Sex & Masturbation, Paul Feig Edition

Attention, geeks of the world! Worried about how you can’t get girls, how you’re so hopelessly embarrassing when it comes to the opposite sex? Well, Paul Feig is here to tell you that he’s been there, and he had it worse: he had to deal with women in the eighties.

Paul Feig’s memoir Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin, chronicles his adolescent years chasing girls. The book starts off with him waving his geek credentials, earnestly saying that despite it all, he’s always wanted to fall in love, and he knew the exact moment he desperately wanted true romance:

There’s just always been something about trying to find those perfect moments in life, the ones where you feel loved and needed and fulfilled, that has driven me to do so many embarrassing things over the years. They didn’t seem embarrassing at the time but, once looked back upon, they cause me to cringe in the same way I cringe when I think about the time I wore a powder blue disco jumpsuit to high school with the mistaken impression that it would actually make me look cool.

The image of the powder blue disco jumpsuit will be familiar to anyone who is a fan of “Freaks and Geeks”, the cult show that Feig created in 1999. Viewers will discover that storylines from the show received their genesis from Feig’s real life; both mix sweet, funny embarrassing humor and pop culture references of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The first and funniest section is all about young Paul’s foray into masturbation, which had its start when he shimmied on ropes in gym class in second grade. Feig, who grew up a Christian Scientist, heard on a radio show when he was 12 that each masturbation session equaled a day off his life. This caused him great inner turmoil, where he went into a crazy tailspin trying not to do the act, which led him to talk to God as a way to negotiate his life. The discovery of girly mags further complicated his relationship with both sex and God.

His actual interactions with girls is amusing, as we go through various dates with various types, crushing expectations met with embarrassing behavior, interspersed with popular songs. This is a book that most definitely has a soundtrack, complete with make out scenes and dance montages. Throughout this we glimpse Feig’s “geekery”, his earnest love of theater, television, roller skating and Star Wars, seeds of what his career would become.

Feig doesn’t have great luck with girls, but he doesn’t have horrible luck, either. He discovers what he likes and what he doesn’t (really, really, really aggressive girls), suffers through drama and humiliations, and finds out that he is incapable of breaking up with girls. There are dry spells, but they are whipped through the chronology of his life, barely noted between film school and Los Angeles.

Superstud, while told chronologically, uses several different narrative devices as a way to inject humor and to switch up the story. A good section of the book is his journal entries from the ’80s copied verbatim with commentary and explanations, with footnotes added. The actual “chapter” where he loses his virginity is set up as a series of steps—dialogue, introductions, everything, and it works, as it both speeds up the story and serves as a sort of inevitable finale.

As much as Feig, who has directed episodes of “The Office” and “Arrested Development”, is invested in the idea that he is a bona-fide geek, he comes across more as a normal boy than any standard-issue super-awkward geeky geek. Although he points out at times that he gets overly enthusiastic about his many passions, his confusion and experiences don’t pit him as a weird, geeky kid. His passions, in fact, apart from his exploits with girls, rarely get much play here, unless they are needed for background. We know he’s a kid who loves Hollywood and comedy, but that only comes up when it is necessary for story, which only showcase that he is merely a normal, regular Midwestern kid. He is merely on the edge of geekdom.

He is aptly embarrassed by many of his actions, but he is self-deprecating most of the time, so much so that at times you just want to tell him it isn’t necessary and it’s drawing away from the story. He’s an affable guy, but he does try too hard at times, a theme that is noted in the book.

Much is made of the expectations that weigh heavily on him—from society, from Playboy, from his religious background, and how they do a great disservice. Playboy’s pictures are too artistic to be of any real help when an actual situation calls for it, and his conversations with God highlight how confused and frustrated he really is.

Feig does offer a prescriptive lesson at the end of the book, one that’s all too fitting: Just make sure you have sex with someone you love, and who loves you back. That message might be boring, but he doesn’t mind; in fact, it’s a point that is prevalent in many of his pal Judd Apatow’s works.

Readers might be tempted to pick up this book if they wanted a book version of a Judd Apatow comedy. His memoir loosely fits into the genre of “music & girls”, and as such, is an enjoyable and lighthearted romp through the adolescent boy’s mind.

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