Anne Hornaday blames Seth Rogen for the Elliot Rodger massacre — Rogen isn’t having it

What were your first thoughts on seeing the snippets of video of Elliot Rodger, son of a Hollywood second unit director, as he gave his reasons for setting out on a killing spree?

Hollywood brat, I thought. Not ugly, apparently smart and articulate. Well put together. Smug. Entitled. He was sitting in a BMW daddy’s money paid for. Daddy’s money (presumably) also paid for the handguns and ammo he used on his spree.

The excuse “Asperger’s” had been applied to his social skills. Mentally ill, in any event.

Anne Hornaday, the Washington Post film critic, wrote an op ed suggesting that Hollywood’s spate of losers who get the girl comedies, and love of violence, created this monster.

“Sexist escapist fantasies”? Yeah, that’s a fair cop. Judd Apatow, who created a whole school of comedy built around that and around casting funny alter egos like Seth Rogen in his films (Rogen’s latest is “Neighbors”) is a funny schlub who married the gorgeous and funny Leslie Mann. If it can happen to Judd, his movies reason, it can happen to a “40 Year old Virgin”, a loser who can get Katherine Heigl (remember her?) “Knocked Up.”

Never thought of his films as connecting with violent male frustrations in any way, I must say.

Needless to say, mellow man Seth Rogen was not pleased. Nor was Apatow.

He ripped her a new one in a couple of tweets. Apatow pitched in.

Yes, she’s right, that the sexism in the focus of Hollywood films in general and romantic comedies in particular, is ongoing and defies belief. Apatow, however, is far from the worst offender. Women come off better in his films (especially when the woman is played by his wife).

But when you throw that ad hominem “white males on charge” stuff out there, you’re starting down a slippery slope. The Rogen/Apatow and by extension Sandler etc. tilt to rom-coms these days has more in common than just “white males” greenlighting the pictures, writing the pictures, directing the pictures and starring in the pictures. The slippery slope of “sexist” white males becomes more offensive to the ears when you say, “Jewish males” sexism, and attach broad sexist attitudes to the films attributable to their creators/studio champions. Doesn’t it?

Then again, the ONE Hollywood event Mr. Rodger was photographed at was a violent, youth-oriented film which his father did second unit photography on. And “The Hunger Games” is about a killer female, isn’t it, Anne? Doesn’t fit her thesis, doesn’t figure into her argument.

A better pop culture connection, I thought, was “Big Bang Theory,” where smart cute guys bemoan their inability to get dates, or did in the first few seasons. But that has nothing to do with a mentally disturbed child of privilege going out and buying guns either, does it?

Neither does the eat-or-be-eaten ethos of “reality” TV, where narcissistic video diary confessionals, like Rodger’s, are commonplace. But that’s a much closer connection than “Neighbors” or “Knocked Up.”

Social media is another arrow in that quiver, and perhaps the sharpest. That’s where this guy posted his threats and planned his posthumous famous. Social media’s built in “everybody has it better than me/has a girlfriend but me” angst, NRA guaranteed access to as many firearms as you can afford, an affluent micro-culture where his father was high but nowhere near the richest 1% of the pecking order, pathologically awkward socially…sounds as if movies have less to do with this than video games, and nobody’s even talking about video games.

My guess? Hornaday will end up apologizing. The piece is poorly argued and a sharper editor would have demanded more evidence. But op ed editors don’t go to the movies, so they just let her go for it. A swing and a very public miss.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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