From the Archives: Freddy Got Fingered at 20 remains a sloppy slap in the face of good taste

From the Archives: Freddy Got Fingered at 20 remains a sloppy slap in the face of good taste

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on MovieJawn.

I was just seventeen when Freddy Got Fingered was released, and there were few people more excited than I to consume the directorial debut of one of my absolute favorite performers. I’d been tuning into Tom Green’s antics for a few years at that point, and had become such a hardcore fan that I had declared Green to be “the future of comedy.” As a burgeoning comic myself, I thought that in my wizened old age, I had more than enough material to reference in making such a bold claim. I was, to a degree, ultimately correct, albeit for different reasons than I had forcefully believed. The Tom Green Show functionally whet the appetite for anarchic prank shows, kicking the door wide open for Jackass, which remains a huge cultural touchstone—a fourth entry in the film series is due out later this year.

“Tom Green is The Beatles of on-the-street comedy” I crowed, powerfully fifteen. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have taken it back a generation and instead cited Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley, but once again: fifteen. Or maybe I could’ve called him a magic-less David Blaine. I had certainly tried my hand at magic enough times to say such a thing (most comics had). But looking back from the present day, I’d say he was more of a proto-Billy On the Street. I intend this as a compliment to both performers.

One Christmas I was gifted a DVD copy of Endangered Feces, a collection of earlier material from Green’s time on Canadian television. On the cover is Green making a silly face with a real cow tongue hanging out of his mouth. My mom said “I looked at this and asked myself if this is really something a mother should buy her her son.”

I responded, “Well, it’s something you should definitely buy for your son,” as if my amateurishly sordid tastes were a badge of honor.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a little bit of that anarchist spirit in me today. If you say something is offensive, tasteless or—sigh—problematic, there’s a very real chance I’m going to hunt it down and consume it like the nectar of the gods. This has led me to mixed results in terms of entertainment, but when the forbidden meal is indeed good, it’s fantastic.


Freddy Got Fingered, for all its general cinematic sloppiness, is beyond fantastic. And watching it from my perspective as a man in his late thirties has only made it that much funnier. At 17, Tom Green was a grown up to me. But now at 36, he’s considerably younger than I am. Watching a man-child fuck with his parents incessantly is hilarious to a youngin, but watching him do it as an adult really drives home how frustrated his parents, both in this movie and in real life, must have been in dealing with his antics. As a youth, I thought his shtick was brilliant. As an adult, I see it as pure anarchy.

This is a good thing. I’m a pretty big John Waters fan, and the stated goal of his earlier work was precisely that: anarchy. And while the aggro-absurdist heights reached by the likes of Desperate Living have likely never been duplicated, Freddy Got Fingered comes respectably close.

In it, Green plays Gord Brody, a wannabe animator who is leaving home for the first time so he can pitch his bizarre cartoon drawings as a TV show. To pay the bills he has taken a job at a cheese sandwich factory where, you guessed it, cheese sandwiches are prepared on an assembly line. His mother (Julie Hagerty – absolute legend) is sad to see him go, but his father (an utterly unhinged Rip Torn—also legend) couldn’t be happier. The couple buys Gord a Chrysler Le Baron as a parting gift, much to the dismay of his straight-laced brother (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who takes particular umbrage with the license plate which reads “#1 SON.”

Right off the bat, things don’t make sense. Dad heartily celebrates the moment when Gord drives off, as he’s happy to be rid of a child who is surely a drain on his life. But in a clumsy insert shot a few moments later, he indicates that he’s very proud of Gord. It doesn’t make sense. Neither does the fact that Gord, who lives with his family, skateboards through a mall in order to meet them at the bus station before driving off on his quest for career fulfillment. You’d think he’d just ride with them…but that would make sense, and this is supposed to be nonsensical. Or maybe it’s just sloppy. The point could be to subtly prime the audience for a journey through absolute insanity. Or maybe Green and co-writer Derek Harvie decided that it was the only way to get a skateboarding scene into the movie while also avoiding the logistics of getting the surprise Le Baron to the bus station without Gord knowing about it. Whatever. Nobody is here for plot.

Right off the bat, Freddy Got Fingered makes it powerfully clear that logic should not be applied to any one moment. There’s no consistency at all, but that’s the overall point. Is there any good reason why Gord feels the need to singlehandedly deliver a baby while visiting a friend at the hospital? Is there any good reason for him to a swing the newborn over his head by the umbilical cord (which he severed through biting)? Or for two nearby hospital patients to produce tambourines and perform a ritualistic chant while this all occurs and everyone gets splattered with blood? Why is there a booming cheese sandwich industry in the periphery of the plot? And really, why would a Gord feel compelled to lick the bone protruding from his best friend’s broken leg after a horrific skating accident?

Probably for the same reason he almost crashes his car upon sight of a stud horse being inseminated (a horse which he proceeds to furiously jack off): because it’s a wholly illogical affront on taste, in which the real punchline is the uptight viewer. A lot of those types these days, unfortunately, only the empty refrain in the face of crass humor has changed from “we need to protect the children” to “the existence of this material is literal violence.” Maybe it’s time for Freddy Got Fingered Again.

But under the film’s tasteless exterior, complete with blood, guts, foul language, and a woman in a wheelchair who gets off on having her non-functioning legs beaten with a stick, is an uncommonly compelling story about family and creative passion.


Freddy Got Fingered flirts a “follow your dreams” or “live passionately and success will come” narrative, and seems to do so in earnest, but in classic Tom Green fashion, it does so in a way that’s loud, goopy, and purposefully cryptic because “fuck you, square.”

There’s an ego here that is both an asset and a hinderance to the film. Naturally, Green wants to show off his skateboarding skills, and pretty much consume every scene he’s in, oftentimes stepping on the other performers (except Torn, who is perhaps the only noun that appears on screen which can upstage Green), but the ego that brought Green his career only goes so far. Granted, the job was to make a “Tom Green movie,” which requires one essential ingredient. And really, if a bit of artistic hubris brings us Rip Torn getting bowled over by gallons of elephant semen, who am I to complain? One imagines that, much like Gord and his doodles, Green was regularly told that he’d never “make it” by shooting videos of him torturing his parents, but goddamnit, he pulled it off, and he did so on his own terms. The way that history is kind to cocky anti-authority types is that no matter how crass or tasteless they are, we end up looking back and thinking that they were right about a few things. But with Freddy Got Fingered, Green doesn’t appear to be expressly saying anything. But maybe that’s precisely the thing being said. Maybe the whole idea behind this wild film is that Green just gets to be weird and have fun for no other reason than that he somehow, through the powerful combination of willpower and the confusing forces of Hollywood, was given license to do so.

Another aspect to Freddy Got Fingered that rose to the surface this time around is the father/son relationship. Any fan of The Tom Green Show knows that Green’s dad, who looks exactly like Saddam Hussein, was the butt of just about every joke. And every prank pointed at Daddy Green ALWAYS crossed the line. That was the point, of course, but it’s a wonder that Daddy Green never beat the life out of his child. The pranks were hilarious, but in hindsight they were almost always extremely cruel.

Freddy Got Fingered, if I’m to give it any sort of thematic credit at all, seems to be Tom Green, in the way only he knows how, recognizing that he put his father through the wringer and managed to build a career off of it. He also seems to be expressing that he often felt his father was being willfully unreasonable (Papa Brody, our Mr. Green analogue, quite literally throws Gord through a glass shower door like it’s nothing — perhaps aggressively suggesting that the Green family patriarch may have had quite the temper), while also pointing out that well, who could blame him? It’s a pretty mature statement from Tom Green to admit that he was a problem while also pointing out a potential source for his rebelliousness, but I’m not sure if I should give a movie like this one that much credit. Ya know, anarchy and all.

Yet I can see so many parallels between the miscommunication that Gord had with his father, and the occasionally tense relationship I had with my father as a teen. Granted, my dad was a pretty good one, but our interests and values often differ (you’ll never get that man to dance, but you’ll have to fight me if you want me to stop). I imagine that for a lot of young creatives with boomer parents, their teenage years were similar, and many could see themselves reflected in Gord in a funhouse mirror sort of way.

And if I could give the film even more generous credit—and at this point, why not?—the side story about a little boy with a pristine, loving connection to his father, but who keeps getting maimed horribly nonetheless, suggests that Green wouldn’t trade any of the adolescent turbulence he experienced for a different outcome, and he hopes his father would feel the same way.

Or maybe he just thought it was funny for a young child to be shredded to bits by a airplane propeller. Who knows?

And honestly, who cares?

Now, on the 20th anniversary of the film, the lasting value of Freddy Got Fingered is probably not the thematic richness I’ve proposed up above. It’s probably not the fact that Green straight up lied about what the title meant in interviews (he suggested that “fingered” was used in the accusatory sense, not the penetrative). It’s definitely not the filmmaking, which is often aggressively sloppy. The value of Freddy Got Fingered is that against all business logic, against any conceivable social more, and against hordes of criticism stating that a film like this is beyond the pale, it exists all the same. And in another twenty years, it’ll be just as powerful in its ability to say “fuck you, that’s why.”

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