“This is 40″ bloated with tired stereotypes

A SYTYCB entry

I wanted to get excited for this movie. I mean — Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow — we’re pretty well conditioned to laugh before the trailer even BEGINS, right? It has all the ingredients for Grown-Up Comic Gold; Paul Rudd is basically Movie Jesus, after all, blameless savior of cinema, beloved by women, children, and smart men the world over. At first watch, the subject seems watchable enough: suburban malcontents trying to spice up their life at the cusp of middle age? Sure, most of us burb-dwelling, middle-management types can get excited about that.

Except: if the entire film is anything like the trailer, “This is 40″ will be one giant confirmation of stereotypes about women.

Such as:

Women are afraid of aging. And they should be.

Women are uptight and vain.

The only alternative to the natural aging process is SEXINESS. You may be old, but you can still be a “boner machine” if you keep those abs tight enough.

Your husband will get tired of hearing you speak.

You’re a harpy.

Your kids find you irksome and old-fashioned.

Old, flabby
doctors will make fun of your ancient vagina.

Oh — and childbirth? If you’ve INFLICTED that sight upon your mate, he’ll be so horrified he’ll still be feeling the need to RETALIATE, 15 years later. Heaven forbid.

I get it, I get it: couples need to reinvigorate a marriage they’ve not maintained, and there’s something about that magic number 40 that makes some folks feel old. BUT — why are all of the jokes at the expense of the wife? And are we ladies supposed to go see this movie and giggle at the ludicrousness of women aging, thinking, “silly old cow, better tighten up those abs or her husband will go find someone with a better tummy who knows better than to say what she’s thinking. More crunches! More crunches!”

Not that Bridesmaids was any huge leap forward for women in movies in terms of SUBJECT matter (it was still a lot of catty girl-on-girl drama in pursuit of Happily Ever After With A Man), BUT: the jokes were more or less aimed at the ridiculousness of ladies’ attempts to sabotage one another’s happiness.

“This is 40,” on the other hand, just looks like another way to solidify the great media myth that women older than 25 are pretty much whiny brats with cobwebs on their lady parts and who want nothing more than to “be sexy again.”

As though that were the holy grail of femininity.

Just check out THIS PIECE on the shrinking age of Cosmo cover models. According to Refinery29’s take:

“… it suggests that the mainstream definition of womanly and sexy is changing, and increasingly, older women are being told, at least subliminally, that they aren’t it. Instead, we’re being told that since we are literally losing value as we age, the way to feel sexy is to channel our inner teen (or take advice from a teen girl).”

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  • http://feministing.com/members/pickle/ Deborah

    Maybe it’s because I actually am 40, but I’m not feeling overly offended by this trailer. Of course there are stereotypes in anything financed and promoted by Hollywood – the best way to sell anything is to make it “comfortable” for the buyer and that usually means not challenging pre-conceived notions. So while they’re there, in large part these jokes just look an awful lot like a snapshot of what it’s like to face the challenge of staying VITAL when you have been on Life’s treadmill a while and have been in a relationship with the same person for a long, long time. It’s hard to draw assumptions from the excerpts (who knows what the lead in is or if there is an ending that puts any perspective on it), but if someone is prone to believing the stereotypes they’ll find data to support their beliefs anyway – if someone is open to seeing the humor without necessarily attributing the comedy to the female/male roles (as opposed to the fact that everyone has to deal with getting older)… well, it looks pretty funny to me. I personally applaud a movie that is about middle-aged people affirmatively seeking to re-energize their lives because I’d like to see more of my colleagues doing it.

    • http://feministing.com/members/heatheradair/ heatheradair

      AMEN to the sentiment “I personally applaud a movie that is about middle-aged people affirmatively seeking to re-energize their lives because I’d like to see more of my colleagues doing it.” Couldn’t agree more……

      AND, I totally agree with the urge to stay vital in a long-term relationship…….

      Also with ya’ on the idea that it’s tough for studios to challenge notions that are “consumable” and familiar.

      My main complaint about the trailer is that the “aging is bad” idea is being leveraged so exclusively at the ladies. AND, if the trailer is meant to be a thermometer of the film as a whole: it’s decidedly angled against the wife/mother here…..which feels predictable and stale and cliche.

      Men fear aging, too. So where are the jokes about men with grey pubes, for instance? ;)