Superbadrecommended viewing

High school homo love
★★★★
Released: 
2007
Director: 
Greg Mottola
Starring: 
Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen
The Setup: 
Two guys try to score booze and get into a party.
Discussion: 

For some reason it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing about this one, which means inevitably I’ve lost some details, but gained in time to reflect on it. Produced by Judd Apatow of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but this time written by Knocked Up star Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this film is the best and most fully realized of the bunch. It packs fewer belly laughs than any of them, but it has the most fully-realized and consistent themes and subtext.

The movie takes place over one day and night in the lives of the chubby Seth, the geeky Evan, and the super-geeky Fogel. Seth and Evan are obsessed with girls, without having any experience or understanding of them. Seth hopes to “be that mistake” girls talk about when they get drunk and sleep with some guy. Evan likes a girl, and she likes him, a lot, but he is completely oblivious to her advances. Seth disparages Fogel, but changes his tune once he has been charged with procuring booze for that night’s party, and Fogel has just gotten a fake ID. Unfortunately that ID lists his name as “McLovin.” In here, Seth confesses that he used to be obsessed with drawing penises, and we see several examples of his artwork; penises dressed as different types of people. Evan tells Seth that he has yet to get around to telling McLovin that he will not be rooming with him at college.

Surprise, McLovin is allowed to buy booze—but a robbery brings the cops, played by co-writer Rogen [who is SO dreamy in a cop uniform and fu manchu mustache—WHY must he torment me?] and Bill Hader. Seth and Evan see this and begin their own odyssey to buy liquor, hooking up with a guy who takes them to a wild adult party, where they get separated, face the threat of being beaten up, and Seth finally sneaks booze out in laundry detergent containers.

SPOILERS > > >
Meanwhile McLovin has been taken to a bar by the cops, who have a few drinks on the job, use their flashers to run red lights, let McLovin hold their gun, and do donuts. They confess at one point that they knew McLovin was underage, but took him along because they both feel that they’ve become a little too boring and respectable as adults, and miss the irresponsibility of youth. They took McLovin along as a way to vicariously return to that carefree time. At one point they accidentally hit Evan with the police car, at which point the cops start strategizing about how they can blame the kids and shirk responsibility. McLovin briefly parts with them.

Seth and Evan finally make it to the party, where they are able to supply some booze. The girl that likes Evan is drunk and tries to have sex with him, while Seth accidentally gives the girl he likes [and who somewhat improbably likes him] a black eye. The two male friends end up sleeping on the floor in the basement of one of their houses, and the climax of the movie is their declaration of love for each other. Seth says that he wants to shout from the rooftops that he loves Evan. He also reveals that he has always known that Evan will be rooming with McLovin, but pretended not to know.

Meanwhile McLovin has reunited with the cops and gets to shoot the gun at the now-burning police car. The next day, Seth and Evan are at the mall when they run into the respective girls they like, and end up each going off with them. The last image of the movie is Seth looking longingly back at Evan as the escalator slowly takes him further and further away. More of Seth’s penis drawings are displayed along with the credits, concluding with an image of Seth, Evan and McLovin with arms around each other, all as penises.
< < < SPOILERS END

It is all about giving up the homoerotic affection of adolescence, making gestures toward the responsibilities of manhood, and settling into adult heterosexuality.

Now, I AM NOT SAYNG THAT SETH AND EVEN ARE SECRETLY GAY, but the content of most of the movie is about their love, which has more then a tiny homoerotic element. Seth displays, through his fascination with drawing adult penises, an obsession with an idealized image of masculinity and potency, which seems so huge and powerful—and alien to him. This is akin to the sequence in Freddy Got Fingered where Tom Green screeches his car to a halt to grasp a horse’s huge penis—it is an immature fascination with a idealization of male potency. Evan is presented as distantly yearning but clueless about girls.

The rest of the movie can be seen as the boys’ odyssey through situations that present various versions of REAL male adulthood, which help them achieve a more realistic and balanced view. Seth and Evan encounter the guy [with a police record] who takes them to the adult party, where they encounter several scary men, but the real action here is acccomplished via the cops, Rogen and Hader, who initially appear like awesome dudes, but soon the limitations of their lack of maturity become apparent. First, when they hit one of the kids and then contrive to blame the kids—this shows everyone, especially McLovin, that this arrested development, while cool, does not include true loyalty, and can quickly turn on one. There’s also something to the cops being this way because they wish they were still where the kids are—which seems so horrible, so nowhere to the kids.

There is an element that gays may find offensive here, in the suggestion that homoerotic affection is just a phase to be gotten through, before one settles into maturity and “gets over it.” But I don’t think there’s cause for alarm. This movie is about that love between boys that exists before mature sexuality occurs, and doesn’t necessarily insist that a development into heterosexuality is “right” for everyone. Besides, it’s about straight guys, and that’s that. We know that this content is the point of the movie because the film’s climax IS their declaration of love for each other, with the added coda of Seth’s yearning gaze after Evan as they drift away from the haven of their perfect, pre-sexual love and into mature heterosexuality. One of the unspoken elements of this film that gives it an added poignance is the undercurrent that Seth is much more in love with Evan than Evan is with Seth.

Again, I’m not saying that the two characters are secretly homosexual, but I think the film is a clever acknowledgement of the spectrum of human attachment [I am totally sounding like a 7th grade sociology textbook, aren’t I?] that can include elements of homoeroticism. It strikes me that this would only be an offensive idea to those heterosexuals to whom homosexual affection must always and ONLY be about sex, discounting that gays also experience love and fraternity and friendship—the same friendship that they feel during the blissfully complicated high school days portrayed here.

Should you watch it: 

Definitely, this is the best and most fully-realized of all the recent comedies of its ilk.