5 Sex Comedy Tropes That Need to Evolve or Die
I grew up watching sex comedies because my parents were the sorts of people who felt their preteen should get to know why the shitty dean of a college was ruining everyone's horny time. Fast-forward a few years, and I noticed that all modern movie deans seem to hate boners too. Basically, sex comedies haven't really changed a lot in the past 30 years, and that is definitely for the worse. These films desperately need to evolve past their standard material, which is at best old and at worst vengefully inappropriate in real life.
Peeping As A Wacky Prank
In a curious break from reality, spying on someone who is naked in a movie is nearly always presented as hilarious good fun. If your landlord was watching you shower, you'd probably be upset. But if the gang from American Pie is watching two women get undressed, it's a goddamn party. Let's see how those crazy kids mess this up!
The "spying on women getting naked" trope is about as old as nudity. It was such a big part of the movie Porky's way back in 1981 (right after the Civil War) that they used an eye peeping through a hole as part of the poster art. If you need a reminder, that specific thing is also a big part of the movie Psycho. A good rule of thumb when it comes to interactions with women: Don't do anything that a serial killer who dresses like his mother would do.
Yet this same gag happens in literally three different American Pie movies, and maybe more, since I don't even think the company behind the American Pie movies knows how many exist at this point. You can also find it in The Girl Next Door, Hall Pass, I Love You Beth Cooper, and countless direct-to-video releases intended to make teenage boys laugh while jerking off. And it's so bizarre, because in any of those, just changing the score to horror movie tension music would turn the scene into nightmare fuel.
And every time, the woman's body is just a prop -- the point of the joke is the peepers' hilarious bumbling. The comedic tension comes from the threat of them being caught. In one of the American Pies, Jim sets up his camera so his friends can watch him debauch the unsuspecting foreign exchange student, but the dullard accidentally emails the links to the whole school and Blink-182 (plus a monkey). What a silly goof! His small crime turned into a much larger crime because of his ineptitude, and an unsuspecting woman has now been embarrassed in front of thousands of her peers. Where's that "wah wah" horn when you need it?
Other "Sexy" Pranks
The sex prank is a lot of good-natured joking, if you consider things that are blatantly illegal and even more blatantly gross good-natured. How would you feel right now if someone broke into your house to steal your underwear, then jammed their dick through a hole next to you while you showered, then waited until you were at a school dance and ripped your clothes off while other half-naked people chased you? Fun, huh? The sex prank basically asks what would humiliate someone most, and then adds a penis to it. And comedy has loved it for years.
Hell, if you grew up on '80s comedies, you were probably convinced that half of all sex was sexy pranks. The panty raid in Revenge Of The Nerds, the dick in the wall from Porky's, the "Scott Baio uses his creepy powers to strip everyone naked and instigate a bizarre mass sexual assault party" from Zapped. Twenty years later, we had Van Wilder filling pastry with dog semen and feeding it to unsuspecting frat guys. And in American Reunion, Stifler proclaims himself a Vagina Shark before diving below the water and groping a random group of teenage girls.
On some level, we like the idea of sexual grossness in a comedic context. Hell, that's how half of the articles I write work. Sex is still a very taboo topic for the most part, so when we see outrageous sexuality in some way, it gets a big reaction. But if you step outside the slapstick universe and into the real one, that whole dog jizz thing is horrifying. That's shit that would put you in therapy for years, not to mention putting the person who perpetrated the prank in prison for the crime of, in legal terms, "being an absolute fuckin' creep."
But most of the time, these things are done by the protagonists. We in the audience are rooting for the prank, because the victims, uh, deserve a sex crime because they're jerks? That kind of seems like a bad lesson to send.
A Lady Is A Prize
About 30 years ago, John Hughes went balls to the wall with the teen genre and made Weird Science, a movie about two teenage boys who literally create their own magical sex slave with the omnipotent power of '80s computers. Flip to 2018, and while no one has actually produced a lady from scratch on film recently (aside from the odd robot), women are still more or less the objects of mystical boner quests for male protagonists. And rarely does anyone give a handful of happy horseshit if she's interested, cares, or even has a name.
Now, before anyone gets their ball bag in a knot, remember: This is me. I'm the guy who introduced a generation to the Baby Jesus Buttplug. I'm not opposed to any number of debaucheries. But I'm just feeling like maybe comedy needs to evolve past the time of making a woman with a computer that had a 64 kb hard drive.
The general point behind films like Superbad, most of the American Pie series, Wedding Crashers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and so many others is that pursuit of women. Booty is the Mount Doom into which the male protagonist wants to throw the One Wiener. But Mount Doom wasn't particularly important to the plot, and neither are the women in most sex comedies. Superbad and 40-Year-Old Virgin flesh the ladies out verrrrrry slightly, but that almost feels like kind of a nod from the filmmakers, acknowledging that they've done a disservice to the female characters. But it doesn't make up for actually creating complicated female characters. Like James Franco wearing a "Me Too" pin, there's a step that's been missed in the chain of understanding.
Obviously, not every film follows this template. There are female-led comedies like Rough Night and Bad Moms, which sort of reverse the template, but they're not the norm. The norm is a movie like Van Wilder, wherein the Taj character doesn't even want a particular woman in the end. He just wants a woman. Not even a woman, really, but a happy-go-lucky vagina, and he says as much. Sex comedies don't all need ten-minute scenes in which the male characters stand in a circle and say their favorite things about women. But they do need female characters who are more than just penis houses for the dudes to move into at the end.
Female Sex Fiends
You'll see the female sex fiend, the monstrously horny woman that will tear apart the film in a Godzilla-like rage until she gets that dick, in a lot of comedies -- Get Him To The Greek, Wedding Crashers, 40-Year-Old Virgin, American Pie. (AGAIN. Is this series going to hit every one of these bases?) If the writers are nervous that the protagonist is too much of a pig, they throw in a lady sex fiend to balance them out. Remember when Michelle in American Pie spouts her famous "flute in the pussy" line? That's a primo example. "Oh my God, this unassuming girl is actually even more of a sex freak than our hero! Ladies are pervs too! Karma worked out in the end!" But did it?
The lady sex freak is often a very weird character. Jim doesn't even want Michelle in American Pie; he settles on her when he can't get the girl he does want, and then suddenly she's putting musical instruments in his butt. But he never considered her at first, and it was only after he found out she was as much of a deviant as him that he was into it. Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers is much the same way -- Vince Vaughn plans on using her, then she gets weird and clingy and sexually aggressive. Of course, they end up together, because her open sexuality totally balances out the fact that he makes a living pathologically lying to any women in a ten-foot radius.
The female sex fiend serves as a kind of karmic sexual retribution for the man, working on the "two wrongs make a right" principle. In Get Him To The Greek, Carla Gallo's character is in the film for all of five minutes, just long enough to literally jam something up Jonah Hill's ass. This is akin to how Michelle sticks a trumpet up Jim's ass in American Pie or how Jennifer Aniston works Jason Bateman's ass in Horrible Bosses 2. You can really zing a dude by putting things up his ass, apparently.
It's clearly a method of having a character get what's coming to them. After being callous or some kind of manwhore, they get their comeuppance. But they don't learn anything, really, or change in any positive manner. It just makes you feel better about them being the "hero" of the movie, because it keeps them humble in an anally violating sort of way.
I would argue that the only reason any of us today know the word MILF is because of, let me check here, American Pie. (I guess this whole list could have been just that franchise.) It's been a million other places since then, from coffee cups to T-shirts, and is a sprawling genre of porn. So good for Stifler and his mom, as they changed the cultural landscape, or at least the boner landscape.
Far be it from me to deny anyone's urges to F someone's MIL, as the world is up to its nuts in lovely mothers. But the trope in movies has always been kind of creepy, due to the weird, unspoken double standard. Consider how often an older leading man is paired with a younger leading woman -- Tom Cruise was 22 years older than his Mummy co-star, 20 years older than his Jack Reacher co-star, and 21 years older than his Edge Of Tomorrow co-star. Basically, Cruise needs two decades on a woman for them to work together, and it's never even a plot point. Nobody considers it freaky. There's a reason there's no Cruise genre of porn. I mean, I don't think there is.
So right away, when a woman is significantly older than the man/boy, it's a big deal in a movie. And you can see this trope all over the place, from Behaving Badly, in which Elizabeth Shue plays a mom who sleeps with a teen boy, to a movie that's actually called MILF, about a group of guys who have crappy luck with girls their own age, to Adam Sandler's That's My Boy, where the entire comedic setup for this movie is how hilarious statutory rape is.
And at the heart of all of it is that a "MILF" is either supposed to be shocking ("She's sexy ... but also 40!") or a straight fetish. Look at the acronym, for God's sake. They want to fuck a mom, not a woman who happens to also be a mom. And that's really shitty, isn't it? You're making someone a Fleshlight of a certain age. Don't get me wrong, they can still fill their movies with sexually active middle-aged women. But maybe stop pretending that idea is automatically hilarious instead of just, you know, a real thing that exists.
Weird how a lot of these hijinks happen in college, right? How very Belushi of them.
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