Andy Samberg Breaks Caricature

2.15.2009

By Joshua David Stein

I Love You, Man is one of those funny, good-hearted bromance movies ushered in by 2007's Superbad. It's not going to win any Oscars -- it's like The Break-up but in reverse and for men. There's little revelatory in I Love You, Man, either in concept or execution. It will, perhaps, be called a 'tender, modest story' by New York Times film critic A.O. Scott and he'll be right. But beneath the modesty and tendresse, there is a daring notion at play: Samberg's character is an unlisping, unfey, unqueeny gay man in a non-gay film. Groundbreaking, right? Sadly, in the conventional cineplex, it is. Samberg goes where no man has gone in mainstream comedy: He plays gay...straight.

'The reason I liked the character is because I know people like that,' says Samberg. 'There is this guy I know who for all appearances is pretty aggressively straight but who is actually gay. When we do an impression of him it's always like [slipping into the bro voice], 'Fucking pounded some beers, fucking kick-ass game on the television, I'm going to go suck a dude's dick. See you later!'

Samberg might be an unlikely banner-waver for a sophisticated and subtle take on homosexuality. His tenure at Saturday Night Live -- and SNL in general for that matter -- has been marked by accusations of insensitive depictions of gays. More accurately, for the past 34 years, Saturday Night Live has ghettoized gayness, making it nothing more than a punch line in sketch after sketch. It's not unfair or completely inaccurate to say it's a small step from punch line to punching bag. Of all the cast members in the history of SNL only one -- Terry Sweeney, 1985''1986 -- was openly gay. Does this have to do with Christopher Hitchens's fallacious and phallocentric thesis (published in Vanity Fair) that a dick and a hunger for vagina is a prerequisite for funniness or is it just run-of-the-mill situational segregation? Samberg himself has taken a lot of the heat for the November 15, 2008, show, hosted by Paul Rudd, which was derided as a 'gay minstrel show' by the blog Defamer. Proposition 8 had just passed and gayness was in the ether, but it doesn't explain this:
Kissing Family: College student Rudd brings his roommate, Samberg, home for a family dinner. His family is very affectionate. The favorite mode of affection: a profusion of kisses on the lips. Father-on-son, brother-on-brother, but strangely little mother-on-son or father-on-mother. Samberg is shocked but, in the end, confronts his fear with a slobbery, open-mouthed kiss with the father. 'That wasn't so bad,' he concludes.

Everyone's a Critic: Samberg asks Rudd, who's highlighting his lines in his dressing room, 'This is going to sound kind of weird but [pregnant pause] may I paint you?' Cut to: candles, sensual music, Paul Rudd naked, Samberg behind an easel. Think Titanic with Rudd as a very hirsute Winslet. 'It's cold in here,' says Rudd. 'Could've fooled me,' says Samberg. The two switch positions. Later they attempt to auction off Rudd's painting but are unsuccessful as the bidders gouge their eyes out at first sight of it.

Guys in a Car: A seemingly straight man tells a car full of his bros about the last time he had sex. The coitus occurred in the backseat of a cab with the cab's male driver.

Backup Dancers: Samberg, Justin Timberlake, and Bobby Moynihan, dolled up in unitards and pumps, play backup dancers in Beyonc's 'Single Ladies' video.

Update: Snagglepuss: In the infamous 'Weekend Update' in which Seth Meyers shushes audience members booing at the mention of Prop. 8 with a terse 'Vote's over,' Moynihan, dressed as the pink and seemingly gay mountain lion Snagglepuss, mourns the passage of Prop. 8 while becoming increasingly agitated at Meyers's insinuation of his homosexuality.

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