A Simple Saturday Post: Leave Me Out of Your “Everyone,” Mr. Apatow.

I just wanted to quickly mention the trailer for the new Judd Apatow movie, “This is 40.”

Of course, we all know that Hollywood is guilty of all sorts of offenses all of the time, but it seems rare even today to find one that is quite so up front with its surface-level exclusion. The tagline at the end of the trailer reads: “This is not just their story. This is everyone’s story.”

Please, watch, if you’re so inclined:

(Trigger warnings regarding this trailer: man on a toilet, Megan Fox in underwear, humor about spousal death, anti-aging, inherent anti-lotsa-stuff…)

The trouble, of course, is with the assumption that “everyone” will see some aspect of themselves in this story… a story which appears to be about a wildly wealthy (do you KNOW how much a house like that costs in LA?), white, American-born, middle-aged, thin, conventionally attractive, cissexual, child-rearing, married couple. I’m going to give Mr. Apatow and his corporate marketeers the benefit of the doubt and assume they know not “everyone” will conform to all of those attributes at once, and are trying to make a more general point about the basic similarity of human experience, but even I—a white, cissexual, American-born woman raising a daughter—feel thoroughly alienated and offended by this at just a core level. My heart and stomach clench to wonder how other “everyones” must feel when watching this trailer and getting smacked by that tagline.

It’s obviously impossible to cast aspersions on Mr. Apatow’s film itself– at least until the movie premieres, this will remain a marketing problem– but he is a hugely powerful filmmaker in this town, and I believe it’s fair to say that the tagline came down to him. It represents at the very least a myopic and embarrassing perspective on the world. At worst, it suggests that those with the most privilege in this country are unwilling to even bother extending an invitation to see their new movie to those that aren’t adequately “like them.”

And frankly, in order to chalk up a box office success, they will presumably need more than middle-aged rich white people (traditionally not the most movie-friendly audience out there) to go see their film… So couldn’t they have come up with a slightly less exclusionary pitch?? (I’m kind of seriously asking this, and also leaving the comments section wide open here for complaints, suggestions and heavy-duty snark.)

I am very lenient about humor, and I know what Judd Apatow’s movies are like. Some of his stuff has made me laugh, some has made me cringe, some has made me cringe through laughter or laugh through cringing. In addition, I believe he has every right to tell this story—clearly a personal one—if he chooses to do so. But if his marketing is going to display a level of ignorance this enormous, and work to exclude us so egregiously, then “everyone” can certainly choose not to see it.

About Guest: Eve

Eve is one of the 2012 Summer team of guest bloggers. Her projects look like: @evesturges, www.themagpielist.com, www.cleanplates.com, happyhourstoryexperiment.tumblr.com, & papercutsandhummingbirds.wordpress.com. She lives with her daughter and boyfriend in Los Angeles and loves the color orange.
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31 Responses to A Simple Saturday Post: Leave Me Out of Your “Everyone,” Mr. Apatow.

  1. EG says:

    You know, I feel so alienated by the “straight, cis, white guy as everyman/protagonist” that is the norm in movies and TV that I barely notice the alienation anymore. It’s just like “Oh, cool, a TV show set in 1864 NYC–about a white dude. Well, maybe there’ll be some cool supporting characters.”

    • Nancy Green says:

      good point, Civil War times and the action is with the white guy

    • Tara TASW says:

      The first episode of “Copper” reminded me of a headline (I’m sure it must have been The Onion): “Actress Wins Award for Playing a Character Who Isn’t a Prostitute.” Do writers not know that there are ANY other roles?

  2. DonnaL says:

    I didn’t need the tagline to find that trailer both depressing and alienating.

    Not that that kind of tagline is so unusual for almost any kind of movie. A variation of it is quite common — and equally annoying, for different reasons — in marketing, and in reviews, for movies with LGBT themes and characters. As in the “this movie isn’t about homosexuality, it’s about family!” kind of thing.

  3. shfree says:

    So, I think we saw the whole movie in the trailer, right? At least, all there is to it? Because I didn’t see one hint of a plot, other than “LOOK AT THESE WHITE PEOPLE.”

  4. LotusBecca says:

    I think the trailer forget to include a part where big white lettering appears across the screen which reads: “This is cliche.” Let’s see. . .nagging wife; clueless, misogynistic husband; porn-loving, overeating stoner guy; vain, beautiful younger woman; bratty kids. Am I leaving anything out? Yeah. . .I mean, of course, I can’t relate very much to the heterosexual, cissexual rich married couples that exist in real life. I certainly can’t relate to them as they are ineptly depicted in the 40-Year-Old Virgin Part Ten.

  5. cis bloke: first wrinkles on face late teens, grey hairs early twenties, fat by late twenties. I think I’ll leave this one too.

  6. Kaija24 says:

    Well…after watching that, I’m glad I cannot relate at all. No husband, no kids, no yearning for the youth I failed to misspend. Yes, I do suffer from the the occasional bout of ennui and wondering what might have been, but thank the FSM that it is not cliche and boring like that film. I’ll think about that next time I feel like spending a sunny day inside on the couch with the shades drawn eating popcorn in my underwear. :)

  7. Kaija24 says:

    Clarification: What was meant as “eating popcorn whilst wearing underwear” not “eating the popcorn that is inexplicably located in my underwear”…which would be unhygienic as well as itchy.

  8. Beauzeaux says:

    Hey, my forties werethe BEST. I mean, the BEST. I was at my peak in so many ways. My fifties were pretty cool too.

    This movie is aimed at YOUNG (under 30) people. People who are actually 40 would be out doing something interesting.

    • Kaija24 says:

      My mother says the exact same thing, that the 40s were her favorite decade…these are excellent and necessary messages to hear! :)

    • Safiya Outlines says:

      That is so good to hear and it’s a shame/conspiracy/wtf-ery that we don’t hear it more often.

  9. Liz says:

    I have problems with Judd Apatow, but I love me some Chris O’Dowd.

    Here’s an Australian film which has him as one of the leads, but it’s the story of four Australian Indigenous women. It’s a problem that the trailer makes it look like the white bloke is teaching them how to be black. But, that doesn’t really reflect the film. It’s also written and directed by Indigenous men and is based on the life of the writer’s Mum. I know the writer and I’m rapt the film is doing so well. It’s been bought by the Weinsteins, so it’s getting a USA release sometime.

    • Tamara says:

      I just saw this in New Zealand last night. It was lovely! A feel good move with a lot of heart.

  10. Liza says:

    The trailer reminded me of Desperate Housewives, where all protagonists are so thin and only supporting characters may look like real people.

    • Bonn says:

      I am thin and also a real person.

      • Guest: Eve says:

        I hope we all can agree that Hollywood, in general, presents a body type that is far from representative of the general population… Yes? No?

      • Rach says:

        Thank you, Bonn! I think we do just as much damage when we paint thin people as “not real people” as Hollywood/the media does when they refuse to acknowledge that anyone exists but thin, conventionally attractive people. All people are real and worthwhile people – thin, fat, tall, short, muscular, scrawny, conventionally attractive, not conventionally attractive, etc. Not a one of these is any more a real person than the others.

        *gets off soapbox*

  11. PeggyLuWho says:

    spending a sunny day inside on the couch with the shades drawn eating popcorn in my underwear. :)

    Or as I like to call it – Tuesdays.

    I know they (the folks who make films) like to think that these type are the “everyman” story, but really they’re the “validating my childfree single lifestyle choices by making the alternative seem so obnoxious” story.

  12. PeggyLuWho says:

    “validating my childfree single lifestyle choices by making the alternative seem so obnoxious”

    Not saying that I think that’s what the alternative is like in reality.

  13. Dank says:

    It’s disturbingly easy to confuse “everyone” with “everyone I know”. In fact, I think that it’s one of the biggest issues facing our nation these days.

    • Guest: Eve says:

      I agree! I have someone that helped me with this whenever I got into the habit of saying “everyone says…” or “everyone wants…” etc etc: she says “Who’s everyone? Please name them to me.” And I could only ever think of 2 or 3 specific people…it broke that habit right quick.

  14. Past my expiration date says:

    The trouble, of course, is with the assumption that “everyone” will see some aspect of themselves in this story… a story which appears to be about a wildly wealthy (do you KNOW how much a house like that costs in LA?), white, American-born, middle-aged, thin, conventionally attractive, cissexual, child-rearing, married couple.

    On the other hand, I’m part of a middle-class, white, American-born, middle-aged, thin, not conventionally unattractive, cissexual, child-rearing, married couple, and this preview really (really really really (really)) isn’t even my story either.

  15. jp says:

    Gah! Both of those women (the lead & bra girl) are so painfully thin. The skull-noggin on the lead is really distressing.

    • XtinaS says:

      jp:

      Gah! Both of those women (the lead & bra girl) are so painfully thin. The skull-noggin on the lead is really distressing.

      Way to make physical insults at women on a feminist blog.

  16. Anon says:

    I wonder whether the “this is everyone’s story” bit is meant to be aspirational–it may be, quite consciously, an invitation to those that aren’t rich, thin, married etc to come and see how the other “half” lives. The target audience may be, in addition to people actually living this story, twenty-somethings that hope that one day they will get married, get rich, and then look back on their twenties with longing. No less heavy-handed and offensive, of course, and definitely others broad swathes of the population, just maybe not a marketing disaster. Which makes it all the more icky, imho, in that it is selling this deeply awful vision of the future, instead of just laughing about the present.

    • matlun says:

      I wonder whether the “this is everyone’s story” bit is meant to be aspirational–it may be, quite consciously, an invitation to those that aren’t rich, thin, married etc to come and see how the other “half” lives.

      I think it is just a reference to this being a film about mid life crisis which is a pretty general issue and something that could be “everyone’s story” in some larger artistic sense.

      Of course, considering the the actual trailer (or even just that this is a Judd Apatow film), I would be extremely surprised if it comes anywhere close to presenting an interesting perspective. So I just read it as over hyped marketing (or “a lie” to put it more bluntly).

  17. Jenny says:

    Honestly, I think it looks funny and relevant to my interests.* But then, I’m a white cis upper-middle class professional who is engaged and planning to get married, buy a house, and have some kids (gods willing), so I do see your point, and I think the tagline is definitely stupid. I’m certainly nowhere near as thin or conventionally attractive as the movie people, but I never am, so it doesn’t really bother me.

    *One of my interests being: how do you and a partner deal with all the stresses of life and manage to still have some fun and avoid taking out anger, irritation, etc on each other?

    • Guest: Eve says:

      Thanks, Jenny, for offering your perspective and honesty.

      I generally like Judd Apatow’s films enough, and while I’m not particularly interested in this one, it is really the “everyone’s story” that bugs me. I relate to, and can invest in, a huge diversity of films about couples and families without anyone presenting their stories as a representations of the population.

  18. im says:

    Slight quibble: How much do we allow people to engage in tribalism? Because, obviously we don’t want to get people to completely abolish the ability to distinguish between self and other, but this does sound kind of overly specific in significant ways.

    • Guest: Eve says:

      im, could you please elaborate? I don’t quite understand what you mean, and would like to so that I might discuss it with you. I’m unsure if you’re responding to the post, or the trailer, or the comment thread —
      thanks!

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