Categories: Anything and Everything
Masculinity and Male Friendships in Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’
I feel secure in guaranteeing that amongst the ‘Tarantinos’ and the ‘Finchers’ one name that shall continuously arise is that of Edgar Wright, English director, producer, screenwriter, national treasure. He is perhaps best known for his series of films ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’, linked not chronologically, but by a similar central idea: parodying a particular genre of film, often by taking them to their logical extreme, or by subversion of tropes. What I find to be interesting about these films is not only the masterful use of editing, the fast paced dialogue or the complete insanity present; the way in which relationships are portrayed, in regards to gender, consistently differs to those that often appear in Western media.
In this article I wish to focus particularly on the recurrent dynamic existing between Simon Pegg’s and Nick Frost’s characters and how this exists within the perceptions of the people that surround them.
Shawn of the Dead, from its opening scene, is instantly definitive of the trilogy’s direction as a whole. It takes place in a pub that has seen better days, copious amounts of beer appears to have been consumed, men act like children to the extent of alienating their peers. Isolated from the genres they are pastiches of, at the heart of the trilogy is a celebration of male friendship- sometimes worryingly co-dependant, but always heartfelt. Shaun’s girlfriend, Liz, and his best friend, Ed, are at once presented with parallels; blatant to their codependence being a point of contention that ultimately leads to the couple’s demise. Perhaps this is indicative of Shaun’s unwillingness to mature, to grow into an adult relationship of a romantic nature from the juvenile friendships that have already been firmly established. This idea of the man child is prevalent throughout the trilogy, with each of the protagonists, in many ways, being forced to learn to adapt for others in their lives. Each film, to varying degrees of immediacy, follow a breakup of the protagonists long term relationship, each woman feeling that Shaun fails to place the needed effort into the relationship. Yet, counter to Liz’s request, this end is not necessarily achieved through the traditional confines of heteronormative relationships- despite following general beats of the genres they parody, the happy ending isn’t found in a closing kiss before the sunset. No, Pegg’s character grows through his relationships with other men, which in themselves are presented as valuable.
‘Hot Fuzz’ is perhaps the pinnacle, in many respects, of the qualities that make Wright so brilliant, so distinctive. From its outset, the film is entrenched in machismo, with the Buddy Cop movie being a modern exemplar of such. In taking a satirical approach to the genre, the film allows itself a deeper examination into what loyalty is, with a friendship beginning with absolute distain from one side, and an extreme case of hero worship on the other- perhaps not the healthiest of roots. Yet with surprising conviction the protagonists become endearingly more dependant and trusting of the other, to the point of an ‘us versus the world’ (or at least this particularly South Western village). The shared arc between the two male protagonists is essentially that of a love story- a fact acknowledged by its creators in the scrapping of a potential female love interest upon the realisation that any further romantic interest of Nick’s was to be superfluous to his development. Between the domesticity of buying of house plants to the classic-bro moment of drunkenly opening up emotionally whilst watching Point Break there is something to be said about… something.
Ultimately, it was the eager watching of ‘The World’s End’ upon its addition to Netflix that cemented my need to write such a piece of raving about the merits of the trilogy as a whole. Though commonly seen as the weak-point in this series, there is a Doctor Who-esque Saturday night tackiness that appeals to something intrinsic in me. This is far more of a group piece than any of the other films, with the reunion of a teenage group- long since friends, each forced to reconcile their difference under the most unlikely of circumstances. Aside from the fantastical sci-fi elements, at its core its an examination of friendships and how they shape the person you become, of reconciling with the passage of time and with each other.
With any dialogue centred around the dynamics of male relationships, however carefully portrayed they will be, I think its important to ensure that the women- that would otherwise likely exist relegated to fodder for the protagonist to obtain at the peak of act 4- are not thrown under the bus. This is avoided: without being confined to the inevitability of objects on which to project romance, female characters are given room to breathe and be human- flaws and all.
In Hot Fuzz, Doris is the product of a comedically misogynistic small town culture, only too happy to lean into her token femininity to distinguish herself, yet equally as (in)competent as her peers.
Angel’s ex made the choice to split from him- a career woman herself, who is still shown as being capable of valuing the emotional, and placing importance on her own needs. Its borderline ridiculous that such ‘ordinary’ things stand out as worthy of recognition- but truly, as a girl the refreshment I receive from not feeling uncomfortable for the during of three entire male-centric comedies is invaluable. Equally refreshing is any allowance of the aforementioned character growth developing from men’s relationships with other men, in any capacity, that are ultimately the
During my routine loitering on Letterboxd (during any times where doing any other task is of actual importance) I saw perhaps the most poignant summarisation of what this entire post is trying to get to the heart of (in far better terms than I could ever wish to achieve), left by the user neveconnoly in their review of The World’s End’ “the cornetto trilogy is like those weird fanfictions where like their romance transcends everything and in every lifetime they fall in love no matter the circumstances”, and truly, isn’t that wonderful?
Flora is a seventeen year old connoisseur of peanut butter and ugly clothes from the south coast of England. She has strong conviction in the belief that the more excessively over-the-top and gaudy any given piece of media, the better, and possesses a calling to inflict this viewpoint upon the world. In her free time she may be found watching anything designed to appeal to twelve year old boys, napping or watching Moulin Rouge for the third time that week. She sometimes writes, but not enough, at prettylittlethingstodo.blogspot.com, and can be found on twitter and letterboxd for further, bonus-content, ravings.