Reading Rights

Magdalena Waz

I want to take something of a step forward and address the fact that I think about film and its place in our society more than I think about reading and/or books. The fact that book sales are plummeting is unsettling. I don’t remember where I read this but only a small fraction of books published sell over 500 copies.
But what is perhaps even more unsettling is the homogeneity of the mode of entertainment we all seem to prefer – film. We are watching the same things over and over again.
Let me use my favorite target as an example. Judd Apatow has discovered a genre that works really well across, according to imdb.com, almost all demographics. Since 2005, the feature films he has produced have made over $1 billion in the United States alone.
His films are infected with a juvenile sense of humor, and the plots focus mainly on the relationships between men or boys changing with the introduction of an often-vilified woman. The woman most likely to win the heart of the main character is the one who is willing to tolerate his manboy quirks and his manboy friends.
There are, of course, slight variations, but the message is often the same. Men learn to maintain their individual traits in the face of a long-term relationship.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with the fact that these movies make it a point to be the opposite of the “chick flick.” There is a wealth of copycat films that use the same formula or emulate a style in which conversations between men are extremely different from conversations between men and women.
“Going the Distance” is a recent example, but what was missing from this as opposed to Judd Apatow’s films was the conflicting desire of the main character to be around his bros while in a relationship.
One argument that people tend to make when it comes to defending Judd Apatow productions is that women also like his films. From looking at sheer voting volume alone, men outnumber women almost 12 to one on the imdb page of his most recent production, “Get Him to the Greek.”
This is also the case on the imdb page for “Funny People.” This does not accurately reflect what I have seen in movie theaters themselves.
Altogether, I do not appreciate the lack of academic inquiry when it comes to popular entertainment. We tend to see contemporary films as a diversion, only to be studied when we are no longer in our current cultural moment. That is just not a valid excuse for drawing divisions between “chick flicks” for women and “bromances” for men.
I am by no means advocating that we should all universally love and appreciate Judd Apatow’s films. It is the division of genres based on gender about which I am upset. And perhaps it’s not the way we watch films but the way that they are made that is a problem. In any case, read books. Many of them deserve more money than Judd Apatow and his tired formulas.

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