Saturday, June 02, 2007

Men Will Be Boys

By Maureen Dowd
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
June 3, 2007

When Alvy Singer and Annie Hall split up, he tells her a relationship is like a shark: “It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”

A relationship that turns into a dead shark is common. A live shark that reproduces without a relationship, however, is uncommon. Yet there was a recent report of a virgin birth in an aquarium — a female shark having a baby without mating. A trick of nature called parthenogenesis.

“I love this word parthenogenesis,” David Page, an expert on sex evolution at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., told me. “It suggests knowledge, but what it stands for in this case is ignorance. Nobody has a clue how parthenogenesis works.”

When a hammerhead shark had a baby at an Omaha zoo, scientists at first thought she had mated with another species or stored sperm from years before. But then they decided there was no “male contribution,” as one put it.

Dr. Page may be biased in favor of male contribution, but he doubts females are ready to dispense with males. “It’s reproducing without sex, and reproducing with sex is something that’s been around on our planet for maybe a billion or a billion and a half years,” he said. “Even yeast cells, the cells that make your bread and beer and wine, reproduce sexually.”

A shark may know how to knock herself up, but in “Knocked Up,” the new Judd Apatow comedy being hailed as “an era-defining classic” and a “zeitgeist-tapping generational marker,” Katherine Heigl still has to fool with the birds and the bees.

She plays a reporter for the E! network who becomes pregnant the old-fashioned way: she gets so drunk with a stranger at a bar that she can’t tell he’s not using a condom.

He’s not the perfect man. Played by Seth Rogen, he’s a pothead with no income, no cellphone and no muscle tone. He lives in a group house plastered with girlie magazines and littered with ninja weapons. When he and his friends aren’t paintballing or trading movie lines or fighting with fiery boxing gloves or obsessing on women’s breasts, they plot to start a cinema nudity Web site called Flesh of the Stars. The morning after their tryst, he advises the appalled Ms. Heigl at breakfast: “Once you’re hung over, you’ve just gotta puke.”

On the other hand, he’s sweet and honest and sticks by her through her pregnancy, despite ups and downs with her affections, her hormones and her high-maintenance sister. Maybe he is perfect.

Ms. Heigl’s single working girl decides to keep the baby, just as Natalie Wood’s single working girl did in the 1963 “Love With the Proper Stranger,” when she becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a raffish stranger played by Steve McQueen.

Even now, after so many decades, it’s hard to imagine a romantic-comedy heroine opting for, as one of the slacker dudes puts it, “a word that rhymes with shmashmortion.”

I’m not sure I’d deem “Knocked Up” “a ‘Tootsie’ or ‘The Graduate’ for the 21st century,” as Slate called it. But Mr. Apatow, who specializes in lovable geeks falling in love, is funny.

The ’30s and ’40s had screwball comedies, with the snappy patter of zany dames and the guys they drove crazy. In the ’70s, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton made magic.

This period will be remembered for classic comedies where the true sparks fly between men — coming-of-age tales about guys who should already be of age — perpetual boys with Maxim mind-sets, hilariously knocking on each other (usually by dismissing each other with crude or anatomical terms for women). In his Bilbongsromans, Mr. Apatow cleverly tempers his adolescent raunch with old-fashioned innocence.

From Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s “Zoolander” to Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s “Wedding Crashers” to Will Ferrell’s “Old School” and “Anchorman,” to Mr. Apatow’s “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” the creative energy is with the boys.

Mr. Apatow’s message is that his lost boys must put their toys away and find the deeper fun in adult responsibility. Suddenly, while having lap dances and taking shrooms in Vegas with his new buddy, Paul Rudd, Mr. Rogen decides to go home, shelve his bong and be a daddy.

Mr. Apatow’s women are smart and confident, but you always know you are on a journey with the men. Ultimately, the men seem happiest without any female contribution — when they’re engrossed in the gross-out world of guydom. It’s like a male version of parthenogenesis.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


Web Site Hit Counters
High Speed Internet Services