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Did Hollywood Male Fantasies Impact the Isla Vista Assault on Women?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 27, 2014 at 2:38PM

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post argues persuasively that Hollywood male fantasies could have played a role in the vengeful anti-female assault at Isla Vista at the University of California Santa Barbara. Check the "last" video below of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, in which he bewails being a virgin and proclaims his imminent status as "the true alpha male."
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Efron and Rogen are 'Neighbors'
Efron and Rogen are 'Neighbors'
Elliot Rodger
Elliot Rodger

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post argues persuasively that Hollywood male fantasies could have played a role in the vengeful anti-female assault at Isla Vista at the University of California Santa Barbara. Check the "last" video below of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, in which he bewails being a virgin and proclaims his imminent status as an "alpha male." 

The essay has set off a torrent of reactions largely because Hornaday used as her examples of Hollywood male fantasies the films of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, specifically the current frat comedy hit "Neighbors." This in turn has spawned the usual counter-arguments in defense of Hollywood: movies don't kill people, mental illness and guns do. 

Rogen tweet

Apatow has fought back, understandably, tweeting that Hornaday's motivation may have been traffic-motivated. 

I respect Hornaday: she is a thoughtful and serious film critic and her essay is well-reasoned. She's not a cynical traffic-chaser. She has valid points to make.

Unfortunately citing Apatow and "Neighbors," she picked on the wrong villains. Both Apatow and Rogen are examples of inclusive and enlightened moviemakers where women are concerned. "Neighbors," especially features a strong and funny woman (Rose Byrne) who with her husband (Rogen) is fighting the frat boys next door. This movie hardly celebrates frat culture.

These arguments on the role of movie culture in violence are necessary and important and I would hate to see Hornaday's valid points buried in the wrong debate. 

Meanwhile, Andrew O'Hehir over at Salon makes the case that Rogen and Apatow's Twitter reactions actually solidified Hornaday's point about misogyny and Hollywood.

This article is related to: Neighbors, Seth Rogen, Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Judd Apatow


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.