The Measure of Love: She’s Out of My League

We’re all familiar with the age old saying that you ought to marry within your means. There is something to be said about marrying someone who is within one’s means. Often times when people of completely different worlds come together they find that love isn’t enough to keep them together, but rather they are faced with numerous problems. But is physical appearance one of those things that should exclude the possibility of a relationship between two people, or is it something that can be over looked under the right circumstances? It’s not totally uncommon for one describe a member of the opposite sex as being a perfect 10, or a 0 or whatever other number we can devise. In the movie She’s out of My League, now out in wide release, we find yet another example of where it is assumed a relationship won’t work because of the differences in physical appearance. Yet, this movie demonstrates the very principles that show looks are not the only thing that matters when it comes to a relationship.

As is mentioned in the Communization of Thought it is sometimes necessary to indoctrinate people into a certain way of thinking in order to allow for the peaceful coexistence of man in society. One of those unfortunate indoctrinations is the question of beauty and ugliness. From the time we are in elementary school we already exercise our knowledge of the beautiful and the ugly in a game of cooties. Children go around claiming that each other have cooties, typically in a class room setting this is done with the children who are some what lacking in beauty by those who are not. By the time high school hits those going into athletics or cheerleading must date each other, and those joining the chess team and band must date each other. We allow our physical characteristics to interfere with our ability to have a meaningful relationship with someone of the opposite sex, or friendship with someone of the same sex. It is an unfortunate defect of our indoctrination that we fall into this trap of rating each other based on our looks.

In She’s Out of My League this classification of beauty continues and this code is enforced even amongst a group of less than attractive nerds who are friends with each other. When Kirk meets Molly, who has left her phone in one of those bins you’re expected to place your belongings in while being violated by TSA, Kirk’s friend Stainer believes that they shouldn’t be dating because he is a “5” and she is a “hard 10.” Stainer’s belief is that Kirk should only date another 5, a 7, 6, 4, or 3 but nothing more than 7 because his looks aren’t able to compensate past that. Like wise, Molly shouldn’t attempt to date anyone below an 8 because her looks are too much for someone below that. Of course looks alone don’t determine one’s ranking for Stainer, because if you drive a cool car, have a cool job, or have a cool hobby like playing in a band that can elevate one’s ranking (after all we know that the ugliest of musicians and actors/actresses can still land the most attractive of people…) Stainer enforces the code so much against his friend that Kirk finds himself looking for a defect in Molly to justify their being together. To his misfortune, attempting to find a defect only drives Molly away.

Yet Stainer isn’t the only one guilty of enforcing a silly code on his friend. Patty, Molly’s best friend, believes that Molly’s interest in Kirk can’t be real. Instead, after being hurt by her ex boyfriend Cam, Molly is only dating Kirk because he is safe (namely, he wouldn’t do something like cheat because who would go for Kirk) as Patty believes it to be. Her belief is something shared by us all as well; we see a beautiful woman or a handsome man with someone far less attractive than them then it must be a charity case or a safe move. Patty goes so far as to insist Molly will want the “rescue” phone call on her andKirk’s first solo date. To her shock and disbelief Molly ignores her phone call. And despite all of Kirk’s foibles and mess ups, Molly keeps going back to him despite the logic Patty is certain is flawless. While Molly may have in fact originally pursued Kirk because she thought he might be safe, she ends up taking him back even after he hurts her time and again.

The beliefs spouted by Stainer and Patty in She’s Out of My League invariably lead to the same outcome as the movie demonstrates. When one believes that they aren’t worthy of being with someone else, they do whatever it takes to find a reason. Those who date someone because they think it safe while they recover from a bad break up often find themselves in a rebound situation where they have to intentionally break the hurt of their safety net because they find themselves falling for that net. She’s Out of My League does a remarkable job of showing the flaws in believing that person A can’t be with person B because of things like looks. It also shows that when we put aside our prejudices, we can find remarkable people on the other side of what we were indoctrinated to not like.

A Review: She’s Out of My League

To begin, let me explain that She’s Out of My League (wide release) is a teen comedy of the typical variety; this post will contain spoilers.

That being said, I thought this movie did a great job of telling it’s story without falling victim to the temptation to make the movie stupid like so many in this genre end up doing. Let me first introduce the story to you. She’s Out of My League introduces us to a character named Kirk and his friends Stainer, Devon and Jack who all work at the local airport in Pittsburgh, PA. Kirk and Stainer are both TSA agents while Devon works as a ticket salesman for an airline and Jack is a baggage loader. We find out that Kirk wants to get back together with his ex Marnie. Through a series of events Kirk learns that Marnie doesn’t want to get back together with him. During this time we are introduce to Kirk’s father, mother, brother, sister-in-law and Marnie’s new Boyfriend who more or less all live with Kirk’s parents. Enter Molly, a beautiful blonde who comes into the Pittsburgh airport on her way to New York. Kirk comes to Molly’s rescue when he helps fend off his superior who is trying to hit on Molly and later Kirk finds Molly’s phone, which she left at the security check point. Through these series of events Molly falls for Kirk and they begin to see each other. Eventually they have a falling out over Kirk’s inability to believe someone like Molly would want to be with him  and he retreats back and wins back Marnie. By movie’s end though Molly and Kirk are back together to live happily ever after. Throughout the movie Kirk experiences a number of falls such as,  prematurely ejaculating  during his and Molly’s first intimate moment and then quickly running out of her apartment after a few embarassing moments with Molly’s parents and sister. Later on Kirk finds himself with his foot in his mouth as he rips Molly a part for her choice to be with him and not someone more worthy of her.

While this movie is on the whole a light hearted, at times intelligent romantic comedy it has a few key moments of coming close to destroying itself like so many other comedies have done in recent years. A lot of comedies these days have a need to introduce a character who is on a roid rage trying to destroy the lead male who is pursuing the beautiful woman. Yet this movie restrains itself, there is an over bearing ex boy friend who one may believe will end up being that psycho who attacks Kirk but She’s Out of My League introduces the ex boyfriend (Cam played by Geoff Stults), plays around with Kirk and then simply has Cam gracefully step out. Even a great comedy such as Wedding Crashers was unable to stop itself from stepping over the line on this particular point. Most comedies this day would rather have an antagonist who is so over the top it makes it impossible to believe anyone would be like that. Most writers of comedy seem to forget that an antagonist isn’t necessarily needed in this genre because the story moves itself along through the foibles of the would be hero.

The closest this movie comes to being unbearably stupid happens on the final fall of our hero. While becoming intimate with each other our beautiful girl (Molly played by Alice Eve) and our hero Kirk  get into a “defect” showing contest trying to prove who is less than perfect. With Mollys defect (webbed feet) we  could find ourselves in a terribly cliche moment such as in Whatever It Takes (2000) where the object of the hero’s affections has to shave a mustache. Yet once again,  She’s Out of My League turns this episode  into a half way intelligent argument about the ability of two people of opposite ends of the attraction scale to be in a relationship. Ultimately they come to the conclusion that they can’t be together, not because either is necessarily so much better than the other, but because Kirk suffers from a severe inferiority complex. Let’s face it, a woman as beautiful as Molly, or for that matter any comedic beautiful girl, would never date someone like Kirk.

But this movie is the quintessential comedy where the ugly, wimpy, terribly flawed guy goes through humorous adventures only to find himself slaying the proverbially dragon and rescuing the beautiful princess.While some may say that these types of comedies are boring, and often unintelligent, it is by far the most refreshing thing I have seen in comedy for a long time. More often than not this incident would be made into a farse while ignoring the intelligent angles that could be pursued. While the purpose of the comedy is to make light of the troubles of the hero, too often today comedies attempt to diminish not only the hero but the object of his affection. What comes out is a comedy not worth the movie it was made with. For better or worse, this movie stays on the straight path instead of finding itself out in the middle of the woods.

Possibly the only down side of this entire movie is the family who is so over the top that they could have easily ruined the movie had they been on screen any more than they were. Thankfully Kirk’s disfunctional family, his ex girlfriend and her new boyfriend are only shown to the audience enough to demonstrate that Kirk’s foibles may be something he learned, rather than something a part of his nature. His family’s role in the movie is just right, to show the audience what it is Kirk is attempting to fight off and run away from into the arms of Molly.

Finally we have the friends. I’m sure we all can remember the movie Wedding Crashers that starts out actually quite good but by the end of the movie you are begging not to see Will Farrell enter on screen as the original crasher. Wedding Crashers isn’t the only movie that introduces additional characters who play the part as assistants to the hero and end up making them farsical. The three friends in She’s Out of My League are smart, insightful, and funny while at the same time being properly inferior to the hero of the movie. While they have their moments where one might expect some kind of cheesy outcome, they stay true to their characters and the movie without going overboard.  The friends are an important part of any comedy as the hero is too flawed in the beginning to achieve his goal. Should a comedy employ friends that are themselves unable to really provide the hero with any guidence then the genre falls a part.

In all She’s Out of My League is a cookie cutter comedy, that has moments of becoming cheesy but never falls off the edge into campy, or farsical. The movie does what all comedies try and do, teach a lesson about something in a humourous way while attempting not to show itself as a lesson. In this movie, the lesson is simple: anyone can have anyone they want as long as they believe in themselves. This movie won’t be nominated for any major award and it’ll continue to be destroyed by critics but there is something about this movie that makes it hard to resist. The chemistry between Jay Baruchel and Alice Eve makes it almost seem believable that either of them might end up with the other. She’s Out of My League is a remarkable movie worth while to anyone looking for a light hearted and at times smart comedy.

Alienation in Post World War America

World War II ended with the surrender of the Japanese Empire in August 1945 leaving a wake of destruction on almost every continent. America was elated, not only had they defeated the Nazis but the Japanese were defeated as well. Yet, America’s place in the world changed as a result of the war in a way very few people would have thought possible. Only an up and coming nation in the last World War, the United States emerged from World War II as the preeminent world power. Amidst the jubilation of victory in both theaters of war, Americans had to come to grips not only with America’s new place in the world, but with what had happened in the war to America. The story of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye demonstrates the alienation some particular Americans felt in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The beginning of The Catcher in the Rye takes the reader to a boarding school and a character named Holden Caulfield. Holden is arguably one of the most controversial characters in literature, but his story is an important one as it is the story of America after World War II. Holden’s alienation from the rest of the world is central in his story. Throughout most of the story Holden is unable to find the good in the world and insists that everyone he knows or meets is a phony. Holden is a confused young man who is attempting to reconcile the world of his childhood with the world of his young adulthood. At sixteen when the story takes place, Holden was born two years after the stock market crashed and was still too young when the United States entered the Second World War in December, 1941. America, in a lot of ways, has grown up rapidly in the span of Holden’s short life.

The main antagonists in Holden’s life are his roommate Stradlater, his neighbor Ackley, a friend from home Sally, and a pimp and a prostitute he meets while staying in New York. In each case, the antagonists choose to ignore the realities of life by distracting themselves with sex, money or theater. Holden faults each character for being a phony, and considers his dead brother Allie, and his younger sister Phoebe as two of the only real people he has ever met. Holden has been affected by the war and its aftermath and maintains a child-like opinion of the world. In fact, he states, “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”[1] Holden is alienated from those who are his age, or close because of his own inability to grow up. The various encounters Holden ha leave him more alienated than before. In the case of Sally, Holden contacts her and makes a date only to alienate himself from her by saying:  “You give me a royal pain in the ass…”[2] Holden is completely unable to maintain friendships and continues to draw further and further away from the world.

As Holden is unable to maintain friendships with anyone he meets, he is also a contradiction. At the beginning of the book he states, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies.”[3] And yet he goes to see a movie at Radio City after his date with Sally. He goes into the bar at his hotel and has a low opinion of everything about it from where they seat him, to the band, to the patrons.[4] Holden constantly belittles people, places and things only to turn around and immerse himself in them. This further alienates him from the world and people around him as they view him as an immature person.[5] His sense of superiority, which results in his alienation, prevents Holden from having any meaningful relationships with anyone aside from his sister and dead brother Allie.

Holden is so disillusioned with the world around him that the only thing he can think to do is protect those who he views as innocent. Holden’s depression is lifted whenever he is around kids. The first instance the reader sees this is in the streets of New York. On his way to find a record store open on Sundays, Holden follows a family of three. The parents are on the sidewalk and immediately gain the disapproval of Holden when he says, “They looked sort of poor, which implies that Holden views the family, at least the parents, as beneath him. The child, however, entertains Holden as he is walking behind the family. The child is in the street singing, “‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’” The child and song make Holden, “feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.”[6] Holden is not alienated from children the way he is from those closer in age to him because he is able to find a truth in children that doesn’t exist for him in his contemporaries.

Holden’s alienation goes even further, to a desire to remove himself completely from society. At first, Holden pleads with Sally to, “drive up to Massachusetts or Vermont….We’ll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till the dough runs out…I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all….I could chop wood in the wintertime and all.”[7] His feeling of superiority has alienated him not only from any meaningful relationships but also a desire to quit society almost all together. Later on he says, “Everybody’d think I was just a poor deaf-mute bastard and they’d leave me alone. They’d let me put gas and oil in their stupid cars, and they’d pay me a salary and all for it, and I’d build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there the rest of my life.”[8] Both times, Holden suggests leaving society to live away from a world he doesn’t fully believe he belongs to.

Holden’s alienation also drives him to attempt to save those he believes he cares most about. In his first desire to leave society, he invites Sally to go with him only to alienate himself from her when she refuses to go with him. Holden also feels a need to assist a roommate at a previous school before he ultimately rejects him. His roommate Dick Slagle is poorer than Holden and doesn’t have as fancy of luggage as he has. As Holden describes the situation: “The thing is, it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs…”[9] But he goes on to clarify, “You think if they’re intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don’t give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.”[10] Holden both creates his own alienation, as in the case of Sally, and is a victim of society’s mandated alienation as was the case with the former roommate. Yet in both cases, Holden attempts to save that person from the phony world as Holden perceives it.

Finally, Holden’s struggle not to care about what others think or do and his desire to save people from their phoniness comes to a head. His sister Phoebe questions whether or not Holden actually likes anything, or if he simply hates everything.[11] As he avoids Phoebe’s questions, she finally prompts him, “All right, name something else. Name something you’d like to be.”[12] And it is here that Holden admits to his desire to protect children and to allow them to maintain their innocence when he tells Phoebe, “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”[13] Holden’s alienation from friends closer in age; his hatred of cars and movies all stem from his own desire to return and protect the innocence of childhood.

Yet, it takes Holden until he has nearly broken down psychologically that he realizes he can’t protect everyone from everything. While on the way to  deliver a note to Phoebe at her school, Holden notices writing on the walls outside the school. He desires to protect the innocence of the children from the writing  and dreams of killing the person responsible for writing obscenities on the school’s walls. The second time he finds the obscenities, however, he realizes that it has been craved into the wall.[14] It is at this point that Holden comes to the realization, “If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘Fuck you’ signs in the world. It’s impossible.”[15] He finally realizes that things won’t return to how they were when he was a child and life was simpler. Holden recognizes that the world is full of things he hates and wants to protect others from but it is a fool’s mission to try to protect the world from all the bad.

The story of Holden Caulfield could be analogous to the story of the United States after World War II. Like Holden, the United States was alienated from the rest of the world, including our allies. As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States had a responsibility not shared by her allies. Both the Soviet Union and the allies of the United States differed from the U.S.and did not seem to share many beliefs held by America. The United States, as well as Holden, had to come to grips with the reality of the world. Holden was never going to achieve living in a world where people were to be exactly as he wanted to be more ready to believe exactly what he believed. Holden is defined by his alienation from the world and weather he is finally able to reconcile himself with both the world and people around him.

[1] Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye(Boston: Little Brown and Company 1951) page 122.

[2] Ibid. 133

[3] Ibid. 2

[4] “they gave me a lousy table anyways…”, “The band was putrid”, “show-offy-looking guys with their dates.” Ibid. 69

[5] “Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?” Ibid, 144

[6] Ibid. 115

[7] Ibid. 132

[8] Ibid. 199

[9] Ibid. 109

[10] Ibid.

[11] “You don’t like anything that’s happening.” Ibid. 169

[12] Ibid. 172

[13] Ibid. 173

[14] “I saw something that drove me crazy…”, “I went down by a different staircase….” Ibid. 201, 202

[15] Ibid.



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