The Bizarre And Cruel Joke Inside “Tag”

Warning: This piece features major spoilers about the movie Tag

I don’t think my jaw literally hit the floor when I screened Tag, but it may as well have. This is an intentionally silly comedy, so when a particular subject is used as a comic plot point, it comes out of left field. A percentage of viewers will be left flabbergasted by what the picture thinks is funny.

Let’s back up. The movie is about five friends — played by Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, and Jeremy Renner — who have been playing the same game of Tag since they were kids. Renner’s character, Jerry, has never been tagged. The other guys are determined to get him this year. He’s even more determined to avoid it.

In the film’s third act, it appears that Jerry is finally going to be “It.” His pals ambush him at an AA meeting. He barricades himself in the kitchen of the church where the meeting is being held. That leads to a standoff, with the others waiting for him to emerge, which he must if he’s going to get to his wedding on time.

Then Jerry’s pregnant fiancee, Susan (Leslie Bibb), shows up. Discovering that this tomfoolery is potentially going to delay the wedding, she starts screaming at everyone. Then Susan doubles over in pain, saying that it feels as though something is wrong with the baby. The guys call a truce, and Jerry emerges, rushing his bride-to-be off to the hospital. We are soon told that she has suffered a miscarriage.

Here’s where it gets kind of sick. It turns out that Susan did not have a miscarriage, and was never pregnant to begin with. The whole thing was a ruse to prevent Jerry from being tagged if he got backed against a wall.

There were a million ways the screenwriters of Tag could have gotten Jerry out of that situation and revealed the twist that Susan was trying to help him win. Why did they choose to mine laughs from the subject of miscarriage? Imagine being part of a couple, especially a woman, who has gone through such a thing. You sit there watching what you think is a lightweight comedy, when suddenly it’s bringing up something painful and tragic that you have endured — and milking it for laughs, no less

Anyone who has experienced a miscarriage knows that it’s no laughing matter. There is a lot of hope that accompanies pregnancy — believing that your dream of becoming a parent is going to come true, waiting with anticipation to meet the child you will love and nurture, and so on. When something happens to end that pregnancy, it’s nothing short of devastating. Your dream comes crashing down. My wife and I went through it in 2007. I won’t go into the specifics, but we literally spent the next three days sitting on the couch, holding each other, and numbly staring at the walls.

This is not a matter of political correctness, or trigger warnings, or over-sensitivity. I have long been an advocate for edgy humor, and I believe almost any subject can be played for comedy, depending on how it is used. Tag misuses miscarriage. To pull it off, the film would have needed to make Susan the real joke, suggesting her to be such a terrible human being that faking a miscarriage is how low she would stoop. Instead, the joke is that she and Jerry use a miscarriage to avoid having him get tagged in a dumb game.

One can only conclude that the laziest of screenwriting is responsible. Tag seems to think the joke is clever. In reality, it’s a cruel, totally unnecessary sucker punch for anyone who has known a loss of this sort.