Tomorrow’s release of Take Me Home Tonight has got me thinking about some things. Since The Hangover in 2009, the one-night party genre has blown up. Since then, we’ve had gems such as Hot Tub Time Machine, and some of the most anticipated movies of the year follow the general plot structure. The Hangover: Part II comes out in late spring.
The genre is by no means new. Every generation has had its own take on it. Think Superbad, Weekend at Bernie’s or Risky Business.
Writing the plot lines to these movies requires very little originality — there is a party; the protagonists are not the cool kids; the protagonists hope that the night of the party will change their entire lives; it doesn’t, but they learn things anyway.
That general plot structure allows for a lot of well-written jokes, surely. And there is always sex, drugs and violence, which appeal to a mass male audience. I think, however, the appeal of these films goes a lot deeper than this.
These types of movies are becoming more and more popular at a time when the male position in society is being challenged.
In July, The Atlantic ran an article entitled “The End of Men.” The article outlined reasons why men are losing their status in society, citing the move in America from labor-oriented jobs to service-oriented, the growing acceptance of single-parenting, the economic crisis and the feminist movement as reasons why more and more men feel useless and emasculated.
As a backlash to this emasculation, men are buying and consuming media that allow them the temporary relief of feeling masculine again. Violent video games, superhero movies and one-night party movies are all part of that backlash.
The one-night party movie, though, is probably one of the most effective tools in the imaginary fight against 21st century emasculation.
For an hour and a half, men get to believe that they can change all of the bad parts of their lives with one night.
One of the tag lines of Take Me Home Tonight is, “Do you remember the one night that changed everything?” The idea that an entire life hinges on the events at one party is ridiculous, obviously, but it is very appealing.
The idea is especially appealing when Topher Grace (Eric Foreman from That ’70s Show) is the protagonist.
What guy hasn’t been Grace’s everyman, trying to woo the man/woman of his dreams in hopes that it will make everything turn out right?
The trouble of it is that it’s just not true. And so even if men are using these kinds of movies as an escape, it only perpetuates the emasculation because it props up a kind of masculinity that is no longer relevant in society.
That masculinity is exemplified by the trailer for Take Me Home Tonight — Grace’s character lies about his life to be more appealing to a girl, claiming to work at an investment banking firm, stealing a red convertible and all-around acting as if he were a buff manly man.
Traditional masculinity and the one-night party genre are dangerous bedfellows, but at least they produce semi-funny love children — right?
Spencer Smith is a sophomore studying philosophy and English, and a columnist for The Post. Did one party change your life? E-mail Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.