I did a dumb thing over the weekend: I went to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I have excuses-it was raining, a soft spot for Matthew McConaughey-but they are insufficient. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie for women that is so disdainful of women, and I’ve seen He’s Just Not That Into You. Ghosts assumes that we’re all so predictable and pliable that every single one of us-from the 16-year-old to the MILF (duh, this movie has a MILF), from the desperate-to-get-laid bridesmaids (are they any other kind?) to the heroine-would want to shag a man with no redeemable qualities except that he looks like Matthew McConaughey. Bongo McC is a handsome guy, but I remain stalwart in my belief that at least some of us could resist a sleazy, cheesy, untrustworthy, commitment-phobic, game-playing cad who says things like “Every night I swim in a lake of sex.” Ew.
How does a film such as this, a chick flick that doesn’t understand or even like women, come to be? I blame Judd Apatow, the director/writer/producer responsible for the ongoing bonanza in dick flicks, romantic comedies with male protagonists. (Thanks to New York’s Vulture for noting that this particular rom-com sub genre needed a name.) These movies aren’t a new phenomenon-Annie Hall, Say Anything, There’s Something About Mary all qualify- but thanks to the success of Apatow’s The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, they’re more popular than ever, with at least four similar films coming out this summer.
Now, it’s not really Apatow’s fault that some of the movies copycatting him suck-his movies don’t suck-but Ghosts sucks so hard because it has taken a subtle flaw in Apatow’s oeuvre and blown it into a whole movie. Meghan wrote in an incisive critique Knocked Up:
If Apatow tries to suggest that guys need to grow up a bit to meet women’s high expectations, he, like his own characters, doesn’t seem to get that maybe there’s a lot more to women than these expectations.You might say his critique is muddied by its own joyful enactment of male high jinks, and the corresponding absence of anything similar on the part of the women.
Apatow’s male characters may have to learn a thing or two, but they still have richer inner lives, more imagination, and more spark than his female characters. His women are less interesting and less fun than his men. And in lesser hands than Apatow’s, these lesser-than female characters become totally cardboard, as they do in Ghosts, and we’re left with a dick flick masquerading as a chick flick that no woman or man could possibly enjoy.