Pop Culture #2: Michael Cera!

22 07 2009

Second in my series of pop-culture stories exhibiting interesting ideas of sexuality:

(And p.s., I promise that soon I’ll stop critiquing pop culture and start saying some positive things about it, because I actually do love movies/books/etc. and the things they have to say.)

2. Anything with Michael Cera in it.

Like… JUNO!

Or… Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist:

SUMMARY: Youv’e seen Michael Cera. He’s the soft-spoken, ultra-passive and smiley kid who impregnated Juno, or the, um, soft-spoken, ultra-passive and smiley kid who drove Norah around all night in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”. Plot summaries: “Passive Boy smiles awkwardly and sweetly until Teen Girl just can’t help herself anymore and hops into bed with him. Passivity ensues.”

ANALYSIS: First of all, I liked both these movies. Not hating at all. Second: When did acting like a five year old become the best way to woo a girl?

FAVORITE SCENE:

Juno (from a chair on MC’s lawn): “So, um, I’m pregnant.”

MC: “whoa.”

Juno: “So, I was thinking maybe I’d just, you know, nip it in the bud.”

MC: “Um, ok. Whatever, yeah.”

(What MC’s character does here is so easy for men to do: To just go passive and let the woman make the decisions alone… leaving her to fend for herself. Passivity is so easy and so appealing for me as a man and so many men I’ve spoken to, rather than a real and honest engagement with what is happening, and a willingness to share the burden.)

GLIMMER OF TRUTH: In “Nick & Norah”, Nick’s ex-girlfriend sees him hanging out with Norah, which makes her jealous. She decides to try to win him back. She flirts with him, and they drive to a private spot to “park”. She gets out and starts to do a strip tease in full glare of the headlights for Nick. As she begins to take off her clothes and dance seductively, Nick realizes he doesn’t even like this girl and drives away.

Now, I do not advocate leaving half-dressed girls alone in the ghetto to walk themselves home, but I like the way this scene shatters the myth that ultra-seductive and hyper-sexual is the best way for a woman to be. On-screen, it appeals to the base desires of many men and can be very titillating, but in real life, it’s awkward, unattractive, and sad. Women, feel free to be women and not sex toys.

UNDERLYING MESSAGE: To men: Just act stunned all the time, and smile sheepishly a lot. Nobody will ever hold you responsible for anything. To women: … sorry girls, you’re on your own. But after you go through horrible emotional turmoil, you can still sit on the porch and play guitar with your dude like two little kids.

P.S. – both these movies are hilarious and have great music and are very worth watching. And Michael Cera is hilarious.

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One response

22 07 2009
Nintendo Samurai

Tim,

I have two completely different trains of thought on how to respond to this. They are so different I am going to leave them in two comments. I'll start with Harry Potter 6 (the movie). My wife and I went to see the movie last night, I had read an interview with the director a couple years back (right as they started the project) where he said he was energized by the story because of the opportunity to explore the sexual politics of the young wizards at Hogwarts. This certainly came out in the movie, both Harry and Ron (Ron to a much greater degree) played the passive man you speak of, while Ginny, Hermione, and Lavender all filled different roles of the leading female (again to different degrees and with different means).

The Harry Potter books have been subject to a great deal of scrutiny (haha, to say the least) on a number of issues, including the balance of power between the sexes. Hermione is, by an measure, a very strong young woman. In the first books, her strength is seen in her brilliance. As the saga continues, she endures emotionally (seen in the ups and downs of love she endures with Ron) and physically (enduring torture in book 7) and many other kinds of strength. I once read a commentator criticize the fact that she was rescued by Harry and Ron in Book 2. It struck me as slightly alarmist to focus in on this one event and forget that it was she who rescued Sirius in book 3 or her brilliance that rescued Harry and Ron again and again. I think the commentator was also off base in the criticism because Hermione's need to be rescued didn't stem from anything feminine, she was TURNED TO STONE, that could happen to anyone (so to speak).

More than that, I think that commentator, and many in our culture confuse the need to be saved with not having power. Everyone needs to be saved sometimes, I think that is one of the constant messages of the Harry Potter series, there are tasks beyond the greatest wizard in the world and even the chosen one needs help. So there is, as you have put it, some glimmer of truth to pop culture's attempts to balance the powers of men and women. It is not easy to comprehend how the strong and powerful are sometimes weak in need of rescue. We would rather be able to divide people into two categories: strong and weak, hero and distressed. Often I think we get confused and lump Male and Female in that same dichotomy, a dichotomy I think is false (the strong/weak one). We are all weak and in need of rescue some times, and on a few occasions in life we may be able to offer another person some real help, but this has nothing to do with being male and female.

There is another thought I am having along this line, but it eludes vocalization at this point. The idea (whisping around my head) has to do with men and women having the power to define each other. That a man is defined by the women in his life and women by the men in her life. On the one hand, we are great fools to allow another person to define us (male or female), on the other, I know that we all do allow ourselves to be defined by the company we keep (more strongly by the company of the opposite sex). That's as far as the thought goes right now, maybe it'll be a third comment, but first I need to collect my thoughts and write the second.

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