We all know the first rule of storytelling is to write what you know. This is excellent advice, particularly for novice artists who are trying to get a grip on their craft. Some of the best work of all time is transparently autobiographical (Dickens, Hemingway, Woody Allen). But there’s a difference between putting yourself into your work and letting your sad unresolved issues seep into everything you do. (One of my favorite Woody Allen films is the decidedly un-autobiographical Match Point.) This particular exercise is more than picking out a theme in an auteur’s work, it’s picking out some damage that they appear to be working through. This doesn’t always have to be the case, folks. Each Coen Brothers film is challenging and different. These fellows, however? These guys need help. Counseling. Group. Meds. Something.
Judd Apatow—Peter Pan Syndrome: Judd Apatow seems to have his fingerprints on almost everything these days. But we can’t really assign a lot of meaning to producer credits. Writing credits, however? That’s telling. Apatow garnered a lot of acclaim for his work writing on “The Larry Sanders Show,” but his work on “Freaks and Geeks” was pure genius. The emotional maturity on that magnificent show (about teenagers in the early 80’s) has, however, been Apatow’s wheelhouse ever since. The lovable but childish characters that populate The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and Funny People (not even lovable in this last case) make me wonder what Apatow has against adulthood. Here’s hoping his next project, This Is Forty, reveals some growth.
Joss Whedon—Psychopathy: Because Joss has a tremendous gift when it comes to writing warm, funny, relatable characters, you might cock your eyebrow at this one. But Joss is also incapable of allowing a couple a happy ever after. He delights in ripping them apart, often by ruthlessly murdering one half. If you haven’t seen the complete Joss canon, then feel free to skip the following parenthetical. (Jenny & Giles, Buffy & Angel, Buffy & Spike,Tara & Willow, Oz & Willow, Cordelia & Xander, Xander & Anya, Cordelia & Doyle, Cordelia & Angel, Fred & Gunn, Fred & Wesley, Topher & Bennett, Ballard & Echo, Zoë & Wash, Penny & Dr. Horrible). Joss, buddy, we’re worried.
Zack Snyder—Misogyny: I’ve talked about this before. It was controversial. If you don’t agree that Snyder hates women, perhaps you will agree that choosing to direct three films that have rape as a major plot point (300, Watchman, Sucker Punch) is distressing. Seek help, Snyder. I beg of you.
JJ Abrams—Daddy Issues: In addition to his serious addiction to lens flare, Abrams has an exceedingly obvious fascination with “bad fathers.” This theme is at the center of nearly every single project (“Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” [sweet sassy molassy, “Lost”], “Fringe,” Super 8, and even Star Trek). In Super 8 Abrams cast Kyle Chandler who for years has been playing father-figure to every damaged boy in West Dillon on “Friday Night Lights” as the cold and emotionally unavailable father. That’s some twisted casting. JJ, my dear, what on earth did your father do to you?
Quentin Tarantino—Foot Fetish: Just kidding, Quentin, you rock on with your love of feet. I think it’s kind of adorable. I don’t mind at all when director’s push their sexual predilections on us.
Tyler Perry—Fecalphilia: Except for this sh*t. This needs to stop.