Let me explain.
Director: Seth Rogen; Evan Goldberg
Written by: Seth Rogen; Evan Goldberg
Sort of looks like a monster from Where the Wild Things Are: Seth Rogen
Well at least he's aware he's perceived as a douche: James Franco
Remember when he played a hard ass in Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist?: Jay Baruchel
He's the best: Jonah Hill
He terrifies me and sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't: Danny McBridge
I feel like he's really good at giving hugs: Craig Robertson
Imagine any movie starring Mark Wahlberg but replace Marky with: Michael Cera
She could read the dictionary aloud in her head and have me captivated: Emma Watson
Aziz held on for way longer than I figured he had the upper body strength to do so: Aziz Ansari
What It's Good For:
-a look at what would happen if the Bible were right
-mocking actors and actresses
-Danny McBride humor
-seeing Jonah Hill lit on fire
-a great, great, great film to show how to foreshadow
-some sweet looking hellspawn
-seriously, the Backstreet Boys look great
-seeing celebrities die
-if you love the Bible, this could maybe offend you, though it could not
-if you hate these actors, you could end up hating them even more
-very basic "buddy movie" arc
-if you hate seeing demon dick, avoid this movie
-there are rape jokes, and if you have a "no rape joke" policy, you should avoid this
-Danny McBride is sort of terrifying
Do you know what boyfriend destroyers are?
If you've read The Game you're nodding your head right now: OF COURSE!
If you haven't read The Game, you should. Especially if you're a girl. You'll be able to filter out 90% of dudes you meet and whether or not they're legit (that percent according to a poll conducted by Jimmy Fallon*). The book is legit if you're interested in the psychology behind social interaction.
Boyfriend destroyers are applicable to many situations. But to use the classic example:
Say you're a guy. And there's a girl you like. Except the girl has a boyfriend. Guys usually do this:
Girl: "I got in a fight with Scott last night."
Guy: "Fuck Scott. He sucks. You should break up with him."
Girl: Sighs. "He can be difficult. But he really is sweet. And he gets me."
Guy: "I get you."
Girl: "That's why we're such good friends."
Guy: thinks: son of a bitch!
That didn't go anywhere. And you come off as selfish and uncaring about her feelings.
This is where boyfriend destroyers come in.
Girl: "I got in a fight with Scott last night."
Guy: "I'm sure it'll be okay."
Girl: "Probably. But I'm so mad."
Guy: "What happened?"
Girl: "Scott's been messaging some other girl."
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION.
Guy: "What, one of his old friends from high school?"
Guy: "Someone from work he's working on a project with?"
Guy: "What then?"
Girl: "It's some girl he met at his friends bachelor party."
Guy: "Well, maybe there just friends, like us."
Girl: "No. He was flirting with her."
Guy: "They weren't just telling jokes?"
Girl: "No. He was legitimately flirting with her, telling her she was pretty and everything."
Guy: "Oh, wow. And you brought this up to him?"
Girl: "Yeah, we fought for like three hours."
Guy: "And then he finally apologized?"
Girl: "NO! HE NEVER FUCKING APOLOGIZED!!!!"
Guy: "Whoa, you really are still mad!"
Girl: "I can't believe him. I absolutely can't believe him."
Guy: "I'm sure he's just scared and didn't know what to do."
Girl: "He's not scared. He's a player. And he wants to make me feel bad."
Guy: "He was trying to make you feel bad?"
Girl: "Yeah, he kept yelling at me that I didn't trust him. And kept trying to make it about me trusting him."
Guy: "I guess going through his messages is a breach of trust."
Girl: "HE'S FUCKING SOME OTHER GIRL!"
Guy: "That's also a breach of trust."
Girl: "YES. And a much bigger one."
Guy: "But you want to be with him, right? So I guess it's something you guys have to get over."
Girl: "How can I fucking trust him after this?"
Guy: "And will he trust you?"
Girl: "I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG!!! He left his facebook open."
Guy: "Oh. Wow. I just...don't even know what to say..."
Girl: "I feel stupid."
Guy: "I'm really sorry. You know I'm here for you."
Girl: "I know. You're really helpful to talk to, too, do you know that?"
Guy: "I read a book about that once. It was called 'How to listen for dummies'. I got like...three pages in and got bored. But those three pages were real good."
Girl: heart beats a little faster
Okay. That example was fucking long. But there's a reason why I kept going with it: do you see what just happened there?
A conversation took place.
The girl opened up. She explained what was bothering her. She came to her own conclusions. And she attacked her own boyfriend.
In the first scenario: the guy dominated the conversation with what he thought. By telling his opinion, he stopped the girl from talking. Which is what she wanted and needed. And he tells her what she should think, and how many people love being told what they should think? And who wants to listen to their significant other being attacked by someone who is obviously jealous of that person?
In that first scenario: the girl will leave the conversation not feeling any better.
In the second scenario: we feel there's been progress.
The second scenario demonstrates something called: Understanding.
Any good satire depends on understanding the target of satire. Maybe you've heard of Jon Stewart? He hosts The Daily Show, where he makes satirical comments about politics, politicians, and the media. Jon Stewart is anything but uninformed.
But Understanding is like The Force. You choose the light side or the dark side.
You know more about your best friend than 99% of other people. Because of that: you can either make them feel good or feel bad. You have more power over them than other people.
What does any good atheist do? Read the Bible. Because every atheist learns that for anyone to take them seriously the atheist has to demonstrate why she or he is rejecting religion. Atheists have to understand religion in order to deny it. Just like if someone were to tell me they hated sushi but had never tried it. Fuck that person. You can't hate sushi without ever having sushi. You think you hate sushi. But you don't know.
When you demonstrate understanding, people may disagree with your opinion, but they usually respect the fact you at least understand what you're talking about. Which is why if you've tried sushi and still don't like it: you're cool. People respect Jon Stewart because he demonstrates his extensive knowledge of the political landscape, often revealing politicians being contradictory or just downright wrong or not understanding key concepts of situations they are embroiled in. Jon Stewart even helped get the show Crossfire cancelled. How? By demonstrating understanding.
Understanding is why South Park is one of the best TV shows of all-time. The shows creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have a knack for understanding the zeitgeist surrounding an issue or celebrity in pop culture. They then create a show that works in the following way: the show states the common perceptions around an issue or celebrity (like AIDS; Scientology) and then escalate those perceptions into an absurd conclusion where the creators make a conclusive statement (money is the cure for AIDS; Scientology is a scam but no one says anything because everyone in the Church of Scientology will sue you).
How do you feel when someone doesn't understand you? How do you think people feel when they think you don't understand them?
Imagine you have an idea. About where we should go eat. You tell me your idea: Red Robin. I think the idea is bad, but instead of telling you why I think it's bad I say: "No, that's stupid." How do you feel? At the very least, there's probably an increase in your animosity towards me, and you probably think your idea was and is a pretty good one.
What about another scenario. Say we're making a biopic about President Obama. And you ask me who I think should play Obama. I say Nic Cage. You say: "Okay. You think Nic Cage should play Obama in a movie about Obama's presidency? Write a three page essay about why Nic Cage is better than Don Cheadle, Denzel Washington, or Jamie Foxx, or Chadwick Boseman. Do that, get it to me in two days, and we'll consider it." What happens? Chances are I, nor anyone else, write the essay. Or we would try only to and realize there aren't any good reasons for Nic Cage to play Obama other than: it would break the world! Or I could make an insanely convincing argument and we go for it! Regardless of what happens with the essay: you're not an asshole.
Michael Bluth uses this tactic with his family all the time (watch Arrested Development), and his family usually gives up.
Now for an abrupt transition.
Dictionary.com defines "satire" as:
-the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
-a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
-a literary genre comprising such compositions.
So if you watch something like...well, anything by Paul Verhoeven, who is a master of satire. RoboCop satirizes corporations, superheroes, and city politics. It takes a cyborg super cop to save Detroit from very real dangers: corporations manipulating the public climate in order to capitalize on anything and everything: in other words, corporations lacking morals and exploiting people in whatever way possible: in this case, it's with increased drugs and crime and murders. In a way, Verhoeven proves prophetic of the 2008 financial collapse all the way back in 1987. We could argue he's the film equivalent of novelist Don DeLillo (oh Cosmopolis, how I love thee).
Verhoeven also has satires in: Starship Troopers (fascism, war/action movies), Showgirls (Hollywood dream, what the viewing public wants from young actresses), Total Recall (technology and privacy, corporations/privacy, interplanetary expansion), and I haven't seen Basic Instinct but I think it's safe to say it satirizes something.
We know Verhoeven is using satire because sarcasm and ridicule abound. Except the ridicule is sometimes so subtle people think Verhoeven is just making a bad movie. An example of this is Starship Troopers. In a 2010 article for The Guardian on Sci-Fi films, Joe Queenand said: "Starship Troopers is one of the most exquisitely cliche-packed sci-fi movies of all time." Usually: cliche is a bad thing, since cliche is something used so much it's worn out. And a film full of cliches is, most of the time, considered a bad movie. Except, in Verhoeven's case, cliche and bad acting aren't signs of a "bad film" but of a filmmaker overtly embellishing a film to create a certain effect. Verhoeven's desired effect: satire. (Though we could argue Hollow Man WAS just a bad movie).
Pick any satire and you can pick up on the sarcasm/ridicule/derision: Brazil, Airplane, Thank You For Smoking (even the title is satirical), Best in Show, Tropic Thunder, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, Viridiana, Dr. Strangelove, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Team America: World Police (another one where the title says it all).
To understand the difference between these movies and what This Is the End is doing, we should talk about Buddhism. I recently took a Summer Writing Workshop at the University of Iowa with instructor Douglas Goestch. He talked about how Buddhism teaches there are three kinds of emotion: aggression, impassiveness, compassion. Satire is, by its sarcastic and derisive nature, an aggressive act.
If you watch or read a satire, don't you sense that aggression?
There is aggression in This Is the End. Because there is sarcasm. And derision. But the aggression is not directed at religion and the Bible. Nope. The creators/actors of This Is the End are satirizing Hollywood and their lifestyles. But they're also satirizing our perception of them.
Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride are ALL described out loud by another character. The characters' perceptions of each other echo the public perception of them: Jonah Hill is the nicest guy, Rogen is a stoner, Franco is sort of a dick, McBride is a fucking psycho, Jay is weird (6/10 people are sort of creeped out by him, according to a poll by Slant Magazine*). Michael Cera plays AGAINST PERCEPTION for comedic affect: binging on coke, getting blowies from hookers.
The actors play "themselves" for a reason. And we could just say it's because it was funny and fresh. Sure.
We could also say it helps endear people to them. Maybe people hated Franco and watch him in this movie and say "Hey, I thought he sucked, but he actually seems like an okay dude!" And while this seems innocent, it's more complicated than that.
If the actors in this movie were unknowns, first-time actors using their real names and playing like who they really are: they would be trying to get their name out there and be known, to endear people to them.
But Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jay Baruchel ARE ALL FAMOUS. Public opinion of them exists. And all of these guys are aware of public perceptions of them because I guarantee they all have publicists, and if they don't their agents know exactly how they're perceived and act as pseudo-publicists. James Franco is 100% aware there are a lot of people who hate him and think he's awful. Just like that entire group is aware people think Jonah Hill is lovable and awesome. Which is why the movie takes these perceptions to extremes: Jonah Hill is secretly an asshole; James Franco, just when he's about to be redeemed, does something douchey and instead of being saved is dropped back to Earth where cannibals promptly jump on his body and eat him alive.
That's why I say the movie is a satire of how we, the general public, view these actors. Michael Cera's "character" embodies this. NO ONE EXPECTS GEORGE MICHAEL TO DO COKE AND GET HIS DICK SUCKED. Film Critic Mick LaSalle* conducted a poll of 2,000 people and 75% said they "were not sure" whether or not Michael Cera even had a penis. I'm sure he does. But that's the image he has. Squeaky clean, a little awkward, but super nice. That image is destroyed.
So, yeah. This Is the End is a satire, if we're talking about Hollywood, actors, and the public perception of the main actors in this movie.
But if someone says this movie is satirizing religion, the Bible, or Catholicism/Christianity: nope, they're wrong.
Let's go back to Buddhism. If satire involves aggression. I see absolutely ZERO evidence This Is the End is being aggressive toward the Bible. What I see is an attempt at understanding (ah, now it comes full circle!): at saying: "You know what? I'm going to suspend my disbelief and take what this book says seriously. What would happen?" Understanding is not an "aggressive" or "impassive" action. Nope. It's "compassion".
Sure, the Devil/Giant Demon has a Giant Dick, but...why wouldn't it have a giant dick? And, sure, the Giant Dick is sliced off by the holy light from Heaven: but is that being derisive? Is that ridicule? No. That's comedy. And something that could 100% happen. If we're already accepting Hell has come to Earth, that demons possess people, that Danny McBride has tamed Channing Tatum into being his man-bitch-servant: we can accept holy light cutting off the Giant Devil Dick.
Compare that to: a soldier wearing a cowboy hat and riding a nuclear bomb from the plane to the ground, after all the crazy and insane conversations leading up to this, the end of the world.
Compare the GDD to: Team America stopping terrorist from blowing up Paris by...well...blowing up Paris themselves and then thinking they did a good job.
Compare the GDD to: King Arthur fake riding a horse while his squire clops coconuts behind him to mimic the sound of horse hooves' clopping and the ensuing fight with the Black Knight who loses an arm, then another arm, then a leg, then his other leg.
Compare the GDD to: anything in Best in Show.
Is the GDD immature? Oh hell yeah. But is it an aggressive, satirical gesture? No.
Even the possession scene. Jonah Hill spouts some fucked up shit. But he's possessed by a demon. I don't think there's a single person who thinks The Exorcist is a satire. Is anything Jonah Hill says more outlandish or excessive than anything poor possessed Regan McNeil spouts? I don't think anything Jonah Hill does while possessed is satirizing the Bible (maybe the demon raping him is an "aggressive", satirizing action...except does the Bible say how demons possess you? Couldn't it very well be that way?). I think Jonah Hill chasing his friends while possessed shows how frightened and regular and ridiculous the actors are, and plays into the satirizing of Hollywood, actors, and public perception of these actors.
Understanding, while not an "aggressive" act, and while not a "satirical" act, can be a passive aggressive action. By taking an idea absolutely seriously: you can reveal to someone else how bad of an idea it is. Not to say the Bible has bad ideas. But if you were to live your life following everything this book said, rather than selecting the portions you want to live by, what do you have? A best-selling book and a TED talk explaining how impossible it is to live by every law in the Bible. So where's the line in the book? What do we take seriously and what do we ignore? This film decides to take The Rapture seriously. Seeing this interpretation of The Rapture: how do you feel?
All of this is to say: even though This Is the End is not satirizing the Bible, that doesn't mean its intentions were innocent. Or even if its intentions were innocent: that doesn't mean the movie might not prove influential in convincing someone who believes in the Bible to stop and say "You know, maybe the Bible is pretty crazy?"
*no such polls exist
Did I Like It:
Yes. I thought it was a smart (which sounds ludicrous since there's an extended joke about jizzing on things), well-done movie. I thought the twist with it actually being about the biblical end of days was great. I never saw that coming. Definitely thought aliens. The movie foreshadows nearly everything it does. I was thoroughly impressed. Congrats to Seth and Evan!
If I'm going to be nitpicky, which I am going to be: the scene where Jay goes to LA but doesn't see Seth should have been in the movie. The very first scene should have been Jay landing in LA. Not meeting anyone. Going to a hotel, spending a few days, running into McBride, begging him not to tell anyone he, Jay, was there, then leaving. It takes 2 minutes. Maybe just 90 seconds. Then we cut to "6 months later" and Jay's coming off the plane and Seth's greeting him and says "you're finally back! it's been like...3 years!" or however long they said it'd been. RIGHT AWAY: there's tension. And it's not some contrived exposition that occurs later in the movie. You could even spend three extra minutes and open with a montage of Jay having shitty times in LA and deciding to leave. Then him seeing Seth become a bigger and bigger star. Then him come back and not contact Seth. Then him come back and contact Seth and the movie progresses like normal. Seriously, it's 5 extra minutes. And it adds gravity to Jay's character and makes the actual buddy-conflict legit.
My favorite moment was the Pineapple Express 2 car chase, where we saw James and Seth sitting in chairs acting like they were in a car and then we'd cut to a hand pushing a toy car around on the ground. That was great.
And I really am curious how people who believe in the Bible responded to this movie. I've talked with a few people and they said they enjoyed it, that they didn't find it insulting. So that's good. If you would like to share your thoughts about your faith and this movie: hit me up. modigmovieATgmail.com