The XX Factor

Three Years Later, Judd Apatow Answers Criticism About His Lady Characters.

Over the past few years Judd Apatow has received a lot of flak for his ubiquitous blockbusters that without fail follow the predictable plot line of man-child who struggles to grow up in order to date responsible lady love. Manohla Dargis, in her Step Brothers review , calls his characters “losers” who only “a gang of self-satisfied comedy insiders could love.” In a 2007 New Yorker piece David Denby laments the evolution of romantic comedies toward Apatow’s signature “slovenly hipster” meets “female straight arrow.” I’ve piled on criticism before too .

Irin Carmon at Jezebel happened to catch up with Judd Apatow last night at an afterparty for Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture . As Jess mentioned a few days ago –Apatow is working with Dunham to create an HBO pilot about the messy lives of New York twentysomethings. At last night’s party, Carmon took the opportunity to ask Apatow about the accusations of sexism waged against his films, and if he thought they were warranted. Here’s what he had to say:

Many of our readers really love your movies but do feel like the female characters are two-dimensional. Katherine Heigl came out and said she thought Knocked Up was sexist. I wonder if you could elaborate on your defense a little bit.

I’m not defensive about it. I feel like my movies are about people making really big mistakes, and in a lot of movies about women, they’re the objects of worship. And I find it more interesting to see people at their worst. So I think some people are thrown by that, but I don’t think there’s that much of a difference between Katherine Heigl picking Seth Rogen up at a bar and Seth Rogen saving his bong before he saves his pregnant girlfriend. They’re both equally harsh in terms of how these characters are treated. All of these characters are learning things about how they want to live their lives.

I get Apatow’s point in wanting to depict people at their worst. There’s inherent comedy in bad behavior. But the point is lost when he says that there’s not “that much of a difference” between Heigl’s character picking up Seth Rogen at a bar and Rogen rescuing his bong from an earthquake before he rouses his pregnant girlfriend.


? Having a one night stand if you’re the female character shows as much fallibility and irresponsibility

as Rogen’s saving a bong over his baby? I don’t think so. The comparison just makes it clear that there’s a double standard at play. It seems like Apatow doesn’t fully grasp the objection, which is that women, “at their worst,” can be just as slovenly, pot-addicted, and, yes, funny as their beta-male counterparts.

Photograph of Judd Apatow by Getty Images.