Multimedia Editor


A look into the “cocky” humour wielded by men in 2000s American movies

When it comes to raunch-coms, I have never been much of a fan. There are, however, some obvious exceptions – one of which being Superbad which I treated like some sort of religious text during the less put-together phases of my teen years (let’s be honest, what’s changed?) Crucially, I always remember enjoying it more than most of its genre’s contemporaries as it saw the protagonists undergo some introspection as they traversed a difficult life junction: senior year of high school. Characters were featured reacting negatively or commenting on the vitriol being spewed by the protagonists within the text. Its USP was its self-awareness, and that made it endearing. The same cannot be said for others. I have a love-hate relationship with films such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin. While it feeds into this mythologised view of sex and virginity that just isn’t healthy, and the ending is a tale as old as bloody time, I can’t deny that it is is rather sweet, and there is at least some merit to the themes presented.

We all know the tropes, we’ve seen them countless times, and we’ve all heard super producers such as Judd Apatow, Seth Rogan, and Evan Goldberg – ultra-based penis aficionados – wax philosophical through the medium of film about what’s between a guy’s legs, and what its deep meaning is. From jovial, childlike (albeit unintentionally homoerotic) humour, such as Danny McBride peeing in his own mouth in This is The End, to cringe-inducing, clearly satirical tongue-in-cheek mockery of characters attempting to be more masculine or mature than they are – “Well Jules, the funny thing about my back is that it’s actually located on my cock” – Luke 25:17. (Just kidding, it's Jonah Hill from Superbad).

"From jovial, childlike (albeit unintentionally homoerotic) humour, to [the] cringe-inducing, clearly satirical tongue--in-cheek mockery of characters..."

Clearly the likes of Apatow, Rogan, and their band of merry bellends care deeply about their phalluses and their capacity to work at peak performance. Cumeth the hour, cumeth the man. When this isn’t the case, it’s easy for a filmmaker to drop in a lazy, and overused erectile dysfunction joke, yet surprisingly, even Judd Apatow has his sincere moments. In This is 40,  Paul Rudd’s character is caught using Viagra by his wife, and a somewhat sad and bittersweet conversation ensues in which she says: “I don’t want a turbo penis, I like your medium-soft one.” There’s a surprising amount of nuance to this moment, and I think it offers candid commentary about a genuine fear that men worry about as they get older: to have your ever-so-reliable and trustworthy wee friend start to let you down in embarrassing and anxiety-inducing ways. The inclusion of discussion about penis-based anxiety may make Judd Apatow one of the most well-known filmmakers at the time to critique toxic-masculinity and its, to put it bluntly, hard-on for all things erect and dominant. Such fears may be based in some truth, as Leslie Mann’s character later attests: “I don’t wanna have a husband who has to take Viagra to get a hard-on.” That’s certainly got to sting to hear, and though Apatow may not realise that not all wives, boyfriends, partners etc care about such a thing, there are certainly some who would react so negatively.

"Films from this era [...] often utilised the old transgender 'switcheroo' that turned the revelation that a woman the characters encounter actually has a penis into an immature, disgusting comedic punchline."

However, there is a darker side to dick-based jokes seen in films from this period that I want to mention briefly. Key word: briefly, as I feel the last thing the discourse needs is a cis-gender White boy giving his two-cents on the matter, but moreover because I feel everything I could say has already been said by Lindsay Ellis in her thorough video essay Tracing the Roots of Pop-Culture Transphobia. Films from this era, including raunch-coms such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin often utilised the old transgender “switcheroo” that turned the revelation that a woman the characters encounter actually has a penis into an immature, disgusting comedic punchline. It’s a sad, depressing element of late 90s, early 2000s comedy, however it needs to be addressed as such transphobia was very real, pervasive, and damaging. To steal a thought from Bo Burnham’s Inside – was it necessary? Was it necessary to have Ashton Kutcher’s character in Dude, Where’s My Car? gag and frantically clean his tongue after discovering the stripper who is coming onto him – shock horror – has a penis? Was it necessary to portray Steve Carell’s virgin character being set up with a transgender sex worker as a punchline? I don’t think it was. I know that society still has a long way to go in terms of bettering the lives of and respecting the rights of trans individuals, but I’m honestly glad this period of film history is over.Well, that’s all the time that I feel comfortable spending to write about dick jokes. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, their ubiquity was undeniable in the mid to late 2000s – and they’ll probably still pop-up unexpectedly from time to time. Truly a fascinating but regretful time: the cock epoch. Anyways, I need to go, I think I saw that Superbad had been added to Netflix.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Similar posts

No related posts found!