Saturday, January 10, 2009

Follow the Pineapple

I’m sure Seth Rogen fans everywhere have already noted that Pineapple Express came out on DVD this week. I’m pretty sure this was the funniest movie of 2008. And what does it mean about me that I found James Franco way more hotter as the affable stoner than as wealthy pretty-boy Harry Osborne?

At this point, Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow have made so many movies together I can’t keep them straight. But maybe their most distinct movie is the one they did before Pineapple, Superbad.

I had sort of a conflicted response to Superbad. On the one hand, I do enjoy an underdog story, and Michael Cera is one of the most endearing and comically gifted actors I can think of. On the other hand, I had sort of an ick reaction to Jonah Hill’s Seth.

It’s a moral problem, really. And I’m not talking about the usual content parents find objectionable. No, there are two specific aspects of the movie that rubbed me the wrong way:

1) Seth’s scheme to use McLovin (can’t think of his real name at the moment) solely to buy alcohol to bring to the party, coupled with his unabashed ditching of McLovin the second he’s no longer useful. That’s not really okay.

2) Seth’s scheme to get Jules drunk so that maybe she’ll have sex with him. Am I taking crazy pills, or is putting someone in an altered state specifically to take advantage of his or her lowered inhibitions not really okay either?

All told, Seth isn’t such a great guy. But he finally gets to go to the party of his dreams, and ultimately he also gets the girl. The message: you can be some level of a douche and use people as expendable tools in your shallow, selfish plans, yet still get everything you want. What an annoying universe.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe Seth isn’t such a bad dude—just an undeveloped dude. And I’m sure Seth Rogen didn’t intend to make any particular statement with this film. He and Evan Goldberg probably just said to themselves, “Hmm, what cool stuff can we have happen to Seth and Evan?"

But see, that almost makes it worse. Because it’s sort of hinting that being a total jerk is the most natural thing possible—which I guess is sort of true. All of us pay a ridiculous amount of attention to our own lives, and all of us want a life story that’s sparkly and fun, with a hip indie soundtrack. The thing is, none of us deserve that more than everyone else. We might deserve to go to the party, but we don’t deserve to sell out McLovin to get ourselves there.

There is one tiny redemptive thing about this movie. Seth doesn’t get the girl by scheming or intoxicating her; he gets her by being honest. Even a little vulnerable.

We all have something going on; we’re all trying to write a cool life story for ourselves (or live in a cool life story written by someone else—it seems like a lot of people try to replicate books or movies or sitcoms in their own lives). I’ll try to think that by the end of Superbad, Seth had dropped his scheming and learned to interact with his fellow humans. Maybe he went on to learn how to pay attention to the experiences of others, to listen to their life stories. Because just as much as we want people to follow the movie of our lives, everyone around us wants the same thing.

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