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The View from the Man Cave: Comedy in the Contemporary 'Homme-com' cycle

By Tamar E. L. Jeffers McDonald


In 2009’s I Love You Man, Sydney, new friend of hero schlub Peter, proudly shows off the cool recreation room in his house: a space harmoniously divided into zones for male enjoyment, including an area with musical instruments, a corner with condoms and hand cream – “this is where I jerk off” – and a section with fridge and couch for video watching and gaming. This enviable space is called “the Man Cave” and is out of bounds to women visitors. \ud Sydney’s Man Cave seems emblematic to me of the cinematic space recently aggrandised by the male-centred comedy. Variously hailed as ‘bro-mances’, ‘dude comedies’ and dick flicks, broad comedies which centre round the humorous misadventures of a male pair or group have lately proliferated at the box office, the phenomenal success of 2009’s The Hangover serving as the most visible example of this trend. Of these many films, which also include Role Models (2008), Miss March (2009) and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), I am particularly interested in examining those films like I Love You Man which, alongside the male focus and its seemingly inevitable concomitant, that emphasis on humour derived from sexual and scatological sources which marks these breezy comedies as a whole, also maintain an allegiance to the generic rules and tropes of the romantic comedy – what I call the hommecom.\ud As I have previously suggested (2007, 2009), contemporary romantic comedy has only relatively recently become exclusively associated with female concerns, stars and audiences; this accent on the female, observable throughout what might call what one might call “the Ephron years”, also coincides with the eradication of sex as a motor for the humour. Ignoring the place that 1970s films created for on-screen sexual scenes, films for two decades from the 1980s created a drought. Here a sex scene is usually unseen, generally because it is not narrativized. If it is, as rarely, permitted, it usually takes place in an ellipsis.\ud The hommecoms, beginning with Doug Liman’s 1996 comedy Swingers, set out to return the sexual element to the romantic comedy after this enforced dry spell. Hommecoms such as The Tao Of Steve (2000), Forty Days and Forty Nights (2002), Along Came Polly (2004), Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Sex Drive (2008) and even Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) seek to return sex to the romance, allowing the desirous body and its acts and exigencies to create the on-screen humour. This emphasis on sex is clearly linked to a male perspective within the genre, but does this fact create as many problems as it solves? Like Sydney’s Man Cave, the male-centred romcom seems on examination to shut out women from the sexual liberty granted the male characters, permitting a return to a “double standard” which promotes a slack of sexual agency and fulfilment for the female characters as profound as that of the Ephronesque films the hommecoms themselves seem to be trying to counter. This chapter will consider the recent rise of the hommecom and its increased emphasis on the sexual act, questioning whether the re-gendering of the genre’s narrative necessitates prioritizing the comic potential of the body, its emissions and urges, and whether this new focus is inevitably egalitarian in intent.\u

Topics: PB2994
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Year: 2012
OAI identifier: oai:kar.kent.ac.uk:31625
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