Feminism professor Gina Barreca and I recently went on our first date. I invited her to the cinema. Because we live far apart, we attended the film at the same time but in different cities--a distant but still intimate experience, as with separated lovers contemplating the same moon. We discussed it The Morning After.
Gene: Did you have a good time, sweetie?
Gina: I cannot believe you took me to that thing.
Gene: It's a box office smash!
Gina: You thought I would like "Jackass: The Movie"?
Gene: Well, I . . .
Gina: You racked your brains to come up with the most appropriate entertainment for our first date, and you decided I am the sort of woman who would enjoy a film so relentlessly revolting that even the cameraman vomits twice. On camera.
Gene: I thought it would give us something to talk about.
Gene: Possibly I made an error in judgment.
Gene: Let's remain professional about this. We can review it as a team. We'll be just like Siskel and Ebert, if Ebert wore a bra and Siskel weren't dead.
Gina: Here's my review: There are many ways I could have spent my evening more profitably than watching "Jackass: The Movie." I could, for example, have spent 87 minutes sandpapering my tongue. Had this movie been projected onto cave walls, troglodytes would have turned away in mute shame. The feebleminded would hesitate to laugh because it might lower their esteem in the eyes of other nitwits. This is comedy at its larval stage, disgusting and unformed.
Gene: So that would be a thumb down?
Gina: That would be a thumb in the eyehole of whatever idiot is responsible for this.
Gene: Well, I was offended by it, too.
Gina: You were?
Gene: It offended my sense of humor. If you are going to have a man tightrope-walk over a pit of alligators with a dead chicken dangling from his jockstrap, do it right. You want the guy to keep his balance long enough to create some suspense. Plus, you don't want the chicken to keep falling off. You want it securely attached, such as with braided galvanized wire crimped by No. 2 ferrule bolts.
Gina: You disliked this movie because of production values?
Gene: It was slapdash. If a man goes to the radiologist saying he has lower intestinal pain but does not know why, you should not first show him in the act of creating the cause of this encounter. It ruins the joke when it turns out, on the X-ray, that he has a Matchbox car up his gazoo. The execution was flawed. The concept--jerks grossing each other out for the simple anarchy of it--was sound. It's a barometer of the culture of our times.
Gina: A rectal barometer. I fail to see how a man trampolining into a spinning ceiling fan or snorting a line of wasabi until he hurls on the sushi bar qualifies as a concept, let alone a "sound" concept.
Gene: Maybe it's a guy thing.
Gina: Maybe it's an idiot thing. Are they coterminous?
Gene: So, what do women find funny?
Gina: A level of complexity that underscores the gap between the real and the ideal. A story line that exposes some of the absurdities and pretensions of the human condition.
Gene: I agree. Anxiety at our foibles is the core of humor. You know what I see as a central absurdity and pretension of the human condition? That we think we are a species of sophisticates. That we are not animals. Which is why, on some elemental level, it strikes us as funny that we still must do animal things--sexual things, excretory things--which we perform with no more dignity than weasels or chimps. And so we laugh at these things, a little anxiously.
Gina: And the pain and mutilation in the movie?
Gene: A jubilant defiance of death itself, a condition from which we are all one heartbeat or sniper shot away, yet which we deny.
Gina: Do you honestly think this movie carries all that?
Gene: Yes, if inexpertly.
Gina: Well, I think it is just about men eating cones of yellow snow.
Gene: Understood. Will you go out with me again?
Gina: Maybe, if I pick the movie.
Gene: That's fine with me.
Gina: It won't be.
Gina: See you next month. Doll.
Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.
Gina Barreca's e-mail address is email@example.com.