The science of seduction

I don’t usually write about factual TV here, but First Cut: The Rules of Seduction on Channel 4 last Friday was of particular interest to me because it was the latest mainstream ‘expose’ of the previously secret world of seduction, a world     I discovered  eight years ago when I was working for a prodco and researching a TV show about sex.  

Here was an online community of men who had discovered a whole new solution to the perennial problem of male-female relations     and in particular, the science of seducing women.

I was fascinated (what single man wouldn’t be?)    and delved deeper and started to study it. I wrote about it for magazines like Arena, and I’ve just finished a pilot for a drama series, Players, that explores their world through three guys and a girl (there are female players, by the way) who practise the art of pick up. It’s sort of Hustle for Don Juans, Cold Feet for Casanovas, This Lifefor Lotharios.

This seduction underground went overground a couple of years ago with the publication of Neil Strauss’s brilliant book, The Game, and a rash of TV shows and films have followed: Keys to the VIP, The Pick-Up Artist, The Tao of Steve, Roger Dodger, Hitch, but no one has yet made a TV drama about it (which is where I come in).

The fact that so many shows    now have no problem with  the completely normal activity of guys trying to pick up girls makes this First Cut documentary all the more ridiculous, because it employs cack-handed shock tactics to make us feel it’s all so disturbing (whooooo, spooky music while they’re chatting up girls in the street – they must be EVIL!).

I’ve seen exactly the same stuff in shows like Would Like to Meet, where it’s all cosy and nice and fun (maybe because they have nice, cosy, fun music under it).  The thing is, using music like this to control the viewer’s response should have no place in a documentary, but it’s increasingly prevalent and a sign of how much standards in documentary filmmaking have plummeted in recent years.

What this programme did get across, though, was how addictive the ‘community’ can be (something already  covered with much more insight in The Game).

Darren is a Russell-Brand-a-like who’s dropped out of everything but going out every night despite only having a tenner to his name (now there’s a skill I’d seriously like to learn). For him it’s simple: ‘You learn how attraction works, how girls get attracted to a guy, and you start developing those traits; you start becoming that attractive guy.’ To prove it he picks up a random girl in the street at night and walks off with her.

But documentary evidence like that isn’t enough for aspiring filmmaker John Farrar, who can never seem to let go of his prejudices whatever it is his camera films.

At the end, despite having witnessed the undeniable effectiveness of the techniques, he ends his documentary with the assertion that he still wouldn’t like any of these guys to go out with his sister.

Is that so? Did it not occur to you, as an aspiring documentary filmmaker   (i.e. someone who documents reality) that it might be a useful exercise to perhaps askyour sister what she thought of these men? You might even have filmed it so we could hear it for ourselves. Or (and  excuse me for coming at you from way out of left field here) how about filming your sister meeting some of these guys and seeing what effect they had on her? Wouldn’t that have been more interesting than you telling us what you think she would and wouldn’t enjoy?

But it seems that when it comes to women, the game-haters refuse to accept that they can think and feel for themselves.

Stephanie Merritt in the Observer wheeled out the usual tired old mock outrage: ‘It would be impossible to overemphasise how revolting this programme is.’ But her real anger was aimed not so much at the ‘nasty’ men who practise seduction (and there really is no evidence at all in the programme of any nastiness, Darren even stresses that he refuses to lie to girls, unlike most men, and spends his last tenner on flowers for them) but to the women who are stupid enough to fall for these men. How could they let the side down so much?

What the haters fail to take into account are that the techniques these men practise are based on scientific studies of what the female of the species is uncontrollably attracted to (it’s a fairly complex set of triggers but being a New Man is pretty much not in there). Is it any different to women showing off their legs and cleavage because they know that’s what triggers male desire?

The answer to that question is ‘no’, just in case you were hesitating. Pick up a copy of Cosmopolitan and you will find more tips and techniques for seducing the opposite sex than you’ll ever find on any PUA chat room.    Female seduction is taught at a very early age and with society’s complete approval. Male seduction is a science in its infancy by comparison.

But we’re getting there.

PS. In a telling follow-up to the programme and its portrayal of nasty old Adam and his horrid manipulation of the lovely Amanda, here’s a video that Adam put on YouTube for her:

Soft bastard ;-)

Sex and the pity

One of my favourite scenes about writers is the one with Woody Allen in The Front, in which he plays a bookie pretending to be a screenwriter (as a front for blacklisted writers), who thinks his new found status is going to get him   laid.

An attractive woman approaches him at the bar and asks ‘So what do you do?’   He smiles smugly and says ‘Heh. I’m a writer.’

She walks away.

Writer Hank Moody has no such problems. But then he is a fictional writer, and he’s played by charm-on-a-stick David Duchovny, who can get away with pretty much anything, and if the pilot of Californication is anything to go by, frequently will.

Hank Moody is a self pitying, washed up writer   whose marriage has gone the way of his career and who seeks solace in sex. Lots of sex. I think I counted five different women in the pilot alone. In reality, of course, writers don’t attract groupies (not that I’ve ever tried, you understand).

In fact, maybe where the show is really accurate is in the fact that he’s not writing. Hank has been blocked ever since Hollywood took his great novel and turned it into a piece of shit vehicle for Tom and Katie. He’s also seperated from the mother of his 12-year old daughter and wants his muse back.

The show has been dismissed as cliched and peurile by most TV critics – which is a sure fire indication of excellence in my book. And the pilot really is exceptional precisely because it rises above the cliched premise and delivers with great characters and dialogue to die for.

Of course, there is gratuitous nakedness, and that causes problems for certain people, but I have a European sensibility about things like that and people who have a problem with it should just stop being so English.

Some people are calling it  the male Sex and the City, but they are fools. Californication doesn’t dispense Patience Strong-style ‘wisdom’ and pretend it’s the last word on gender politics. It is much smarter than that, and thankfully avoids the hackneyed drama-about-a-writer-so-it-must-have-a-V.O. cliche.

Hank shouldn’t be a character we like (I mean, come on, he’s a man who’s unapologetic about his masculinity – isn’t that supposed to be illegal?), but it’s very skillfully written to engage our sympathies. He’s as socially fearless as many of us secretly long to be: laughing in the face of the sexually incompetent  husband of the woman he’s just given a rare orgasm, cold reading with devastating accuracy the combative date his friends have set him up with, punching the lights out of the Twat in the Cinema Who Won’t Stop Using His Mobile. We’ve all wanted to do those things.

Or is it just me?

It looks like a show I’ll enjoy spending a half hour with every Thursday night for the next twelve weeks (and 30 Rock is on straight after it as well – Channel Five, you truly spoil us), and not just because I already know about the shy office assistant who turns out to be a secret Suicide Girl by night.

There’s an interesting interview with series writer Tom Kapinos here, and  here’s the special preview trailer (the trailer has a V.O. but the programme doesn’t, trust me).

(Actually, now that Hank has started writing his blooooog for Hell-A magazine, there is minimal use of V.O. but it’s not that bad, to be fair.)

Bad meaning good

This week I unsubscribed from Mark Kermode’s weekly 5 Live podcast. I’ve recommended it before on here,  but with his ridiculous rant about Superbad, in which the dread spectre of Andrea Dworkin was raised (now there’s an idea for a horror film), it’s become clear that he has lost touch with reality and is plainly stuck in orbit around Planet Kermode, a cold, dark, distant sphere in some far off galaxy currently being sucked into a black hole.

Now I accept that  Superbad is not to everyone’s taste – an elderly couple walked out of the screening I was at after ten minutes (what on Earth did they think they were sitting down to?) – and that’s fine, it’s all about personal taste, but this film is either, at best, ‘the comedy of the year’ or, at worst, an okay teen romp with too much bad language. I don’t think anyone in the world but the hysterical Kermode thinks it is a vile piece of mysoginist evil penned by the hot new writing team of Peter Sutcliffe   and Jack the Ripper.

Several other Britcrits have weighed in against the film, though (without going to the lengths of judging it by the exacting standards of an insane misandrist).  Joe Queenan denounced the whole spate of films that dare to be about men in his Guardian piece recently. You can read it here, but if you want to save time, just put on Joe Jackson’s  ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’ He was whining about the same thing 30 years ago but at least you can hum along to it.

Judd Apatow is behind most of these films (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad), but there are others in the ladcom genre (I just made that up) that precede it, like High Fidelity and Shaun of the Dead.

The OTT response to these films by the feMANists is clearly all about political correctness. They viciously attack these films because they believe they contravene PC views of what constitutes masculinity.

I guess if you’re a serious film critic who’s spent most of his adult life talking loudly about male chauvinism within earshot of women in the desperate hope that they will sleep with you, it’s very threatening to see women attracted to men who don’t resort to such underhand methods to impress them; men who are comfortable with their sexuality (that’s right, I said it).

You see, it’s just not on to depict men as anything other than morons (unless they’re gay men, or they belong to an ethnic minority). We live in a world where men are the only minority it’s okay to publicly ridicule. It’s so okay we even do it to ourselves. We’re like black comedians in the 1970s telling racist jokes.

Look at every ad on telly: we are losers, idiots, morons; everything about us is pathetic, weak, dim-witted, slow, but above all we are ‘sad’. Everything about our sexuality that distinguishes us from women is ‘sad’. Our interests are ‘sad’, our hobbies are ‘sad’, our sexuality is ‘sad’. And it’s okay to say this because we rule the world and are fair game.

It’s true. When I’m not out boozing with my sad mates  I’m hosting World Patriarchal Order meetings at my flat to plot  our continued dominance over the female race (this stuff doesn’t just run itself, you know), although it’s sometimes difficult because my Jewish flatmate often needs it for his World Zionist Conspiracy get togethers.

The irony of all this is that films like Superbad, 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, High Fidelity and Shaun of the Dead all have an anti-male message at their heart. Yes, they deal with the world of male cameraderie and portray it sympathetically, but the message of all these movies is Ditch Your Mates And Surrender To The Girl, or, as Joe Queenan puts it,  ‘the excruciating process of putting one’s pathetic male friends into cold storage and getting serious about a romantic liaison’ (all women have the wisdom of Yoda, remember, and all men are sad, that’s the dogma).

Look at the end of Shaun of the Dead: the message is reject your mate who’s stood by you for years and shack up with a whiny, complaining cow because that’s the mature thing to do… oh, and keep your mate as a chained-up retard in the garden shed for those occasional half-hours when she lets you out to play.

And this is supposed to represent the kind of maturity a man aspires to? (I still love Shaun of the Dead, though).

You’d think the feMANists would approve of these films. But they don’t. And that’s because there’s a contradiction in every one of them. They may be about ditching your mates in the long run, but they also celebrate the joys of cameraderie in the process, and that’s the real crime.

So even though these films instruct you to ditch your male friends, they can’t help revealing just what it is that makes male friendship so worthwhile.

If you believe that male sexuality is natural and has its place in society, then you’ll probably laugh at Superbad, which is nothing more than a humorous, engaging portrayal of frustrated teenage masculinity. But if you believe that male sexuality is something inherently odious, as these critics clearly do, you will probably launch into an hysterical diatribe about it.

It is, however, possible to enjoy a work of art whilst disagreeing with its politics I’ve listened to enough Wagner and seen enough Leni Riefenstahl and read enough Trotsky to know this. So how about reviewing a film according to how it works as a film, not according to whether it meets your idea of what’s politically correct? Because if we go that way we might as well all be waving little red books at each other.