NEW YORK -- Last week's bloody rampage of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, that led to the deaths of six students in Santa Barbara, California has stirred plenty of reaction in the US, from the emotional speech of Richard Martinez, father of one of the victims, to the more crass open letter sent to the parents of the slain by Joe the Plumber informing them “their dead kids don’t trump his constitutional rights”.
Yet one of the more unusual debates surrounding the killings has followed on from an article published on Sunday in The Washington Post in which film critic Ann Hornaday cited the hit frat-boy comedy Neighbors, along with similar Hollywood fare for creating a “sexist movie monoculture” of “violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger".
In Rodger's final YouTube video, the killer said: “I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”
Referring to that upload, Hornaday wrote:
As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfilment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like Neighbors and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?
In response, Seth Rogan his back at Hornaday on twitter, posting:
.@AnnHornaday how dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a rampage.— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) May 26, 2014
.@AnnHornaday I find your article horribly insulting and misinformed.— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) May 26, 2014
Judd Apatow, director of Knocked Up and The 40-Year-old Virgin, followed up with the following tweet:
The cultural divide between left and right in the US has manifested itself over the recent killing between those who believe "the virgin killer" was a terrible misogynist and those who believed he was just a crazy, troubled young man.
The #YesAllWomen Hashtag, which has reached more than one million tweets, was an attempt to make a wider point on the issue of male entitlement and rape culture as expressed in Rodger’s YouTube videos, however critics have pointed out that the actions of a "lone nut killer" have little to say about the place of women in society.
On Tuesday, Hornaday repeated her criticism of Hollywood, postng a follow-up message on The Washington Post's website in which she sais she could "understand why Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow might feel defensive".
"In singling out Neighbors and Judd Apatow, I by no means meant to cast blame on those movies or Judd Apatow’s work for this heinous action. Obviously not. But I do think, again, it bears all of us asking what the costs are of having such a narrow range of stories that we constantly go back to."
Watch Hornaday's full response in the video below.