From the looks of This is 40, the Judd Apatow man-child still hasn’t grown up.
There’s a spoof song on College Humor called “In an Apatow World, You Could Be My Girl,” in which a Seth Rogen lookalike sings:“You’re not out of my league/Stoner is the new stud/Cuz a loser is a winner/In this world of Judd…”
It’s true. The world of Judd is one in which guys – not men, but immature, unemployed man-children – think they can get a woman like Katherine Heigl. It’s so pervasive, it even extends beyond films that Apatow made. Look at Ted, I Love You, Man, and Role Models. Our man had nothing to do with them and yet in every one, the schlub not only gets the hot girl, but is then harried and trapped by her because she’s a ballbuster.
This is 40 is the natural conclusion to Apatow’s world, where guys are like dogs: loyal to their friends, fun to hang out with and content to play all day long. But when that guy – in this case Paul Rudd, continuing his character from Knocked Up – gets married, he’s the fun guy trapped by a shrew. Apatow guys can be single or married, moony, poetic or without any redeeming qualities. but his women are ball-busters.
It’s no surprise that these (often funny) films have struck a chord today at a time when books like Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” are charting the ascendancy of women in the workplace and other areas of life. In a world in which women call the shots, what are men good for? Acting like boys.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of Apatow’s man-children.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Steve Carrell is not yet a man-child. How can he be if he’s never had sex? Apatow guys love sex more than almost anything, except for chemically-induced inactivity on their couch. Do not fear! Apatow-crowned-king Seth Rogen is here (with Rudd and Jane Lynch), and he will try to make him into one.
Knocked Up (2007)
The playbook for the Apatow male. This earthquake scene is a typical Apatow moment, as Rogen – an overweight, directionless 23-year-old who lives with stoners like Jason Segal and Jonah Hill – rescues his bong rather than his hottie pregnant girlfriend, Heigl.
Foreshadowing This is 40, Rudd, who is married to Heigl’s sister, tells Rogen this pearl of wisdom: “Marriage is like an unfunny, tense version of Everybody Loves Raymond, but it doesn’t last 22 minutes. It lasts forever.” Rudd is warning Rogen to stay far, far away from marriage. Maybe that’s why Rogen is not in This is 40. He’s off having fun.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Segal plays the sensitive, emotionally stunted manchild. He can commit to one woman – but nothing else. She dumps him – naked, crying, pathetic – because he is stuck in his job (at least he has one!) and is not as successful as she is (see above: Rosin). Segal only finds a new love (gorgeous Mila Kunis) when he stops whining and follows his dreams.
The Five-Year-Engagement (2012)
Segal doesn’t learn his lesson from Sarah Marshall, because in this unrelated film, but he gives up a good career to follow fiancee Emily Blunt to Bumblef#ck, Michigan. Of course she dumps him – castrating him then dumping him, typical Apatow style. It’s all the woman’s fault.
This is 40 (2012)
And of course it’s Mann’s fault that Rudd is such a inept fool – saddled with debt, career and sex problems. She’s trapped him with two kids, a huge house and with her constant nagging, even sneaking in on him when he’s on the toilet (Apatow men love going to the bathroom). When he calls her a ballbuster, she whines: “I am not a ballbuster. You make me one! I am a fun girl! I am fun-loving! […] I cannot believe I’ve wasted my whole life busting the balls of people who have no balls.”
Mann and Rudd show no respect for each other – he’s passive-aggressive, she’s aggressive-aggressive. But is this what Apatow really thinks happens to guys 10 or 15 years down the line? They become imprisoned by their immaturity, turning their women into jail-cell keepers?
Apatow man has become a cultural touchstone, whether we like it or not, so here’s hoping that This is 40 isn’t the end of his evolution. He’s got some way to go, by the looks of things.
There’s never been a more important time for quality journalism. Please consider supporting DAME’s reporting, commentary, and cultural criticism by becoming a member. When you join, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Robin Marty’s new book, “Handbook for a Post-Roe America,” As a member, you’ll have access to our members-only newsletter and exclusive content. And we’re sending you some swag too. Become a supporter today.
AN INDEPENDENT FREE PRESS HAS
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT.
Your financial support helps DAME continue to cover the critical policies, politics and social changes impacting woman and their allies.