5 Tired Things Hollywood Still Thinks Are Edgy
The challenge of every Hollywood release is that it has to seem just edgy enough to impress teenagers while not going so far as to actually offend anyone in charge of distributing or advertising. Usually they'll come up with a mildly offensive bit that "gets people talking," then proceed to copy it over and over for decades. "Whoa! Can you believe we went there? Again?"
So as a favor to Hollywood, here are some things that they mistakenly seem to think are still "pushing the envelope."
"Vulgar Puppets" Is A Lazy Joke That Always Goes On Too Long
Director Peter Jackson is mostly known for making slow, majestic fantasy films based on slower, majesticier fantasy novels, but in the late '80s, he made a movie about puppets that fuck. Meet The Feebles seems like something that a person would dig up to blackmail Jackson into not running for president, and it's not a good movie. His next project, Brain Dead, a hyper-gory zombie film, is GREAT. But the script for Meet The Feebles seems to have been completely constructed from random phrases gathered in the back of a middle school bus.
The problem is that as a premise, "What if it looks like a puppet show for kids ... but is actually profane?" was tired before the script was even finished. Yet nearly 30 years later, we can gaze upon the trailer for The Happytime Murders and despair.
Where exactly in this trailer did you give up on humanity? Was it when a drug-addled puppet charged at Melissa McCarthey's crotch? Or was it 47 seconds in, when puppet prostitutes made the "mistake Melissa McCarthey for a man" joke which had already been made 20 fucking seconds earlier? Or did you make it all the way to the end, when two puppets have sex and the dude puppet jizzes all over the walls, and then to close out the trailer with a bang, jizzes all over the walls again?
Those are the moments in the movie that are so good that they had to be used to advertise the thing, so I imagine that the rest is nothing but a studio executive moistly farting into your popcorn. Somehow the trailer seems to be a step back from even Greg The Bunny, the similar Fox sitcom from the early 2000s that tried its hardest to give us some reason to care about the puppets, but still didn't work because even at the best of times this a concept with a shelf life of about three minutes. Once you get past the initial "That cloth thing talks like Scarface!", it becomes immediately apparent that there is no second joke.
And yet we're supposed to keep laughing at that same punchline over, and over, and over. Only this time, we'll apparently get some additional bits with characters calling Melissa McCarthy ugly.
It's No Longer Shocking To Hear Old Ladies Cursing
You know who curses? People like us! You know who doesn't curse? Old people. They don't curse at all, but wouldn't it be HILARIOUS if they did, like, all the time? Luckily, Hollywood heard our pleas, and gave us a bunch of sassy grandmas. Unluckily, they're still hearing those pleas long after we shut up, which means that we're going to have to pretend to be excited about octogenarians spitting Jim Norton routines until the end of time.
Old ladies cursing is "edgy" for the same reason as vulgar puppets -- these things just aren't supposed to be cursing, everybody! They're supposed to be knitting and baking cookies and falling asleep in the middle of Bonanza reruns. The Other Guys was a pretty funny movie with an exhausting two-minute scene of an old lady describing sex acts. And here's the trailer for Bad Grandmas, wherein "bad grandmas" smoke weed a lot and one says "I ain't yo' bitch," which, due the laws of cussing granny humor, is supposed to work regardless of context or setup.
... got nothing but that role going forward, though without the giant crocodiles. Here's her joking about prison rape on Saturday Night Live. And here's her discussing a dead husband's penis. And here's her being thirsty as hell. And here's her as a racist lady on another Saturday Night Live. And here's her as a mean alcoholic. Betty White is not a bad actress, but she's spent most of her later years trapped in a bizarre Mad Libs game in which the only noun is "Betty White" and the only prompt for verbs is "Something a dickhead would do."
And just to be clear, I'm not demanding that our nation's seniors clean up their filthy mouths. I'm saying it's time to stop acting like it's an automatic punchline. Netflix's Grace & Frankie is about two elderly ladies who like their fuck-words, but it's also a pleasant story about aging and fitting into a world that sometimes seems intent on leaving you behind. There's a reason Sophia was the worst Golden Girl. The rest have actual personalities, while Sophia's whole shtick was "I CAN'T BELIEVE A TINY OLD WOMAN JUST SAID THAT!"
"Ironic" Music During Horror Scenes Doesn't Work If You Do It Every Single Time
Horror movies will always feature creepy dolls, clowns, toys, and puppets -- anything that juxtaposes childish and lighthearted imagery with mortal danger. It's corrupting our innocence, defiling treasured memories. It was chilling when Jack Torrance spit a hot verse from "Three Little Pigs" in The Shining, or when the kids in Nightmare On Elm Street starting singing "One, Two, Freddy's Coming For You" -- Freddy is an urban legend, it makes sense in context.
But in the last several years, this has started to manifest itself mainly as "Play upbeat, cheerful music over scary scenes" and in trailers, the practice has become so widespread that it's moved beyond cliche and into the realm of "Apparently this is a legal requirement of some kind?"
The Purge: Election Year plays out under an ironic performance of "America The Beautiful." (See, because the trailer portrays an America that is not beautiful! Get it?!?) The Ouija sequel's trailer went with the cheery "I'm Into Something Good" right as the characters are getting out the Ouija board. ("Because the thing they're getting into isn't something good! Do you see what we are doing here?") 10 Cloverfield Lane built its entire trailer around a twisted version of "I Think We're Alone Now," as we watch scenes that make it seem like that might not be a good thing. You tricked us, trailer song!
The (often excellent) James Wan horror movies have made this a signature. For the trailer for Insidious 2, they were so enamored with the first film's use of 1929's "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" that they shoved it into the trailer along with a creepy music box tune in some kind of tired modern horror trope two-for-one deal. The trailer for Insidious 3 then uses "Tiptoe" again, but only in two-second spurts, three separate times. It also throws in another ironic song in the middle, just to keep you on your toes.
Meanwhile, the trailer for Annabelle has both an ironic song and a creepy music box sound, while the Annabelle 2 trailer has an ironic song and TWO creepy music box sound moments at different points. The Conjuring also has the classic song and music box moments, but The Conjuring 2 is much more subtle, only using one spooooooky Christmas song. Even the trailer for the latest Saw movie used ironic dad rock.
Alright, enough. The shock value is officially gone. At this point, it's kind of weird to hear a bouncy song and not see somebody getting chased down a dark hallway.
Sexy Nuns Aren't The Ultimate In Naughtiness
I don't mean to get your loins all aflutter, but NUNS. Nothing? OK, how about SEXY NUNS? Still nothing? Good. You all passed my secret test to see if any film executives are reading this column. If there were, I'd be getting a phone call right now asking how I managed to somehow tap into the ultimate fantasy of the red-blooded American dude. Because there's nothing as naughty and downright played out as a sexy nun.
I get why it's used. Nuns typically wear a ton of clothes and worship the lord, but what if they didn't? It's just that this teenage guy fantasy of a religious community of women suddenly dropping into a pair of their ungodlies hasn't been that edgy since The Devils, a movie made in 1971 that was basically a to-do list for pissing off the Catholic Church. And even that's a relatively new example. Black Narcissus, a film about lustful nuns, was made in 1947. And you can find it in the goddamn Criterion Collection. That shit ain't bad.
But it's still somehow seen as the be-all, end-all of mischievousness. People mostly remember the classic Three Stooges shorts as light on masturbation material, so when they made a full-length modern film in 2012, they made sure to include bikini-clad Kate Upton as a nun in a role that I can only describe as "Kate, I'm so sorry." The movie Shoot 'Em Up tells the story of Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen attempting to rid the world of all its bullets by putting them in one another, but even it takes a second to reveal that a nun is wearing lingerie. Machete made sure to put a habit-clad Lindsay Lohan front and center in their ad campaign -- so on one hand, they were kind of making fun of the trope, but on the other, they were also sure it would put teenage boys in the seats.
And remember Californication, the series about the hard-drinking writer that was basically Eastbound And Down for people who lack self awareness? The first episode starts with David Duchovny getting blown by a nun. That's the first thing you see in the whole show.
And the top YouTube comment on that video is about how that scene was made to get rid of all the people who "get easily offended." That says it all. Super edgy, bro.
Hamfisted Trump References Aren't Exactly Groundbreaking
Right now, most of our the world's collective creative energy is spent making fun of our president. Good for us, really. Every day, I see at least one joke that I wish I'd thought of, a few more that make me laugh, and at least 50 memes that I want to launch into the sun. But with the internet revolutionizing all the ways that we can tell our government to eat poo, where does that leave TV? More importantly, where does that leave Fuller House?
Fuller House, the Netflix sequel to Full House that was created to test just how bored the human body can become, mentions Trump by having a kid character say, "I know all the bad words. Dumb, booger, and Donald Trump." To people who don't have the internet and catch Netflix through their neighbor's lonely window, I'm sure this was a stunning display of edginess. To people with the internet, it was maybe the five millionth most edgy comment made about Trump of the hour.
It seems like Hollywood is so far behind the curve that they think throwing in any reference to Trump is automatically taking some kind of bold risk. The poster for The Purge: Election Year had the slogan "Keep America Great," creating an automatic burst of outrage / free publicity without actually saying anything at all. American Horror Story: Cult featured a storyline about a family being torn apart by Trump ... and a character smearing a layer of Cheetos dust on his face.
GET IT? See, because Trump kind of has orange skin, and isn't that the true "American Horror Story," kids? Bet you can't believe we went there! You definitely didn't just see several hundred far more cutting references while glancing at your phone waiting for the show to start.
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