If you want to know who the film industry is targeting these days, just check out what’s playing at the megaplex. There’s Freddy Got Fingered, a crude comedy about a 28-year-old adolescent who still lives in his parents’ basement, and Joe Dirt, about a man/boy in search of the family that abandoned him. These are films aimed squarely at the peach fuzz crowd.
They’re films about grown men—overgrown boys, actually—who refuse to grow up. It’s the Peter Pan Syndrome to the extreme. No one suffers it more severely than Tom Green, MTV’s shockmeister comedian whose over-the-top brand of humor gets 95 minutes of in-your-face screen time in a feature film he co-wrote, directed and dominates. If you’ve been lucky—or smart—enough to miss him, Green is the guy who made his mark in TV comedy by humiliating his parents on the airwaves. In one of many ambush broadcasts, he put an ice sculpture of them having sex in their front yard. Har, har, har.
Not even a brush with cancer and the loss of a testicle brought Green to his senses. He filmed his surgery and showed it as an hour-long special. Somewhere in that twisted mind must lurk at least a few deep thoughts, though he’s been stalwart at keeping them firmly under cover.
In the press kit for his latest comic abomination, a childhood friend remembers Green getting laughs by flipping his desk over in the fourth grade. Green’s humor, better described as outrageous pranks, hasn’t evolved much since then. In Road Trip, in which he had a mercifully minor role, he sucked on a live mouse. He’s like a kid operating on a dare.
In his semi-autobiographical Freddy Got Fingered, (the title alone should be enough to deter any straight-thinking person from spending money to see this film), Green sucks on a cow’s udder, puts cheese on his head (“Look, I’m wearing a cheese helmet!”) and goes diving in a toilet bowl. Fourth-grade stuff all the way. But then he takes the banality a step further, wallowing in all-out, gross-out antics like wearing a dear’s carcass and sexually servicing animals, yet another benchmark of how low modern culture has sunk. It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that we live in an age of excess where entertainment must be outrageous to grab attention.
A 21-year-old youth pastor from Casper, Wyo., who admitted to being a Green fan with reservations and who won’t let his flock see the film, told me that while he thinks Green’s silliness can be funny, “it’s not the most ingenious kind of humor. In society today, the intelligence of male society has plummeted, so humor has to go lower to make them laugh or take any notice at all.” Pop culture is like a daycare low on Ritalin supplies, where spoiled, ill-mannered brats scream louder and louder for attention. Instead of putting the loudest screamer in time-out, the entertainment industry puts him on center stage for his own 95-minute ego trip.
Freddy Got Fingered doesn’t merit a serious review. The only vaguely interesting thing about it is how Tom Green, an odd fellow of obviously limited talent and even less sense, has carved out a niche on the media landscape. He’s a perfect example of what TV critic Matt Roush calls “the anything-goes, gross-out mentality that confuses crudeness with cleverness.” The cover of Entertainment Weekly, with a photo of the bug-eyed comic poised to put a python in his mouth, asks “Has Tom Green finally stepped over the line?” Of course he has. But what the hell. He’s just another shameless punk trying to make a living pandering to a terminally taste-impaired, emotionally-stunted audience. Without that audience, he wouldn’t exist.
Green was just another stand-up comic volunteering at a cable access station in his native Canada until Rogers TV in Ottawa, Ontario, thought he was funny enough to have his own show. Even more surprising than a grownup giving Tom Green his own series is that the series became a hit. The Tom Green Show got picked up by Canada’s Comedy Network, where it aired for three years until MTV bought it in 1999.
Green’s fans and press agents herald him as a brilliant comedian, saying his unique brand of humor is “iconoclastic and anti-authority.” His comedy may be original, but it also embodies a complete lack of originality. Stooping to the banal, the crass and the outrageous is hardly original. It’s the laziest form of comedy. It requires no wit, no skill and certainly no intelligence.
Anti-authority? Humiliating your parents is the child’s method of showing disrespect. Flirting with bestiality is more tasteless than defiant. A true iconoclast or anti-authoritarian would be slyly smashing the capitalist, corporate monster. Now that would be truly daring. Green may seem outrageous, but he’s really taking the safe, albeit disgusting, route. Obnoxious oral, sexual and scatological humor based on putting strange things in your hands and mouth is amusing only to other young pranksters who take pride in their inability to be repulsed and don’t have a clue about what’s really revolutionary or even truly funny.
Freddy Got Fingered (R) No stars. Directed by and starring Tom Green.