Aldous Snow (Russell Brand)—the uber-sexual, tongue-in-cheek (and anywhere else you’ll let him stick it) Brit-rocker introduced to audiences in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall—is back in the latest film from yet another member of the Apatow Film Club for Boys. Based on characters created by Jason Segel, and written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, Get Him to the Greek is an often-comical, always offensive satire of the music industry, rock ‘n’ roll culture, and America’s reverence for all things celebrity.
Capitalizing on the fervor ignited by Brand, Get Him to the Greek succeeds in blurring the line between reality and fiction through inclusion of an original soundtrack and videos (performed by Brand and co-star Rose Byrne) and cameos by more than one recognizable pop artist and media outlet. Brand is refreshingly genuine as a privileged star struggling to gain control of his life, while Byrne offers hilarious support as Snow’s ex-wife and musical partner, Jackie Q. Effortlessly, she rivals Brand with her own sincere wit as she admits on Showbiz Tonight how bored she is with her husband’s sobriety.
I expected to like this film, and I did. Stoller bravely explores intimacy among men and, similar to I Love You, Man, his manuscript explores the complex dynamics of male relationships by offering glimpses of sincerity, vulnerability, and affection, elements often ignored in favor of more acceptably masculine attributes. However, as is often the case in Hollywood, without being well-versed in feminist values, what is meant to be ironic instead reinforces stereotypes and makes it that much harder for girls to be in on the joke.
Some attempts at humor are more problematic than others. While attempting to wrangle Snow in Vegan and escort him to New York City, music intern Aaron (Jonah Hill) is ordered by his boss Sergio (Sean “P Diddy” Combs) to have sex with a woman he’s just met, Destiny. Actually, Sergio commands Destiny to “[t]ake this man into the bedroom and have sex with him,” and she readily complies. What follows is a pointless scene in which the petite Destiny forces the hefty Aaron to have sex with her. He says, “No.” He “protests.” (In reality, he could have easily tossed her off him.) Finally, he returns to his friends and announces, “I think I was just raped.” They laugh, and so does the audience. Gross.
In a perfect world, we can laugh about anything. Considering the world we live in, however, perhaps the more appropriate question is “who is allowed to laugh about rape?” When victims speak out with humor about their own lived experience, they are ridiculed or shamed, but when white men in Hollywood poke fun, its satire. Satire, by definition, is an exaggeration that is so far from reality that it is ridiculous to even consider. (The punchline to this joke being how ridiculous and non-threatening rape is for men – that men can’t be raped.) Unfortunately, this moment in Get Him to the Greek reinforces cultural myths surrounding the acceptance of rape. Instead of calling attention to the cultural, systemic, powerful epidemic of sexual violence, the “joke” nullifies its severity by applying it to the most powerful social group (white men).
The film industry is a site where creative potential can be harnessed to provoke meaningful change, and this band of brothers has the ability to lead the way for other Freaks and Geeks. But if we don’t start getting some feminist minds in on the action, these bright men are headed straight for the John Mayer Celebrity School of Shame.