Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not 17 Again

I rented "17 Again" expecting to be mildly amused, and was instead moderately pissed off. Despite the hotness of Zac Efron (I guess) and the cheezball plot the movie managed to get me angry for a few reasons.

#1 - Sexism. Did Anyone else have a problem with the fact that the dude goes back to high school to help his kids and he ends up having to save his daughter from sex, and save his son from virginity? Yes we are convinced that the jock the girl is dating is a complete douchebag, who the teen daughter needs saving from - but where are we led to believe that the "head cheerleader" the son has a crush on is a redeemable human being? Actually, does anyone remember anything about the personality of the cheerleader girl at all? Exactly. It doesn't matter - if the son wants to bang her then he absolutely should and dad (transformed into Zac Efron) should do everything in his power to help. On the other hand, anyone who wants to have sex with his teen daughter is obviously a scum bag in need of severe humiliation and scorn.

#2 - Homophobia. It was a short moment in the film, but at one point someone suspects Zac Efron of being gay - and despite the fact that it would be the perfect resolution to the situation for him to confirm the suspicion he vigorously denies it. Why? Because being gay is just not cool and Zac Efron is cool. Right?

#3 - Persistent Lame "Geek Jokes". One of the main characters is Zac Efron's friend from high school who first shows up in the film running in to a basketball practice late wearing a wizard's robe and mumbling about his D&D game. This character later ends up being rich but ridiculously socially maladapted, living in a house full of toys and manequins. Listen, as a geek, I love to poke fun at geeky behavior and pastimes. We are a funny group of people. In fact, there is probably no subculture that laughs at itself more. But this movie wasn't laughing with us, it was laughing at us, demonstrated by the fact that it utterly failed to understand geek culture, in favor of perpetuating demeaning stereotypes. The geek in this movie committed cardinal geek sins like saying "the force is strong with this one" while dressed in a Star Trek uniform. He spoke elvish, but didn't remember that Gandalf the White is the one who appears in Fangorn Forest in the Two Towers. The movie wasn't interested in presenting a sympathetic and realistic portrait of a geeky personality they just needed somebody to do their slapstick and be the butt of their jokes, and the weirder the better - so make him forget his pants all the time, and wear ridiculous hats, and cover his walls in memorabilia, oh and make him act like a total dunce around women, because all geeks are like that, aren't they?

#4 - Banality. I guess in the final estimate, my complaint about this movie is that it was so painfully banal. So perfectly mainstream. So determinedly status quo. And I mean that in the most condemning sense. Zac Efron played a white-bread hero from a picket-fence town who knows how to teach boys to be MEN, and protect women from their own inner whore, and even how to be kind to the village idiot. I got the distinct impression that Zac Efron was too cool for real geeks who won't be happy as bumbling sidekicks, too cool for women with minds of their own, and too cool to let his son go through high school as something other than a mac daddy. He was definitely too cool for me. A real American Hero.


Paul Wise said...

Seems par for the course. Mock the 'other,' avoid being portrayed as 'other' yourself, if a boy is still a virgin by the end of high school he's a total loser, if a girl isn't still a virgin by the end of high school she's a total whore, go team stupid, go go go! Another successful entry into the 'teen movie' category. Let's all pat ourselves on the back for a few minutes before we go back and assemble an entirely different movie from basically the same component parts in a few months, and of course, don't ever, ever assume that movies for a primarily teenage audience should be intelligent, insightful, or thoughtful in any way.

Aric Clark said...

Yup Paul. The thing is, I sometimes go for cheez. I love Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I loved "Accepted" (a more recent movie on similar themes). I liked "Role Models" from last year which similarly depicted geeks in a humorous light - the difference being that the geeks were not universal generic stereotypes, but specific kinds of geeks - LARPers, and it did the humor/respect thing well. The heroes didn't "condescend" to be friends with their LARPing younger buddy - they actually behaved like friends.

What's sad to me is that Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron are enough to sell crap like this with no heart.