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Raunch & Responsibility

By Rich Lowry

Perhaps never before has the F-word been used so much and in such a worthy cause.

Raunchy sex comedies "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," both of which made $30 million on their opening weekends, make an unexpected brief for personal responsibility and sexual restraint.

They focus on male adolescents of all ages. The protagonist of "Knocked Up" is a layabout named Ben, an AINO (Adult In Name Only) who lives in a group house with his 20-something friends whose idea of applying themselves is playing ping-pong between bong hits. "Superbad" follows Seth and Evan, high-school seniors whose ambition is to insinuate themselves into a party of their cooler peers and hook up.

These characters have a unidimensional view of women, shaped by a pop culture seemingly run by and for hormonal male teenagers. What could suit such teenagers better than the wide availability of pornography; than young women told that delaying sexual activity is uncool and impossible; than celebrity young women setting a model of mindless dissipation? The battle of the sexes is over, and it's been won by libidinous boys.

Or so they believe. Seth, a pudgy schemer, tells his shy friend Evan: "You know how girls are always saying, 'I was so wasted last night, I shouldn't have slept with that guy?' We could be that mistake!" Their ambition is realized by Ben in "Knocked Up." He meets a beautiful blond host for the E! television network named Allison at a bar. They laugh, they drink, and one thing leads to another - hence, the title of the movie.

Suddenly, Ben has the woman of his dreams, except it's the wrong dream. The hot blonde isn't a fantasy, but a real person who desperately needs a fellow adult to shoulder with her the responsibilities of having a child.

Seth and Evan in "Superbad" don't impregnate anyone, but they too are confronted by the emptiness of what they thought were their fondest dreams. Drunken hookups aren't as enjoyable as they thought, and the girls they imagined were easily available for casual sex aren't so shallow. Thus, movies superficially about guys seeking sex become about guys learning the importance of relationships.

That two popular comedies have this layer of meaning is a tribute to the inspired work of writer/producer Judd Apatow and writer/actor Seth Rogen. Rogen told Time magazine, "We make extremely right-wing movies with extremely filthy dialogue."

"Knocked Up" and "Superbad" are hardly Humanae Vitae, but in a culture that celebrates youth, they say "grow up." In a culture that apotheosizes the self, they say "think of others." In a culture that worships sex, they say "not so fast." And they say it profanely and hilariously.

© 2007 by King Features Syndicate

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