Because movies are the principle conveyers of value in our society, it was a bit surprising to find such an old-fashioned message in the wacky and vulgar comedy, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin. " If you 've seen it, you may have come away with a very surprising moral from a very surprising source: Hollywood.
One is drawn to the film by the absurdity of a middle-aged virgin, of course, and expects to laugh at Andy (played by Steve Carell of Anchorman) for having failed to find the Holy Grail. But in the end, it is Andy 's friends who seem pathetic, the ones who conspire to bring his years of sexual inexperience to an end.
As the movie progresses, his friends from work (a Best-Buy look alike), begin looking more and more ridiculous, admitting that their exploits in Tijuana, where they went to see a show about a girl having sex with a horse, sounded cool at first, but turned out to be, "just gross. " They sit around playing sadomasochistic video games and take turns accusing each other of being "gay. "
Meanwhile Andy falls in love with Trish (played by Catherine Keener), who turns out to be a very fetching grandmother, and who has pleaded with her teenage daughter to avoid sex. It falls on deaf ears since she clearly did not follow her own advice.
The relationship works at first only because she and Andy agree not to have sex. She helps him to grow up, get rid of a house full of action figures, and open his own store. When her daughter finds out that Andy is a virgin, she defends him, because he 's good to her mom.
When Andy gets the opportunity to be with what the guys call a "trophy hookup, " he refuses, because he wants to wait for Trish. Strange as it may sound coming out of Hollywood, that black hole of moral depravity that is corrupting the youth of today, the message of this movie is clear: casual sex is shown to be pathetic, and sex in the context of a serious commitment is portrayed as genuinely erotic.
It could just be that more teenagers will respond to the message of this movie than to all the church-sponsored "True Love Waits " campaigns. And it might be wise for the Christian Right to admit that not everything that comes out of Hollywood is predictable and vile. In this case, a 40-year-old virgin who admits to not knowing what a breast feels like may seem ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as his friends, who don 't know what a real relationship feels like.
The movie can even be said to have a theological dimension. As Jason Byassee, writing in The Christian Century noted: "Theologian Sarah Coakley has observed that whereas moderns think talk about desire for God is veiled talk about desire for sex, ancient Christians assumed the opposite desire for sex is really veiled desire for God. "
In the case of the Virgin Andy, God really does move in mysterious ways.
Dr. Robin Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC Church of OKC, and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University. His forthcoming book, WHY THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT IS WRONG: A Minister 's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, and Your Future, is due out next May. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org