own set of problems, but so did the other guys in the film. Some of them were reprehensible – cheating husbands, womanizers, etc. The film placed value on virginity and “saving yourself.” It didn’t preach marriage first, but Andy did get married before doing the deed. Although Kyle is right that there would be no film had Heigl’s character gotten an abortion, the film takes a clear pro-life stance. The pro-choice characters are either depicted as lazy or elitist like Heigl’s mother who tells her that Heigl’s character should do what her step sister did and “have an abortion, then later have a real baby,” as if what was growing in Heigl’s womb wasn’t worth a shot at life. The film uses a sonogram picture to show the progression of time while also showing the progression of the fetus into a human being. We start at 8 weeks and get to see how the baby looks in the womb up until the birth. Although the characters faced problems in KU, the film supported taking responsibility for your actions, a very conservative notion. Apatow’s films are conservative and vulgar. That is his brand. I fall into the group that did not life “Funny People,” but only because I felt every character was narcissistic (minus Rogen’s) and after a nearly 2 1/2 hour film, no character progressed or changed. I also did not find the film very funny. Still, I’m a fan of Apatow’s brand of comedy and will not abandon his films just because of one bad apple.

    2. Brandon Says:
      August 10th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

      This goes beyond being a stretch and is really more in the Stretch Armstrong of reaches for a Conservative in Hollywood. I’ve seen nothing that resembles political or moral philosophy in Apatow’s work.

    3. Carl Kozlowski Says:
      August 10th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

      What the hell are you talking about, Kyle? Yes, Steve Carell was mocked at the START of “Virgin,” but the ENTIRE movie is devoted to showing that HE WAS RIGHT and his sex-obsessed friends and the society around him are WRONG. I can’t imagine that someone could watch this movie as a thinking adult with eyes open and not get that. I have an essay waiting to be posted about this fact, it was sent in a week ago so now i’ll look like i was copying you guys when i actually wrote it first probably. But “Virgin” slams Planned Parenthood, defends teen virginity, has a montage that shows the 20 dates without sex makes the relationship of Andy deeper and ends with him having sex AFTER he got married. The womanizer stops womanizing, and even the pervy Rogen character meets his match. The other writer made the conservative aspects of “Knocked Up” in a great way so i won’t repeat those, but COME ON. Open your eyes.

    4. JohnFNWayne Says:
      August 10th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

      I’ve seen nothing that resembles political or moral philosophy in Apatow’s work.

      I’ve yet to detect any philosophy period.

    5. James Frazier Says:
      August 10th, 2009 at 10:05 pm

      I can buy the extramarital twists and turns in “Funny People.” What I couldn’t buy was all of them happening over the course of one day.

      “40-Year-Old Virgin” couldn’t decide if it wanted to mercilessly mock its titular character or treat him compassionately.