Apparently Ann Hornaday, media critic for The Washington Post, believes a plot device as old as storytelling itself can lead to violent, sociopathic misogynists going on murder sprees, and I’d say it’s safe to say she doesn’t like “shlubby” guys very much either.
There are times, though very rare, that I can completely sympathize with people who complain about the humorless, overly-politically correct nature of liberals. As a comedian whose material has centered primarily on politics for the last three years or so, I have come into contact with a plethora of whiny, finger-wagging peevish liberals who — despite sharing common ideological ground with me on a myriad of topics — feel it’s their need to police the language people use to the point of absolute inanity.
I’m not allowed to say, for example, that Ann Coulter’s acting like a cunt because even though that word has been around forever, is used as a term of endearment all over the place and has truly transcended the gender roles that once may have surrounded it, I’m instantly labeled a misogynist for using it because I simply must be secretly or unwittingly anti-female. Even though I have written tens of thousands of words in defense of women’s rights not just in terms of abortion, but equal pay and more importantly equal representation in society, I am labeled a woman hater by the fringe left feminists because they somehow equate the C-word to the N-word even though that’s a truly ridiculous comparison.
Then I read Hornaday’s op-ed in The Washington Post and I want to pull my eye teeth out with two plastic spoons. In her piece, Hornaday makes an argument that people like Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow had a hand in creating a culture that enables people like the UCSB shooter — who killed six people over Memorial Day Weekend — to feel empowered and take their rage out on women. That’s right, according to a WaPo columnist, romantic comedies make people violent sociopaths. It’s just a newly packaged spin on the same tripe we hear after every mass killing — blame media and the entertainment industry for encouraging, or in Hornaday’s words, the shooter’s delusions were “inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in.”
Hornaday refers to movies like “American Psycho” as evidence of Hollywood’s misogynistic and sometimes violent tendencies toward women. Of course, in doing so she completely misses the boat, because that film — while certainly long on scenes depicting horrible, gruesome acts of violence perpetrated by the main character against women — is actually a very subversive bit of parody and satire; it’s biting commentary on the very culture Hornaday insists it is encouraging. Hornaday therefore becomes another in a long line of culture critics to completely miss the boat in her rush to find some kind of enlightened explanation for a tragedy like the UCSB shooting.
It was when Ms. Hornaday turned her sights on Rogen — the comedian who gave us films such as “Knocked-Up” and “This is the End,” — that I just about lost it though. She didn’t mention Rogen by name, but she did specifically mention his latest film and Rogen’s creative producer, Apatow, specifically. Said Hornaday, “How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?”
Firstly, the movie “Animal House” predates “Neighbors” by over 30 years. That film is the quintessential “frat film” upon which every “American Pie,” “Van Wilder” or even “Neighbors” is built, and there was no spike in mass shootings until very recently. Are we really going to accept Hornaday’s assertion of a cumulative effect of watching “shlubby” men get the girl being that egotistical, woman-hating, spoiled assholes are going to commit acts of evil? It’s just a completely nonsensical argument from top to bottom. It’s intellectually lazy to pin any amount of blame for what happened in Isla Vista on any work of fiction, period.
How many times are we going to blame violent movies, television programs and video games before we realize that millions, if not billions of people all over the world see the same movies we do, play the same video games we do, and they simply do not have the same problem with mass shootings that we have. It certainly seems that if it were the media and works of commercialized art that people were consuming that caused these kinds of tragedies, that it would be happening all over the world in the same epidemic-like fashion. And yet, it’s not.
I hate to break to it Ms. Hornaday, but I am indeed a shlubby, Rogen-esque man I did in fact somehow win the relationship lottery when my gorgeous wife found something just un-repulsive enough about me to enter into a loving, committed, intimate relationship with me. In a lot of ways, our relationship mirrors a Seth Rogen comedy. I was a shlub that had to grow up a bit in order for this amazing, smart, funny and beautiful woman to really take a chance on me, and even then I still had and have a lot of growing-up still to do. I was lonely and grasping for reasons why I wasn’t “getting the girl” like I wanted so badly. It’s at this point though that key distinctions between guys like me — the overwhelming majority of us — and Elliot Rodger get made.
Never once did I feel or have I felt entitled to love and sex from her, or any other woman I dated. I had grown up watching romantic comedies hook the lovable loser up with the beautiful woman, and I never once had an impulse to take revenge for my loneliness out on the entirety of the female gender, and the simple math of it all works out so that roughly 99.9999999% of my fellow “shlubby” guys don’t go on murderous rampages to soothe their loneliness either. Hornaday’s argument is just empty pabulum.
What is it that Hornaday is really saying here, that all the idea of a shlubby guy winning the love and affection of an attractive female is so far out of the realm of normality and reality that it creates a false fantasy? I hate to break it to Ms. Hornaday but history is full of examples of shlubs and beautiful women being happy together. The late Anne Bancroft was married for years to comedic genius Mel Brooks. I’m not saying my hero Mel is ugly at all, I’m just saying by his own admission he’d never be compared to Paul Newman or Robert Redford. And yet, it was the shlubby guy, with his brilliant sense of humor and razor-sharp wit that wound up being married to one of the most glamorous, intelligent and charismatic women Hollywood has ever seen, and I’ve never heard their relationship being blamed for a mass murderer’s violent acts.
I wonder how Ms. Hornaday would feel about a male art critic inferring that years of watching things like “Murphy Brown,” “Sex in the City,” “That Girl,” “New Girl,” “Girls,” or any other show or movie that depicts a strong female or many strong females reinforced in the UCSB shooter that there’s a message from Hollywood that females are superior to males, and that message could have reinforced his delusions about what feminism is. Therefore women who create strong female characters had a hand in pushing him over the edge of sanity. That sounds like a completely stupid argument doesn’t it? That’s because it is a completely stupid argument to blame works of fiction — particularly comedic ones — for a vicious, blood-soaked murder spree.
The bottom line is that nobody but the shooter himself is to blame for his murder spree. Millions of awkward, depressed, and lonely young men watch comedies that depict people that look and act like them getting the girl and they don’t fly off the handle into murderous rages when it doesn’t happen. That’s because most of us know that’s just Hollywood, and reality is reality. It’s also because people like Elliot Rodger, while truly terrifying, are very rare. When people like Ann Hornaday write their drivel that blames one entertainer’s work or another for these kinds of things, they imply there are millions and millions more just like Rodger out there, like dormant volcanoes just waiting to erupt and spew their horrific violent rage everywhere, which couldn’t be a more patently false and dunderheaded argument to make if it tried.