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Ted, a rant

August 9, 2012

I went to see the much-hyped Ted last night. What a mistake. I left the cinema feeling like there must be something wrong with me, that I’m a total prude. This is worrying as I am currently working on a comedy screenplay myself.  Ok, admittedly, bits of Ted are funny, like when the bear calls a fat kid Susan Boyle, but the rest of the cinema was in stitches throughout this puerile film.  Fart jokes, gay jokes, ‘white trash’ girl jokes, people with debilitating illnesses jokes.  Am I overly sensitive because I don’t find these type of ‘jokes’ funny?

There is a scene at the end where a gay couple briefly kisses – people laughed at that.  Like, this was a central London cinema, you would think these people, although mostly teenagers, would have seen men kissing before? I can’t see the comedic value in this.

I’m always suspicious about American comedies, because most of them seem to go in for the toilet humour type comedy.  What changed my mind was The Hangover, which I thought was pretty smart. There is actually an earlier draft of The Hangover screenplay floating around online, and it’s quite different to the shooting script. Interestingly, the early draft is much more ‘toilet’ focused.  For example, there’s a whole storyline about one of the characters fearing he had gay sex the night before and the hooker character is a horrid, brash, busty women.  But someone along the way decided to take out the toilet humour and go for a more sophisticated tone, like getting the eternally sweet Heather Graham to play the hooker, who, in the film, we essentially feel sympathetic towards rather than mocking.

The Hangover went on to make millions. So what is with the fart jokes in TED, and why are people still finding this funny?

I started thinking about why I don’t like this kind of humour. It’s odd, because the night before I watched Withnail & I, one of my most favourite ever films.  Obviously, there is a whole storyline in this film where ‘I’ fears he is going to be, well basically, raped by Withnail’s gay Uncle Monty, but I don’t find this offensive like the gay jokes in Ted. Perhaps it’s because the main characters in Withnail & I are wonderfully camp themselves and experience abuse because of this (like in the ‘ponce’ scene). They themselves are tragic characters.  And from the first scene Uncle Monty is in, we are already encouraged to feel sympathetic towards him – he too is a failed actor, but is now too old to ever succeed. And when he’s cornering a half-naked ‘I’ in the bedroom, it’s actually ‘I’ we are laughing at. By the end of the stay in the cottage, Uncle Monty is portrayed as a truly tragic character who is a victim of society’s prejudice, because, in a time when homosexuality was illegal, he was never able to find true love.

With Ted, it’s a macho white guy, and a teddy bear inhabited by the personality of a macho white guy who make these jokes.  The Mark Wahlberg character is a childish drop-out, yet he lives with (or should that be off) his implausibly beautiful and successful girlfriend (Mila Kunas) in a nice house, so really, he’s still got a lot going for him.  He’s never really tragic like Withnail and I are, so when he mocks people who are in a more potentially tragic position in society it just comes across as the strong guy making fun of the weaker people.

This, I think, is why I just can’t stand those toilet humour American comedies… the people making the jokes are always fairly well-adjusted white guys.

So the other thing I disliked about this film: I just can’t imagine Ted being about a woman who was addicted to cannabis, had a crappy job, a best friend who was a living toy, yet a gorgeous boyfriend who holds a management position at a PR firm.  No, because in Hollywood the white guy drop-out still deserves the beautiful girl and some funny lines, but the female drop out (unless a good looking hooker), or the non-white drop-out, or the gay drop-out doesn’t get the beautiful, successful guy/girl and usually doesn’t even get a happy ending, because, perhaps Hollywood is saying, these types of people don’t deserve it.

Anyway, I’m off to write a film about a gay black girl who works in a supermarket and has a living My Little Pony and a white banker girlfriend…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2013 5:17 pm

    Like you say there are many different levels to Withnail&I which is what makes it work. Tragedy and humour together.

    Monty: ‘I can never touch meat until it’s cooked. As a youth I used to weep in butcher’s shops.’

    • HJHampson permalink*
      December 20, 2013 10:00 am

      I love that line!

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