Thinking pop culture

Thinking pop culture

The Interview and a new masculinity?

There’s a bit during the titular interview when talk-show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) reads aloud the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Firework”.

A closeted fan, the Supreme Leader (Randall Park) pleads to Dave, “no, not the chorus.” So very moving was Perry’s poetry that it threatened to crack Kim Jong-un’s composure.

And I half-smiled.

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag / Drifting through the wind / wanting to start again?”

One single, half-arsed half-smile. Only one because the rest of the film is centred on male anatomy jokes, liberal use of the word cunt (or its derivations) and the kind of sophomoric malarkey that rarely works on me.

I’m not actually complaining about the unfunniness here though. I’d seen the trailer a lot in 2014: I knew precisely the turd I was stepping into. Equally, had it not been for the heavily orchestrated controversy, I – like at least half of the audience – would never have bothered.

Job done hackers, marketers: well played.

One aspect I’m interested in though – and one relevant to a host of contemporary films of this ilk – is the idea of modern masculinity.

Like most Judd Apatow films and like pretty much everything starring Seth Rogen, The Interview is a buddy comedy. And the best-friendship between Dave and his producer Aaron (Rogen) drives the narrative; Kim Jong-un serves merely as an antagonist to test the duo’s camaraderie.

Dave and Aaron are very affectionate with one another. Noticeably so. They touch each other a lot and for the first part of the film – even though it OMG couldn’t possibly be the case – there is play on the idea that they might even be a couple. (At one point Dave even insists that Aaron inspect his stink dick crisis - yep, it’s that type of film).

Of course, to balance the homoerotic shenanigans, the two jabber incessantly about the appearance of women and seize on every opportunity to have sex with them. In fact, Dave and Aaron do much to prove that they’re horny, that they’re virile and that - as always in this yawn-worthy genre - that they can punch above their weight when it comes to shaggin’.

Same title. Different film. Equally bad. For different reasons.

So how, in 2015, do we think about this film beyond it’s comic flaws?

Is the modern-ish friendship between Dave and Aaron - one marked by the kind of physical rapport that only a decade ago would have seemed… curious - a step in the right direction?

Is their more sensitive, more tactile, more comfortable-in-their-own sexuality branch of masculinity precisely what the critics of the wild west, stiff-upper lip, just-a-good-strong-handshake-thanks-cobber kind have long been craving?

Alternatively, is the fact that arse play - the unfamiliarity, the pain, the homoerotic connotations - is the basis for so many jokes actually just more of the same: more of the mockery, more of the vanilla sex validation and more of the persecution of deviance?

Can the “gag” of a man pushing a missile into his anus ever really be considered funny in a culture that stills finds anal sex and, more specifically, sex between men as dirty?

I’m too young to associate “gay” with Laxettes and too old to use it in lieu of “lame”. I think this has something to do with my puzzlement .

Fortunately, the energy I conserved not laughing freed me up to ponder the few - and scarcely good enough - reasons to see it. An Australian release is, alas, imminent.