- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

The premise of the new comedy “Knocked Up” is succinctly summarized on its poster: “What if this guy got you pregnant?”

Underneath that tag line is a huge photograph of the movie’s star, Seth Rogen.

He’s no Brad Pitt.

He’s not even an Adrien Brody.

His round face is topped with a mass of curly brown hair. He hasn’t shaved in about a week — a little too long for sexy stubble a la Hugh Laurie on “House.” From the looks of him, he’s spent that week in front of the TV eating potato chips. And he’s wearing the kind of rugby shirt you find on a high-schooler; perhaps he’s had it since then.

All in all, he looks like he works at your local video store — assuming he even has a job. Which, it turns out, he doesn’t.

Alison (played by “Grey’s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl) displays about that much enthusiasm for Ben (Mr. Rogen’s character) when she wakes up next to him one morning. The two drunkenly hooked up the night before. Alison was celebrating her promotion to on-air personality at E! — she’s an extremely attractive blond. She’s rather disgusted by the man-child she can’t remember sleeping with and soon blows him off.

She calls him a couple months later when she realizes she’s pregnant.

Alison decides to have the baby and get to know the father better. And, to everyone’s surprise, she starts to fall for him.

Some reviewers — including our own Christian Toto — don’t find this modern-day Beauty and the Beast story completely believable. Sure, Ben is a sweet guy and he admirably takes responsibility for his unborn baby. But Alison is Hollywood good-looking — couldn’t she do much better?

Perhaps it takes a female critic to point out that while “Knocked Up” may be fantasy for many men — minus the unplanned pregnancy — it’s reality for many women.

Take a story published last week in the Sun, a British tabloid, headlined, “We only date ugly men.” The paper found some beautiful women — one a glamour model — who shun fellow hotties, whom these ladies find “boring” and “ordinary,” in favor of men euphemistically called “interesting” looking.

“Ugly men try harder. They care more about you and treat you like a princess,” said one.

“I like a man who looks different — intriguing, with something to offer on the inside,” offered another.

The implication, of course, is that unattractive guys are nicer — they have to be.

But since the Sun is making declarations based on a few anecdotes, I’ll make one based on those same anecdotes: These relationships are likely as doomed as Julia Roberts’ marriage to Lyle Lovett.

Sure, women aren’t as visually oriented as men. The Sun trots out a “recent study” with the same conclusion as decades of polling: Only about a third of women said “looks were the first thing that attracted them to a man.” A sense of humor and financial and career success were more important.

But why are these women in love with men so far beneath them in the looks department?

One comment, from a 25-year-old girl dating a 63-year-old man, is telling.

“Before him, I dated men my own age. But they felt threatened by my creativity and the attention I attracted,” says Inesa, an artist. “Barrington doesn’t get jealous or insecure. In fact, he feels proud when I get chatted up.”

The simple fact is that unattractive men aren’t just less threatened — they’re less threatening.

It can be awfully comfortable to be in a relationship with someone who feels lucky to have you. You can get away with a lot more. But is that a foundation for a successful, long-term relationship?

In “Knocked Up,” Alison puts down Ben’s friends, criticizes his lack of ambition and makes it clear she doesn’t consider him much of a catch. But he keeps coming back for more.

I’m no Katherine Heigl, of course, but I’ve dated my share of men who were at least a few points below me on that 10-point scale of looks we all use. And I’m only a little ashamed to admit that the knowledge made me feel fairly secure, making me act not quite as nicely as I might have otherwise. If men still mostly have the financial and workplace power, why shouldn’t women allow themselves to enjoy power in the one sphere they’ll always rule, the sexual realm?

I date someone whose Tom Cruise-like smile makes me melt, and I’m the Ben, letting him practically get away with murder just so I can have the benefit of something nice to look at every day.

While “Knocked Up” offers a mostly happily ever after, I wonder how long that happy ending will last. More realistic is the episode of “Sex in the City” in which the gorgeous brunette Charlotte, unhappy her bald boyfriend Harry hasn’t proposed, lets out a torrent of resentment: “You’re lucky to have me,” she concludes.

That’s what you get with a marriage of unequals.

At the end of the series, Charlotte is happily married, but I wonder what would happen once she got attention from someone as handsome as her first husband, played by Kyle McLachlan.

Will Alison fend off the actors she interviews to come home faithful to Ben?

Still, it makes for a clever film premise. We never tire of Beauty and the Beast stories. Just this week a blogger named Jay Louis got a contract from Simon & Schuster for his upcoming book, “Hot Chicks With Douchebags,” based on his Web site of the same name. Whether it’s because they’re fantasizing or trying to understand the phenomenon, it seems people will pay to see pictures of hot women with ugly men.

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