Quirk Wars

Wes commercial

Wired has written a post pointing out the irony of the WNYC feature on the Atlantic Monthly article written by the VH1 executive about the crap that’s still being called Quirk. Why are we still fighting this battle? Didn’t we bury quirk years ago? Handsful of dirt were tossed all the way back when Zissou came out. The spell has been broken. The shit is dead.

Yes, Garden State took down a few lazy viewers in sort of the same way that nobody realized American Beauty sucked until it came out on video. But we learned, and we learned a long time ago. “Zach Braff: Why is this guy the voice of my generation?” came out an entire year ago.

But I don’t know anybody who ever fell for Napoleon Dynamite, which was so blatantly an un-thought-out trail mix (a colloidal suspension, a bubble tea) of hoary, tired clichés and gimmicks that it knew to go directly to MTV, which duly awarded it best movie 2005. Napoleon Dynamite was, at best, a 98 Degrees to Rushmore’s Backstreet Boys. To even lump them together without distinguishing the second as the blurry, smudged mimeograph of the original reveals a critical sloppiness befitting an author who doesn’t think Flavor of Love is a far more insidious threat to our nation’s delicate psyche than this twee, small audience, auteurist haute-bourgeois crap.

I can come back to the content and economics of Quirk as an American-centered cultural movement, but I really gotta lay into Michael Hirschhorn’s (finger-quotes) solution to the problem of Quirk not dealing with real issues: “Judd Apatow’s almost 100 percent quirk-free summer comedy, Knocked Up.”

I’d been waiting for someone else to say this first, but here goes: Judd Apatow is cinema’s turd blossom. He actively talks up the conservative messages in his films when promoting them, so successfully that for Knocked Up many critics mentioned the film’s lack of an abortion discussion with such nonchalance that it in effect became one of the film’s quirks—yes, quirks—and an emblem of the warm, family-values movie consumers are hungry for (as if this were 1985, and it was Back to the Future all over again). This, when the fact that so many boys laugh at the topic of “smashmortion” is specifically the problem.

Don’t let the eye-dropper’s worth of character development he gave the women in Knocked Up fool you, Judd Apatow treats objects like women, man. His female characters are at best goalposts, there to measure your male narrative arc against—motherly when you are ready to lose your virginity; pregnant and employed when you finally outgrow the stoner act; drunk and waiting to give you a blow job when you finally show up at the high school party, even though you’ve only talked to her once. The joyous parade of penises at the end of Superbad is exactly the point—this is the world we live in. Apatow’s male character (really, there’s just one) shows that it’s painful growing into his role as penis bearer in the planet’s last surviving empire. But guess what, tough guy, you still get to wear the penis in the world.

Wes Anderson’s movies, and the Quirk in general, might skew toward the whitebread, but its epiphanies are for the most part tolerant ones, its women are rounded characters, and they sure don’t do this:



  1. KateCoe
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    But Wired gets it wrong, wrong, wrong. Danny Bonaduce’s not quirky. None of Hirschhorn’s programming is quirky, it’s just banal bad taste, ditto Apatow.

    I do loathe quirky, spunky, et al.

  2. shelly
    Posted September 13, 2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    thank you! when i ranted against apatow and knocked up on my blog and to my friends the reaction i got was similar to the one i get when i tell a room full of 30 something, white, middle-class women that i hate oprah winfrey…”GASP!” but what nerve he had in knocked up! he’s like the douchebag that tells a room full of women joke after joke about how lame we are and then expects us all to wanna suck his dick. “i’m just kidding!” he would say to a room full of scowls and shaking heads. “no. you don’t get it. i’m funny! see?! christopher hitchens is right–women don’t have a sense of humor!” puke. gag. i didn’t get the heavy-handed pro-life message until my film major neighbor told me about it… i promptly kicked myself.
    ditto on american beauty. ditto on napolean dynomite. ditto on wes “can do no wrong because we went to the same college” anderson”

  3. Scott
    Posted September 16, 2007 at 2:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t think y’all get it.

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