...she is to conceive daughters as well as sons and sons as well as daughters
--noted well-meaning poet Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric"
Happy Fourth, and thanks for your thoughtful reply. I can see how my earlier gloss (“Patriarchy hurts women. But that’s not the point. The point is, it hurts men.”) could be interpreted as scolding you for not writing about something entirely different. I agree that that would be an illegitimate critique, like unto a reviewer saying "okay, but why didn't you write an article on Tender Buttons instead?"* To clarify, I don't suggest that you need to write about the women in the films. What I am critiquing in your writing on these films is not the objects of inquiry but the critical position, which is one that takes for granted (and, I have been arguing, universalizes) a certain nostalgia for an all-cereal diet.
You have just very usefully elaborated on the position from which you write these posts, a position of thinking through masculinity. I find this illuminating, and, as I remarked earlier, I see that you never meant to claim transparent-eyeball status.
Yet as I wrote at the beginning of my post and in earlier comments, my objection is less to your reading than to a gesture that you have now made several times -- one that implicitly moves your argument into an impersonal theoretical register. You remarked that you symptomatically repeat the disclaimer that these films are misogynistic. I am identifying the compulsive refrain as a two-parter: "Yesyes, it's misogynistic, but that's not what's important here."
In fact, you make the same gesture in your most recent post:
To be clear — as I seem to symptomatically keep saying over and over again — these films are, in a few very important ways, very basically misogynist and I don’t mean to downplay that fact. But I think I have a good rationale for bracketing that off, at least temporarily: as with the fact that Jefferson owned slaves, the importance of the fact can sometimes mislead us into thinking that simply pointing it out accomplishes more than it does. I call this Sociological Images syndrome, the tendency to confuse pointing out a text as symptomatic of a naturalized systemic projection of power with neutralizing its power as such. Doing so can have real value, I agree — though I believe we’ve discussed this point before — but while I love Sociological Images (and I think I discovered that blog via you), they have a real tendency to identify and emphasize the misogyny of the images they dig up at the expense of reductively simplifying the constitutive complexity of those artifacts. Of course, they often have good reason for doing so; as a clearinghouse for found images and as a pedagogical resource, their commentary, it seems to me, is largely intended to provoke and to serve as a suggestion for how a discussion could begin. Saying “this image is misogynistic” is, in that context, a prelude to a much richer and deeper discussion that they, there, have the space or intention of having.
I, however, am after something slightly different. First of all, the problem with pointing out the misogyny of the Apatow movies is that it’s so obvious as to make pointing it out not particularly an interesting thing to do...
This is a methodological claim, one that sets up your approach as interesting and productive and any other approach as uninteresting and unproductive. Unexplored, because unasked, are the questions, Interesting to whom? Productive of what? Interesting and productive are evidently universals; you're not saying "I am interested in the forms of masculinity in this film because of my personal investment in XYZ." You're saying -- and I'm paraphrasing pretty closely here -- "We should not discuss this film's misogyny because that is not interesting." Period!
You've convinced me that any claim to objectivity is unintentional (indeed, you had already), but I am suggesting that this gesture, so formulated, always makes that claim, whether or not you use the (by now conventional) pronoun "I," or write it on a blog rather than in your dissertation.
To repeat my earlier post, "In a sense I'm criticizing you for doing a thing you never meant to do. But you keep seeming to mean to do it, and I think you should consider trying to put an end to that." Imagine my astonishment when you responded in part with "the problem with pointing out the misogyny of the Apatow movies is that it’s so obvious as to make pointing it out not particularly an interesting thing to do." You're still seeming to mean to do it.
The kicker is that very soon after this move, you acknowledge that I wasn't suggesting that you ought to reduce your argument to pointing out misogyny, nor indeed to reduce anything.
So why set up an argument that you know is straw and call it uninteresting, prior to proceeding to your truly deep analysis of Apatovian masculinities? Might one not go ahead and make an argument without first slaying the mother? (Second-wave feminism is, after all, the source of masculinity studies.)
Your androcentric approach, with its nostalgia for the man-cave, is, as you say, productive, insofar as it "constitute the texts as rich and interesting." It sounds like you have a situated rationale for exploring these versions of patriarchal masculinity, and that's great. To me, in contrast, these films are impoverished, not because it's the job of popular films to overthrow the patriarchy (hah) but because whatever permutations of masculinity it explores, it's always (as you've already observed) masculinity fully contained within and reinforcing of a heterosexist patriarchal framework, which makes it, to me as a feminist critic, The Same Old BS. All those multi-dudes, each oppressing women in their own way. I've seen it, and I've seen it, and I've seen it.
I don't suggest that you need to agree with me on that score, and I don't think I have ever suggested that you ought to be writing about something else. As evidenced by the complexity of your readings, to you these films are rich, interesting, and useful for thinking about masculinity, to which I say hurrah. Your reading is your reading; it's insightful; it's valid. But I wish you would not preface your readings with explicit refusals of the possibility that, for certain non-dude critics, the films' loving homages to various forms of patriarchal oppression might not be what's interesting.
*That's PURELY HYPOTHETICAL. Obviously.