In the fallout of Elliot Rodger's killing spree in California on May 24, one writer has accused films like Neighbors of somehow contirbuting to the student's malaise.
Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday writes: "How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like Neighbors and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of 'sex and fun and pleasure'? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, 'It’s not fair'”?
The movie's male lead Seth Rogen tweeted back: "I find your article horribly insulting and misinformed. How dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a rampage?" Apatow, who has nothing to do with Neighbors but did direct and write Rogen's breakout film Knocked Up, added: "She uses tragedy to promote herself with idiotic thoughts. Why is it always everything but mental illness? Because that doesn't sell papers."
In Neighbors, Rogen plays a young husband with a child (Rose Byrne is his wife) who gets into a full-scale battle with the frat that moves in next door. Yes, the frat is home to typical outrageous partying, the likes of which Rodger despised, simply because he wasn't invited to be a part of it. He dreamed of that life, to be hanging out with sexy blondes, perhaps one on each arm. But Rodger's problems were much deeper than his alienation from the life he couldn't have.
Rodger most likely would've hated Neighbors. It portrays either the apex or nadir of college life, depending on your perspective. On the other hand, he might have related to Rogen and Byrne's struggle to maintain a semblance of order on their block of well-manicured homes. If he couldn't join the club, he probably would've wanted to destroy it.
This is based on reading Rodger's disturbing manifesto in which he blamed all of his problems on women who wouldn't date him or have sex with him, and the guys he called "brutes," who so easily won their loyalty in his twisted imagination. When Rodger moved to Isla Vista to attend Santa Barbara Community College 2011 he was thrown into the cauldron of college existence. Rodger disliked virtually every minute of it. He never even considered joining a frat, which may actually have helped him assimilate. He saw himself as inferior and too small in stature to compete with the bigger, jockish bros. Neighbors does represent this, with Zac Efron's sculpted bare chest the symbol of that form of domination. But, in the end, when Rogen and Byrne take Delta Sci Beta down, the frat boys, especially Efron, are exposed for what they really are: superficial brats who'll move onto their next station in life without learning much during their four years of ridiculous excess.
We'll never know what Rodger thought of Neighbors. My guess is he would've wondered why an "ugly" guy like Rogen could have such a pretty wife while he, Rodger, suffered from colossal loneliness. He constantly said in his videos how "unfair" this all was to him. Rodger failed at school and in life, so he took it out on those he was most jealous of - his roommates and neighbors.