Intro by the Happy Feminist (AARGH -- for some reason Typepad won't let me put in paragraph breaks! My apologies)
Last week, my husband rented the new comedy, "The 40 year-old Virgin." I figured I would hate it but that it would make a good blogging topic, particularly in light of the interesting thread on The Cult of the Hymen. In fact, I laughed throughout the movie and found it unexpectedly charming. It lampoons the cultural pressures on men to act a certain way sexually, and as the movie progresses it becomes clear that the "normal," non-virginal male characters all have their own hang-ups with regard to their relationships with the opposite sex. Lest you think I am crazy, I should point out that Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars and seemed to have the same take on it as I. Before I settled in to write the post, however, it occurred to me that Bmmg39 probably has a more nuanced view than I of the issues addressed in the movie. I invited him to do a guest review, but he has not seen the movie. It turns out, however, that he has some pretty interesting reasons as to why not-- so without, further ado, I present to you the Happy Feminist's first guest post, this one written by Bmmg39.
Guest Post by Bmmg39
First things first: I'd like to thank HF for inviting me to her blog some months ago for its inception, and now for allowing me to be her first "guest blogger" (or whatever this feature will be called).
Next, I should point out in the interest of full disclosure that I'm not Mr. AMC as it is: in 2005, I went to the movies exactly twice (which is a lot for me), both times I was alone, and my films were HOTEL RWANDA and SAVING FACE. The latter of these was seen in an "art house" theater in Philadelphia; that's usually the kind of place where I go. (Is it me, or does every mainstream movie get marketed exactly the same way nowadays? I notice this especially with the comedies. I see the same cuts from one stupid scene to the next, hear the same music, and then it finishes with large red words moving around an all-white screen as the announcer fella gives the title: AMERICAN PIE, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, and WEDDING CRASHERS, for example, all seem to be put out by a film company that forgot to turn the page.)
Anyway, on to this film. I was frustrated when I first heard about it over the summer. "Here we go," I thought. Since then, I've seen many people say pretty much what HF has said here: that it's actually a rather sweet film that likes its protagonist and makes him endearing. I believe them, but the film certainly isn't being MARKETED that way, and that's what, to me, is doing the damage. Consider: the poster has the main character with a silly grin on his face, a somewhat "nerdy" (some would say) golf shirt, and an ethereal glow about his entire visage, suggesting that anyone who's never partaken of sex must be naïve about all things involving human interaction. The tagline for the film is, "Better Late Than Never." In fact, the title in and of itself is supposed to draw chuckles: "Oh, a 40-year-old virgin? We've GOT to see that!"
So, no matter what happens in the actual film, the promotion of it clearly suggests that there is something wrong with a person who, for whatever reason, hasn't had sex. (Related to this is the upcoming FAILURE TO LAUNCH, which doesn't appear to be about a virgin, but rather a 35-year-old who lives with his parents. I mean, can you IMAGINE? Sure, many people claim to do so and have their own arrangements that are appropriate for whatever is going on in their lives, but...can you IMAGINE? [rolls eyes])
Of course, there are many reasons people remain chaste. Some are simply lonely and haven't dated in life; some abstain for religious reasons; some fear STDs; some simply are more interested in G-rated pursuits. And sometimes it's a combination of these. Whatever it may be, why is this considered so remarkable? It's no different, to me, from going off half-cocked because someone you know has never been on a roller coaster or been out of the country. Like: if YOU enjoy this, fine, but why the theatrics if someone else does not?
And gender indeed plays a role: we notice that the 40-year-old virgin (and the 35-year-old with mom and pop) is a male. Most double standards cut both ways, and this is no exception: the same culture that frowns upon women/girls enjoying sex ridicules men/boys who eschew it. On a daytime talk show a few years back, the topic was teens and sex. A Caucasian girl said that she wasn't going to have sex at that age, and the (mostly female) audience applauded and cheered. Later, an African-American boy said virtually the same thing, and the very same audience laughed. A woman on the panel, exasperated, rightly pointed out the disparity between their two reactions: we tell the girl to "protect" herself from the vile boys and then ridicule the boys if they're not trying to "get some." I was in a chat room some time back, and a woman in there was railing about guys, and how they're "only interested in sex." When I explained to her that I wasn't interested in it, let alone "only" interested in it, do you think she revised her stereotype and apologized? Of course not. She insulted me because I didn't fit her moronic generalization.
It also strikes me as sad that younger people are going to see these trailers on TV and receive such an overt message about virginity being for losers. But I'll let the rest of you take it from here, and I'll make further comments when I feel they're apropos.
Men's Rights = Women's Rights = Human Rights