The march of time is inevitable, and I'm hitting the age when it advances in ever-more-rapid spurts. One of those came last weekend when I realized that The 40-Year-Old Virgin is five years old. It feels like we've been living in a world Judd Apatow created for us for much longer than that.
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And perhaps most importantly, Seth Rogen was sullen and clever in Apatow's early television projects, but he was hilariously filthy in Virgin, paving the way for a world in which guys who are, as his character put it, are "ugly as fuck, by traditional standards...[but] still get with women," one of the key developments in movies this decade, and a major contribution to the death of the conventional Hollywood leading man. There's been a lot of debate over whether Apatow's movies are a diversionary defense of the family, but whatever the state of their relationships, Adam Serwer's right that the movies are about the many ways in which their male leads try, and fail, to perform various forms of contemporary American manliness.
And the movie was a more important transition, a turning point in romantic comedies from movies where people talked to each other like we wish we could, to movies where characters talked to each other like we do every day. Sure, there's no gem in Virgin like this moment, from The Lady Eve (the scene starts around 5:15):See web-only content:
The language is coarser, but it's the same kind of commentary on sex, posturing and society. It's not aspirational—it's just honest, and maybe even a little bit of a comedown.
*There is a hilarious—and surprisingly raunchy despite the restrictions on what could be shown or said—sexual-experience-related subplot in The Lady Eve, for those not in the know.
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