Freddy Got Fingered is about a boy’s sexualized yearning to be closer to his father

Released: 
2001
Director: 
Tom Green
Starring: 
Tom Green, Rip Torn, Marisa Coughlan, Eddie Kaye Thomas

As you must know, Freddy Got Fingered is considered to be one of the most notoriously awful movies ever made. It got a decent review in the New York Times, but pretty much nowhere else. A sample of comments from the IMDb include that it “stinks like eight-day-old projectile vomit,” that it’s “sick and retarded,” and that it’s “utterly terrible in all imaginable ways worthy of human imagination.” There are a number of people that like it, and a number of people who profess respect for it, while at the same time not being able to articulate a coherent theory of what it’s up to. I have a fairly compelling theory to unify the major content of the film: that the film tells the story of a young man’s yearning for closeness with his father, which has taken on a highly sexualized manner of expression.

This may seem shocking, but is not without basis in reality. Any cursory scan of straight or gay websites that cater to arranging sexual encounters will reveal a fair number of people searching for an older man to play “daddy” as they enact an incest scenario of variable realism. The scenarios are plays on power and powerlessness, and usually involve a fantasy of the “boy” or “girl” being sexually molested, with the “child” often pretending to be considerably younger than they are. What we’re talking about are enacted fantasies of childhood sexual abuse. One could speculate that among the factors leading to this is a sexualization of the normal yearning for closeness with a parent. The child wants more affection from the parent, and through a series of psychological machinations, this yearning transforms into a somewhat masochistic wish for sexual attention, with the commensurate illicit excitement that would come from such a forbidden relationship. Viewed from this perspective, Freddy Got Fingered actually tells a fairly coherent story, one that, aside from being pissingly funny at times, is also extremely disturbing and emotionally raw.

Am I saying that Tom Green is gay? No. Am I saying that he wants to sleep with his father? No. Am I saying that all of this was consciously planned to center around this theme? No again, but I do think that in constructing his story and inserting elements that seem to fit, he may have unconsciously assembled something that does fall into a certain shape that can be interpreted.

THE FILM:

In the film, Tom Green plays Gordy, a 28-year-old who still lives in his parents’ basement. He is extremely adolescent in his interests and the way he reacts to people and events. He draws insipid cartoons and dreams of creating an animated TV show. He has an extremely antagonistic relationship with his father Jim [Rip Torn], who considers his “doodles” idiotic, and seemingly will only be pleased when Gordy gets a “real job.” He also has an apologetic mother [Julie Hagerty] and a boyish younger brother, Freddy [Eddie Kaye Thomas], who cannot convince his parents that he is an adult, despite having moved out of the house and getting a job, as they wish Gordy would do.

The movie begins with Gordy driving off to Los Angeles to start work at a cheese sandwich factory—though he really plans to attempt to sell his cartoon concepts to a television network. The scene floats in and out of parody of sentimental family films [as much of the movie will do from now on] as Gordy and his father repeat the word “proud” over and over again [the issue of whether Jim is proud or ashamed of Gordy is a recurring theme]. The license plate on the car his parents give to him reads “#1 Son.”

During his drive, Gordy passes a stud farm, and appears to become psychotic at the sight of a horse’s erect penis. He screeches his car to a halt, jumps over the fence, and masturbates the horse while screaming “Look Daddy! I’m a farmer! I’m a farmer, Daddy!”

Unsuccessful in L.A., Gordy returns to Portland. On the drive, he once more passes the stud farm, where two horses are fucking. Gordy watches in awe as he obsessively shoves a sandwich into his mouth, as a song plays in the background that says: “We’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, me and daddy.”

Across the street from Gordy’s family home lives a boy of about 10, Andy, who lives with his father. Andy is a stereotypically cheerful and innocent young boy [“Can I REALLY have some cake, Daddy?”], who is always falling victim to some sort of horrific violence. During the first half of the film, he gets his face smashed into the side of a car, has a glass smashed across his face, and gets a baseball thrown at his face, causing his lower tooth to puncture his lip. At one point he appears in a restaurant with dark bruises around his eyes. His father has a somewhat creepy “Mr. Rogers”-type manner, and is invariably seen with his son, talking to him in a childlike, creepily wholesome manner. The way their relationship is presented gradually begins to suggest that the two of them play more than catch together.

Gordy flirts with Betty, a woman at a hospital, asking her on a date and getting her number before it is revealed that she is in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. When it is first revealed that she is paralyzed, one expects that THIS is the joke—that Gordy would never pursue a relationship with her now. But Gordy does in fact call the woman and develop a relationship with her. The movie reveals its essential sweetness, and the limits to which it is willing to push its distain for morality, in not making this character’s disability a throwaway punchline. Of course, she does turn out to be a fetishist who loves to have her legs beaten with a cane and is ravenous to give Gordy a blow job, but she is not portrayed as useless because of her disability.

Gordy’s father discovers him at a restaurant with Betty, and realizes that Gordy has lied to him in saying that he’s found a job. He humiliates Gordy, eventually taking him over his knee and spanking him in the middle of the restaurant as Gordy screams “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

Father and son’s animosity escalates into a series of acts designed to get revenge on each other. After Jim destroys Gordy’s skateboard ramp, Gordy tells his mother that she should divorce him. They enter family therapy. The therapist articulates that Gordy wants his father to love and accept him. When Jim does not respond to this and once more berates his son, Gordy lies to the therapist, telling her that his father has “fingered” his younger brother Freddy. The therapist is alarmed, Gordy’s mother is appalled, and his father is furious.

Freddy is taken from his apartment and put in a home, where he is later seen watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a bunch of 10-year-olds.

At home, Jim has been drinking, and insults Gordy’s drawings. Gordy says “Fuck you, Dad,” to which Jim replies “Fuck me? Do you want to fuck me?” He then lowers his drawers and displays his ass to his son, waving it around while he chants “Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!”

His wife sees this, and deserts him.

Gordy decides that he must follow his dream and make another attempt to sell his drawings. He has drawn a family of zebras based on his own family. Unsurprisingly, the Gordy and father zebras are antagonistic, and the father zebra rips Gordy zebra’s lower jaw off, then ties him to the back of his car and drags him on the asphalt until his teeth are ground out of his mouth. Gordy receives a check for a million dollars. He uses part of his money on gifts for Betty, and the rest—$750,000—on his father.

Drugging his father, he cuts his father’s bedroom out of the house and transports it, father asleep inside, to Pakistan. His father, upon waking, is furious, and chases Gordy into a tent where Gordy, grabbing an elephant’s penis, douses his father head to toe in elephant semen. This, at last, seems to impress his father. Gordy reveals that he paid for this elaborate stunt by selling his drawings, and this makes his father proud. The two of them spend a seemingly happy year and a half in Pakistan, growing beards and engaging each other in drinking contests.

A cheering crowd awaits them upon their return home, waving signs that say “When the fuck is this movie going to end?” and “You rock my brown hole!” Gordy and his father emerge from the plane, arms around each other, and go home together.

In the last shot of the film, little Andy runs toward the plane, but is caught in its propellers, spattering his blood all over his father and the crowd, while his voice is heard from offscreen shouting “I’m okay, Daddy! I’m okay!”

DISCUSSION:

As you can see, if you were to take out all the perverted content, what you would have here is essentially Ordinary People, or any number of other family dramas. The son feels misunderstood and unappreciated by the father, strives to earn his respect, finally does, and they have a period of blissful bonding. But in this movie, Gordy is so immature that his yearning for his father takes on a powerful sexual aspect, revealing itself in a reversed Oedipal conflict in which he longs to win his father away from his mother. His wish to remain in an infantile state and his confusion about what constitutes being an adult man also causes him to wish to be the powerless target of his father’s idealized masculine sexual aggression.

The first scene that throws viewers off is the one in which Gordy goes nuts upon seeing the horse’s penis. Artistically, I think it may have been a mistake to insert this scene seven minutes into the film, as it is so shocking and apparently senseless that it is impossible to calmly take in the rest of the movie! If you do plan on watching this movie, you should be prepared to see some of the most stupefyingly inane sequences you have ever witnessed. However, I believe that the apparent stupidity of several of the sequences serves to soften the blow of the extremely violent, perverse and disturbing content that is also included.

Knowing the content of the rest of the film, The horse penis scene can be interpreted as Gordy’s wish to touch “the big penis” [i.e. his father’s], and his juvenile exclamations [“Look Daddy! I’m a farmer!”] can be seen as an expression of the kind of infantile sexual game he fantasizes about playing with his father.

In Gordy’s mind, life would be simplest and most enjoyable if he never had to get a job, but were able to replace his mother while remaining a little boy whose entire world is his exciting and dominant father. Throughout the movie, when Gordy gets excited, he reverts to the helpless persona of a young boy being overpowered by his tyrannical father. This is evident in his exclamations during the horse scene, and also his excited shouts of “Daddy! Daddy!” while being publicly spanked in the restaurant. Also present at the restaurant are the abused young Andy and his doting and childlike father. I think that this pair represent a version of the idealized father-son sexual/affectionate relationship that Gordy wants with his own father—including the disturbing element of extreme violence that would inevitably be a part of that relationship. In this film the pain and damage that a sexual relationship with a man would cause corresponds to the boys’ excitement, as they boy wants most to be completely overpowered by his father’s masculinity. This reaches its most extreme example in the last shot of the film, in which Andy is obliterated by the plane’s propellers, while at the same time we hear his excited voice shouting “I’m okay, Daddy!” I believe that because this aspect of the film is so shocking, it is transferred away from Tom Green himself and onto a separate and less peripheral character.

It is clear from Gordy’s and his father’s intense attention to aggravating the other that there is a powerful excitement present on both of their parts. The therapist scene is the only time that Gordy’s wish to gain his father’s love and respect is stated plainly. When his father just as plainly refuses, Gordy goes for the worst retaliation he can manage: he accuses his father of sexual abuse. But since his own wish to be molested is too much for him to consciously accept, he projects this onto his brother. Freddy, despite having a job and his own apartment, remains a non-entity to his parents, and is portrayed as childlike and asexual. He doesn’t seem to be particularly fazed by having his life taken away and being thrust into a children’s home. That Gordy, screw-up that he is, remains the focus of his parent’s attention shows that in this fantasy, a son who is agressively sexually interested in his father is preferable to a son who completes all the correct passages into maturity, but has no passion for anything or anyone.

After the accusations of abuse have been levied, Gordy receives two of his wishes: his father begs him for sex, and immediately afterward he succeeds in driving his mother out of the house, thus getting his father all to himself. However, it is not satisfactory, not least because his father is begging Gordy to fuck him, rather than the other way around.

Through Gordy’s sexual but childlike relationship with Betty—as well as a narrative need to wrap the story up and arrive at a point where Gordy gains some self-respect--he is able to gain power over his father by selling his drawing and making a million dollars. He spends this money on showing his loved ones how much he feels for them, but still devotes only 1/4th of his money to Betty and 3/4ths of it to his father. In Pakistan, Jim is overwhelmed by the extent of his son’s attention to him, twisted as it may be. Gordy is now able, with the elephant penis, to overpower his father with a penis bigger than his own [i.e. the horse penis]. He finally wins the man’s respect in this way, they are able to have a year and a half of blissful father/son time together, growing their beards, engaging in drinking contests, and generally having childish boys-only fun in an environment devoid of women.

Viewed this way, the film takes on a solid form and coherent expression of themes, becoming sweet, innocent and charming, and simultaneously powerfully disturbing and emotionally raw.

Which would make it exactly like the nature of Gordy’s yearning for his father.

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