In Ohio, Tim and I made it a priority to hang out with his sister Grace and her boyfriend Charlie. Tim was in charge of making plans, and so he was texting Grace and relaying what she had to say to me. Grace mentioned that Charlie wanted to see a movie, and so we set it up.
We went to Studio 35, the oldest independent cinema in Columbus, Ohio. When you walk up to it, it has one of those old-style marquees, with the horizontal white rectangles for show names and times, and the vertical neon sign announcing the name of the theater. The front has two doors, one on either side of a narrow bubble glass ticket booth, which was not personed when we arrived.
As we walked in, the previews were already playing. You could see them through the windows in the lobby that looked into the theater, and you could hear the audio clearly (though not perfectly) while we ordered our tickets, our popcorn, and opened a tab for their drafthouse brews.
The movie we saw was Will Ferrel’s “The Other Guys,” which was, in some ways, three different movies.
The first ten minutes or so were pure cop-movie satire, in which Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson were super bad-ass cops that everyone wanted to be. The kind of guys who cause 12 million in property damage to pick up a bunch of punks with an ounce of pot.
Then, there is the typical buddy-movie plot-line. Will Ferrel plays a forensic accountant who just wants to stay at his desk and do his job, but he’s partnered with Mark Wahlberg who desperately wants to get out into the streets and become the next big famous detective. This plot-line revolves around Will Ferrel making condescending and hurtful remarks about his wife (saying she’s fat and ugly, and unstylish) and Mark Wahlberg trying to hit on his partner’s wife.
And then there is the “thinking” part of the movie — the main characters stumble upon a corporate malfeasance crime, involving poor scaffolding permits, a loss of several billion dollars, and a conspiracy to cover it up using retirement funds and the public take of the state lottery. It did a pretty good job of making it clear that while these kinds of crimes aren’t actually all that exciting, they are important to the safety and well-being of the public.
However, the movie mostly rested upon it’s buddy-movie laurels, and as such the level of humor was despicable. The movie did not pass the Bechdel test, it relied upon jokes making femininity an insult, was abusive towards women, and belligerent misrepresentation of homeless men.
As far as I can tell, there was only one joke which was actually in the manner of anti-oppression. Part of Will Ferrel’s character’s background was that he was a pimp in college. He kept insisting he wasn’t a pimp, but his partner keeps making it clear to him that he was a pimp, and he does this in a way that makes it clear that he does not approve. And, later in the movie, Will Ferrel “reverts” to his pimp-self with his wife, and she throws him out for being abusive. That, at least, makes it clear that violence against women, especially in the context of sexual slavery, is wrong.
But for the most part, the movie made it clear that it hated me and my vagina. I started with a soda at Studio 35, but then I had to get up and get a cider, because I ended up toasting the screen every time it added to the oppression of one group or another. Grace joined in, and we toasted each other too. She told me that she appreciated what I was doing — it allowed her to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with her for being offended, there was something wrong with the movie itself.
As we left the theater, a line was forming outside. Once a month, Studio 35 shows the Rocky Horror Picture Show. People were gathering in costume, including many men wearing grass skirts and coconut bras, proudly strutting around in near-nudity.