Looking Back in Anger: A Belated Review of Wedding Crashers
This past summer I found myself stoned on a couch in the home of a person I did not know, watching a rerun of the 2005 film Wedding Crashers. Due to the nature of the weed, I was seeing things through a prism, and it was quite easy to divide reality into three or more frames. Quite suddenly I saw the elements of film distilling like sediment into dialogue, acting, frame, music; I saw the jokes laid out in setup and punchline, all the artifice displayed before me. The movie came out over 10 years prior and I had not so much as given it a thought in nearly as long. I was 11 then and in the sixth grade. I briefly remembered that it was funny and highly sexualized, part of a specific burst of high-spirited, male-centric mid-2000s comedies including The 40 Year Old Virgin and Eurotrip that I guess amounted to a cultural phenomenon, most of which have already been forgotten. What struck me most was how hollow and stale this bauble was, once hailed as the comedy of the summer. If someone were to suggest watching it now, the way one might propose something actually funny, like Annie Hall or Clueless, I would take this as immediate cause for suspicion.
Wedding Crashers tells the story of two corporate divorce lawyers who have been fucking their way uninvited through the summer wedding season — you can guess their ideas about what constitutes consent. They know each other from college; undoubtedly they were in the same frat. The narrative urgency comes from a sense that time for their charades is running out. They’re getting old, maybe it’s time to settle down with a nice wife — the secretary, a token colleague. One last hurrah! They want to go out with a bang. And so another, final season of depravity begins.
Looking back at this time period, I can say that this is when I began to believe or at least sense the conspiracy of heterosexuality. It lacked the sinister undertones I ascribe to it now, but the group effort, the buddy-buddying, the reinforcement, division of the sexes — these all gave my sexual awakening the feeling of something both intensely private and eminently social.
We are introduced to their methods, their lies, glib charms, the machismo like a bestial roar, the overwhelming presumption of entitlement to flesh. The conflict comes about when the two main characters begin to feel what we might call qualms about their behavior as they meet two “real women” (the Madonnas in their complex) at a senator’s wedding, females who are at least worthy of receiving more attention than a nod from their cocks.
There is a strong disconnect between the boy I was then and the internalized horror I feel now when I remember my father laughing at the movie, and my laughter too, from sheer pressure of trying to grasp customs and norms, my pell-mell stampede toward conformity. The protagonists were so engrossed in their own loutish myth — I remember their sweat, the rows of shots, their cake-stuffed maws, the oxfords that came untucked as they danced. Their affairs with women grew longer and more preposterous — they always reached some height of mythic invincibility that justified all of their whims. I remember feeling as though I would never live up to this race of men and that it was a moral failure not to. These same scenes (with a muted sexual, but no less chauvinist air) played themselves out whenever there was a celebration at my synagogue, where the congregation always clamored for a Kiddush on a Saturday afternoon. Scotch and whiskey would be in ample supply and soon all the men were dancing in circles. I would have rather been cloistered with the women in temple than have been sucked into these wild drunk circles with hideous men and an air profuse with body odor. People I thought I knew would take on the face of an animal — pinkish, temples bulging with sweat, mouths chanting.
Whatever it is that blocks me and has always blocked me from complete dissolve into group joy or any mass action — from fitting in anywhere, really — being gay, being anxious, has somehow kept me from drug addiction as well. There is the perpetual “I” that resists any kind of death, transient or enduring. These aggressively heterosexist rituals, both in film and in life, seemed to say to me: there is no room in this world for you, you exist in another sphere of being entirely. It was around this time that I began to think that the reason full frontal male nudity was never shown in film was because it would be profane, as if to expose a holy abstraction to the light of day and thereby weaken it.
What I remember of my own sexuality at 11 was a sense of doom — a lack of sexual identity, performance anxiety (performing what exactly, I didn’t know), and a fear of women. Among my male peers sex was spoken of with hushed hysterics or premature bravado. I remember masturbating in the back of a minivan with two other supposedly straight 12-year-olds while someone’s mom drove on unaware. Have they ever thought about this? If I mentioned it, would anyone remember, would the mention of it even seem possible? Did it really happen?
You never quite leave behind the culture you were formed in, or rather where you gestated, and for that I can still look back in righteous anger at the false gods of my childhood that haunted me on screen and in the schoolyard.
Yes, it did happen. I took part in it, even if I am the only participant that still has any memory of it. A once-boyfriend of mine told me that Persian fathers encourage this kind of behavior in their sons in order to get the homosexuality out of their system, as if gayness could be leached out. Adolescent sexuality is a world of its own. It’s a headspin, a conspiracy more furtive than the ones that stalk you in daylight. We will never remember fully the aura of our child sex lives because it is like looking back into the minds of the Stone Age. Looking back at this time period, I can say that this is when I began to believe or at least sense the conspiracy of heterosexuality. It lacked the sinister undertones I ascribe to it now, but the group effort, the buddy-buddying, the reinforcement, the division of the sexes — these all gave my sexual awakening the feeling of something both intensely private and eminently social.
There is a montage in Wedding Crashers that has always triggered something primal in me. It has remained in my mind like a cave painting. The boy-men are reaching the crescendo of their season with fuck following fuck like an assembly line, set to the tune of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. There is a clever jump cut of women being dipped on a ballroom floor to women being thrown onto a bed, seconds from being entered. The two motions form a linear continuity of action, a visual suggestion of a gesture brought to its logical end. The first two times the women are clothed and then suddenly we’re hit with nudity, the only nudity in the film, the nudity of breasts and then a quick cut to a stable’s worth of ejaculate in the form of champagne being endlessly popped on dance floors. It was in this montage I first sensed my terror at an expectation I couldn’t possibly fulfill and a truth I would eventually need to reveal. Eleven years later in Amsterdam, I thought of it again as I watched a lone man leave a room in the red light district to be met with ribald cheers from total strangers.
Wedding Crashers came out one stale summer which would be the last of my latency. I had developed an eating disorder relating to a stomach I considered more gelatinous than solid. I was having an awful time at summer camp and possibly my first depressive episode. My second season at camp was utterly different from my first, which led to my first loss of faith in a social structure. A family friend was diagnosed with diabetes, a prognosis I saw fitting for the season because of its accompanying thirsts and peeing and stickiness. All in all I felt a newfound loneliness that was compounded in the drought and cricket drone of that summer. The necessity of making myself a man in the image of that film only added to my despair.
A lot has changed since Wedding Crashers premiered in 2005. Vince Vaughn went bloat, making his prior life as a sex symbol seem almost ludicrous. Owen Wilson attempted suicide. I came out of the closet. Gay marriage went from a joke to enshrined in law. I can walk the streets and hold hands with men, I can fuck in a bathroom stall or a penthouse loft, and I can ascribe my sexual anxieties to a whole new set of triggers. But you never quite leave behind the culture you were formed in, or rather where you gestated, and for that I can still look back in righteous anger at the false gods of my childhood that haunted me on screen and in the schoolyard.
A recent graduate in English from Binghamton University, Alec Weinstein is excited about the possibilities the publishing world can afford him. He has previously worked with Indolent Books, a poetry press located in Brooklyn, NY, and has written for his school newspaper on topics ranging from queer theory to rhetoric. His favorite authors include Don DeLillo, Alexander Chee, and Sylvia Plath. In his spare time, he likes to write poetry and short stories, go to the movies, and swim.