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On Ted and Feminism

 

Ted MovieI didn’t walk out of Ted, so that’s saying something.  If I see a movie by myself and I’m not liking it, I will often leave before it’s over. It’s not an offended leaving or storming out in disgust.  It’s merely me saying, “You got my money, you’re not going to get my time, too.”  If I genuinely don’t care to see the end of a film I’m not enjoying, what’s the point of wasting an hour to see how it turns out?

SPOILERS BELOW

I didn’t find Ted to be all that funny, but I was sort of curious to see it all the way through.  There were many things about it that I liked.  First of all, the Tippett people have done remarkable work creating Ted as a CG character.  You buy into him the second he hits the screen and accept that he’s inhabiting the same world as the human actors.  That’s no small feat.  Credit director Seth MacFarlane who acquits himself surprisingly well as a director of a live action film.  Ted is frequently well staged and uses smart, visual storytelling to get its ideas across.  Mark Wahlberg has really and surprisingly come into his own as a comedy actor, largely because he’s never trying to be funny.  The material here frequently doesn’t support him, but Wahlberg is genial and breezy and sells the relationship between a 35-year-old man and his teddy bear.

The problem is I didn’t laugh very often.  I guess I just don’t find random pop culture references as funny as the Family Guy team does.  There’s a very long and protracted sequence revolving around the badly dated, early ’80s film version of Flash Gordon that just isn’t funny at all.  

The central idea of Ted is a pretty good one actually, and I kept wondering what Matt Stone and Trey Parker might have done with it.  There’s a smart idea in there (a grown man existing in such a state of arrested development he literally lives with his living childhood teddy bear) that never gets examined in any real way.

And, there’s also something that bothered me.

Mila Kunis play’s Wahlberg’s girlfriend, and on the eve of their four-year anniversary, she demands that Wahlberg grow up and insist Ted get his own place to live.  She’s not wrong.  Why would a smart, professional, and highly attractive woman (in the movie she’s an executive at a PR firm) want to hitch her wagon to a guy who is such a doofus?

Spoilers follow, if you haven’t seen the film yet you may not want to read further…

So, at the end of the film when it seems that Ted has “died” from being ripped in half, it’s the Kunis character who wishes him back to life again.  Huh?  Where the hell did that come from?  There’s nothing in the script eluding to a change of heart on her part, so why does she want this bear back to be the id that makes her boyfriend an irresponsible douchebag?  It makes no dramatic sense at all, and even more troubling to me it seems as if the girlfriend is endorsing her boyfriend being a selfish schmuck.  I guess as long as he looks like Mark Wahlberg, it doesn’t matter how badly he treats her.  That’s a valuable lesson, ladies!

The sad thing is this sort of message is rife in recent American film comedies.  How many times have we seen the underachieving slacker get the babe who is several classes out of his league?  How often does Seth Rogan wind up with a woman who in no way looks like a female Seth Rogan?  

So many American comedies are basically saying, “Women are controlling bitches and guys are awesome!  If only the women would leave us alone, except for to have sex with us!”  Male characters in these film are terrified of the adult world.  It’s as if nobody realizes that you can have a real job and still have a Disneyland annual pass.  There’s no compromise to be had – you’re either an immature man-child or you’re Dean Wormer in Animal House.  The worst offender to me has always been Todd Phillips.  Everything from Old School to both of the Hangover movies depict a panic about the adult world that’s often personified by cold, bitchy women.

Worse yet for me is the way these films depict women.  What really boggles my mind is how often movies like this are pitched to women.  How many Kathrine Heigl movies are there in which she plays an uptight career woman who just needs a free-spirited guy (it’s always a guy and never a man) to give her a good role in the hay and fix her?  As if women having careers is in some way a bad thing?   And, don’t get me started on how anti-woman that horrendous Twilight garbage is.

Hollywood executives are starting to serve the female audience more all the time.  They might start by not insulting them first.

 

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