I haven’t written an academic paper since I graduated from university, and I never thought that I would have a desire to write a formal paper outside of my English classes. I am losing sleep over thinking about this topic, and the paper has begun to write itself, so I finally decided to write my thoughts down. I have had a small tugging sensation pulling at the back of my mind since I watched the movie “Blended” with my husband and my two year old (we could not convince her to go to sleep). It was a seemingly harmless PG13 movie, and was recommended to me by family members as being “pretty funny, but with a few awkward parts”. I was initially excited to hear that it was a PG13 film because it seems like there are hardly any PG13 movies premiering these days that are worth seeing. I would say that my family gave an accurate description of the film, and the part that stood out to me as the most “awkward” was the drugstore encounter between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. It was this “awkward” scene that has most frustrated my mind for the past three weeks. For those that have not seen this film, the scene unfolds in the wake of two very “awkward” errands. Sandler is on a mission to pick up feminine products for his teenage daughter, and Barrymore has “violated” her teenage son’s privacy by destroying his pornography (so, obviously, she must replace the relic before her son discovers what she has done).
The premise of this encounter was not my main frustration, but it is relevant. As it unfolds, Barrymore’s oldest son is found to have been viewing his mother’s private email. Instead of receiving any form of punishment, the family reaches an agreement where one anothers' privacy should no longer be breached. Barrymore goes into her teenage son’s room and begins to gather his laundry. As she gather’s the laundry, her son sleeps peacefully in his bed. She was not snooping or being nosy, because this would have violated her and her son’s agreement. As she is doing her son a favor by gathering his laundry, she stumbles upon a pornographic body that has the head of the family’s babysitter glued to it. Barrymore’s initial reaction is offense and disgust. She tears the image up. Fine. Great! Hurray for moral instinct . . . If this would have been the end of the scene, followed by a discussion on why this is not appropriate or respectful behavior, I would have applauded. Sadly, the film continued on to the “awkward” drug store run in.
Sandler’s horribly awkward errand begins with his teenage daughter’s dang body and its need to menstruate. Seriously! Do women have to do that? Sandler, in this film, is the father of three daughters. And, yes, seeing as how menstruation has been occurring since the beginning of time, it will happen eventually for all three of his healthy daughters, whether they want it to or not. But, because this is such a shameful surprise, Sandler’s daughter has to shout the request for tampons and feel embarrassed. Perhaps this embarrassment could have been curbed by a simple discussion years before, but I suppose the opportunity to smooth over the father-daughter teenage experience would have been too “awkward” to deal with.
And so begins the drugstore run-in. Barrymore witnesses Sandler fumbling through the feminine product section, and he is choosing the most unnecessary products possible (even though he had a wife for how many years? I’m not buying it Sandler). Next, Sandler realizes that Barrymore is rifling through the pornographic magazine isle, and becomes curious as to why she would be looking through those magazines in the first place. Barrymore explains how she intruded upon her son’s privacy and must replace the image before her son finds out. Barrymore expresses that her initial instinct was to be offended because the pornography was degrading to women. Sandler kindly silences those feelings of offense and anger by explaining that ALL teenage boys do it. And further, he views the ripped fragments of the magazine and is able to pinpoint the issue and edition of the magazine because ALL grown men view it, and apparently they view it SO frequently that he can scientifically evaluate the spacing of the staples, oh, and he already has that issue at home.
And here rises my frustration. Pornography and menstruation should not be equated. They are not in the same category, and should not be put on the same level on the parental experience scale. Porn viewing should not equal “I have a son” territory, while menstruation does equal “I have a daughter” territory. Our society is so corroded, that the underlying messages of a PG13 film are that porn is okay and completely normal, and it is also appropriate for dads to be awkward and uneducated about their teenage daughter’s developing bodies. The son sleeps away soundly in his bed and never has to have a discussion on respecting women’s bodies, while the daughter must shout her requests to a father that learned nothing from his wife of over a decade. I feel that if anything, this sends a horrible message about the men around us. Instead of raising the bar for parents, this film sends a subtle message that it is normal to lower it. Instead of helping men to feel comfortable with a very unavoidable element of the female body, it gives men an escape route. Rather than encouraging men to see that a body with a cut out of a head glued to it is sad objectification, it normalizes pornography because the entire male population obviously does it.
Here is the thing. The entire male population doesn’t view pornography. I personally know dozens of men who I can confidently say do not view pornography or think of it as a normal part of the human experience. The number of men and women that think this way is very small compared to the number of men and women that do.
Can’t we raise the bar instead of constantly lowering it? Oh, shoot, no-- sorry. I forgot that if we raised the standards that it wouldn’t be funny anymore.