In answer to claims that his movies are sexist, Apatow says,
I think, really, what a lot of these issues are is that women are romanticized in movies. [My] movies go pretty hard at having women have as many problems as men. They make mistakes that are as big as men's. So when someone says Knocked Up seems sexist, I'm like, ‘Really?' I mean, Seth [Rogen] has an earthquake, and he grabs his bong before his pregnant girlfriend. That's pretty bad. But I try to weigh it evenly so it's not really about men or women; it's just about miscommunications and us at our worst. Because people at their best I don't really want to watch in entertainment. I don't really want to watch mature people or smart people or people who do the right thing. I like to meet them in life, but I don't find them entertaining. And certainly not funny. So I feel like the worse people are, the more amusing [it is] and the more I root for them to figure their shit out.
Of course, no one has said that the men in Apatow's movies are model citizens. In fact, a major criticism of Knocked Up was that Heigl's character was actually too good for Rogen's immature stoner, and that her decision to stay with him was unrealistic. Apatow sees these criticisms as not just wrong, but anti-Semitic. He says,
Isn't that the code? 'Shiksa goddess shouldn't be near the Jews?' Diane Keaton was pretty cute. How did Woody Allen get her? I have my own shiksa goddess.
Whether or not Knocked Up's critics are anti-Semitic (some of them may well be simply looksist), Apatow has a lot to say about Rogen's charisma:
He's gruff. He's kind of a character; he has this vicious sense of humor, but he's also very sweet. And you root for him, because as tough as he is, you kind of know his life is probably tricky. He's a really great underdog guy with a big heart who will always try to do the right thing.
He's my De Niro, basically. Scorsese's a little man, and he's got tough De Niro to play Scorsese onscreen. I have Seth Rogen.
This statement, along with the information that a key scene from Knocked Up was lifted directly from Apatow's life, may shed more light on his philosophy than anything he says about sexism. His movies aren't really about bad people — they're about bumbling people, who are sort of trying to do the right thing even as they wonder what the right thing is and why they should care. And more specifically, at least in the case of Knocked Up, bumbling men. The men manage to win the affection of non-bumbling, together women, because they're funny, and because at heart they are basically nice. Apatow may see himself as one of these semi-hapless dudes, and if so, his movies must be pretty comforting for him — they show that immature guys can pretty much be themselves, and women will still love them.
It's not the worst message in the world, it feels pretty true-to-life, and it doesn't make Apatow a sexist. All his movies are really guilty of is reinforcing the kind of annoying idea that women are more grown-up than men — or that they have to be. And while he says his films "go pretty hard at having women have as many problems as men," it would still be nice to see his women get to have some "male" problems for once — like whether to save the boyfriend or the bong.
'Some People Hate My F***ing Guts': Judd Apatow Talks Sexism and More in NYC [Movieline]
'He's My De Niro': Judd Apatow on the Gruff, Underdog Virtues of Seth Rogen [Movieline]
Judd Apatow, Live In NYC, Talking Sexism, Masturbation, And The Commercial Prospects Of Funny People [NY Mag]