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Hollywood and the Single Man

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Was it really that great?


There are too many married screenwriters in Hollywood. Know how I know? Just look at the way they depict single guys in comedies, a non stop whirlwind of drinking, late nights, parties and the killer app of singledom – sex with a lot of anonymous female partners who are so beautiful they could be supermodels or porn actresses and who leave without question the next morning never to be seen again, girls even single men dream about.

The arc of a modern guy comedy is often to take such a character and 'redeem' him. The single life is A Bad Thing in the American social ethic, you see. Firstly because of the very strong Protestant outlook that anchors even modern American society – that the good guy isn't in it for himself, he's in it to work hard and provide for his family and be a stable and stoic part of his community.

And second because men have a love/hate relationship with that guy. We love him because we dream about being like him (yes, even when we're single) and we hate him out of pure boyish jealousy because he is and we're not. So he must be tamed, restrained, taught a lesson, awoken, corrected.

You can see it everywhere. The trailer for The Change Up (NSFW) is all about a handsome single guy who gets laid all the time (Ryan Reynolds) swapping places with a suburban dad bored of drudgery (Jason Bateman).

What will the likely outcome be? After seeing the fantasy of single life courtesy of his friend, will the bored suburban Dad realise single life isn't all it's cracked up top be and want his family and old life back? If you haven't guessed that already you mustn't have seen a movie in the last decade.

It's been produced and directed by David Dobkin, the man who gave us The Wedding Crashers, another film where the single guy ladykillers were tamed by falling in love. The final scene would have you believe their fun as single guys was in the crashing of weddings, not the endless string of nameless pussy they got.

Recently we had Hall Pass, a movie that went some way toward bursting the bubble of the fantasy as the married heroes get the chance to realise single life wasn't so great after all, but it's still populated by gorgeous fantasy women only to happy to shed their clothes for a good time.

And it's not restricted to comedies, either. In the recent and much more heartfelt Love and Other Drugs, Jake Gyllenhaal is the rakish young rogue who can charm the pants off any woman with just a smirk – another popular fantasy about being single.

How does this account for the marital status of Hollywood screenwriters? I can only assume that all these scripts endlessly churned out of the wish-I-was-still-young-and-at-college ethos are wish fulfillment and revenge fantasies, backward-looking salvos aimed at the guys they wish they were, maybe one or two guys they knew who were really like that. But is casual sex really so prevalent and easy to get when you're single (for the record, it was like catching a fucking leprechaun when I was single, but maybe that was just me)?

Experience of adulthood bears this out. I know the fantasy of the dedicated, talented and poor writer slaving over a typewriter after hours is attractive, but these guys get anything up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work. You don't get that if you're a hot young talent, you get it if you're a dependable and disciplined professional who's been doing it long enough to prove himself, and I think most of them would be balding fortysomethings sitting in front of well-appointed computer systems in their apartments a stone's throw from the Hollywood Hills.

Someone looking back forlornly on the 20s they wish they had, and who gives us all our on-screen rendition of it, a dream-fuelled haze of late night drinking with buddies they missed out on to stay home and study and every girl they wish had agreed to go to bed with them.

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