So my husband is watching this movie with Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda, and OK, I get sucked in: It’s a period piece titled Shag (1989), co-written by SNL’s Terry Sweeney, so one’s expectations are extra-low.
It’s actually a cute movie so far, although I might have to write later about the rapeyness, but I want to point something out. The girl in the video with the sleeveless high-necked top and the yellow clamdiggers? She’s the fat girl. Her character name is actually Pudge.
That embarrassing tub of lard is Annabeth Gish. She’s not even 1980s movie fat. WTF, Zelda Barron.
In light of Jody‘s post about the terror-inducing level of sexual menace and violation in the light-hearted romp Revenge of the Nerds (1984), I wanted to present an even funnier movie that managed to be balls-out without being quite so rapey: Animal House.
Yes, National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), that paean to the frat house, manages to slip in some subtle messages about how not to rape people amid the moral turpitude. This is the scene that has been playing in my head since the Steubenville trial. (Warning: lots of cussing and some boobies.)
Even blindingly drunk, Pinto (Tom Hulce) realizes that if Clorette (Sarah Holcomb), the beautiful, topless girl in his bed, is incapable of speaking, she has not consented to sex. In his battle of conscience, he chooses to do as near to the right thing he can manage, which is to wheel her home unmolested in a grocery cart and leave her at her front door — even ringing the doorbell to make sure she gets inside. His reward is a more rewarding, sober experience later. Sure, it’s still rapey because the girl’s character is only 13, but an 18-year-old having agreed-upon intercourse with a 13-year-old (especially because he didn’t know her age until afterward) is much less heinous than having intercourse with a passed-out girl of the same age.
Shindancer pointed out another excellent example of sexual justice in Animal House. Bluto (John Belushi) sees Mandy (Mary Louise Weller) come home from a date and decides to try to catch her undressing. He gets a ladder and does manage to see some topless pillow-fighting and the object of his obsession taking off her bra. However, before she really goes for the gold, the ladder fails Bluto and brings him crashing to earth. (Again, lots of boobies.)
Again, the message is undercut by the “what happened to” reveal that Bluto and Mandy get married later on, but in the rapey, violent world of college comedy, I’ll take whatever positives I can get. Maybe if Bluto had violated Mandy’s privacy by watching her masturbate, he wouldn’t have gotten the girl at the end. Unlike that horrible creep in Revenge.
Flashdance (1983), a Slumber Party Movies favorite, is a complex movie to contemplate. When I watched it as a child, all I saw was the dancing (and the ice skating), but it seems a lot creepier now. And I figured out why: Joe Eszterhas wrote it.
It’s pretty obvious that Eszterhas hates women. His filmography includes lady-lawyer-in-distress dramas Jagged Edge (1985) and Music Box (1989), lady-FBI-agent-in-distress lemon Betrayed (1988), widow-in-distress misfire Nowhere to Run (1993), fictional snuff porn Sliver (1993), hooker murder porn Jade (1995), and the truly execrable Basic Instinct (1992). But his greatest achievement in misogyny is Showgirls (1995).
Dancing tastes like Windex and herpes.
Watching Flashdance again after seeing Showgirls was a revelation for me, and not a happy one. Some of the parallels:
- The Dancer: Ingenue who is not as innocent as she seems. Flashdance‘s Alex is a girl without a family who holds down two jobs, only one of which involves lingerie. Showgirls‘ Nomi is a girl without a family who holds down two jobs, both of which involve lingerie (for the first few moments, anyway). Lady loners making their way in a man’s world, nipples akimbo.
It’s lonely on the stage.
- The Boss: Both films feature a creepy boss who fucks The Dancer. Flashdance‘s Nick owns the steel mill where Alex does not take off her clothes, so he pressures her into taking off her clothes after work instead. Showgirls‘ Zach is a lying pimp who owns nothing but terrible clothes and deluded whores, but at least he buys Nomi flowers that one time, right?
- The Best Friend: In Flashdance/Showgirls, the poor innocent-ish Best Friend gets sexually assaulted. In only one of these movies, however, does the Best Friend get hospitalized as a result. Guess which one.
It does not pay to be nice to Nomi.
- The Rival Boss: In Flashdance, the owner of a sleazier strip club (where the girls actually strip instead of just dancing in their underwear) tries to recruit Alex, but she resists. In Showgirls, Nomi actually works for the Rival Boss first, essentially hooking in the VIP room until she lands the coveted (topless) chorus line slot at the casino.
Rival Boss from Flashdance gets grabby.
What’s distressing to me is how far The Dancer fell between 1983 and 1995. While the outline is the same for both movies, everything has been degraded or escalated: Instead of aspiring to be a ballet dancer, Nomi aspires to be a topless showgirl; the scummy job descends from dancing in lingerie to lap dancing; the Best Friend goes from being groped to being violently raped. Little wonder that at the end of Showgirls, The Dancer’s victory is not holding her own at a ballet audition and learning to accept favors, but beating a rapist unconscious and getting revenge on a suitcase thief.
She will cut you.
Maybe Showgirls is a sequel to Flashdance, and Alex turned into a hooker after not getting into the ballet company. Maybe the world is that terrible. Maybe everyone has to eat dog food now and again. I can live with that. I totally love Dog Chow.
Surely there cannot be a movie starring Cindy Williams. No, really, there was — and stop calling her Shirley. My sister and I had this on VHS; it’s a charmer called Spaceship (1982), and it’s so eternal that I can only find it on IMDB under its alternative title, The Creature Wasn’t Nice.
If you can find it, I do recommend watching it. It’s not conventionally good, but there are some great shlocko lines and truly amateur writing. Also, Leslie Nielsen plays the captain, so there’s that.
Does R. Kelly’s epic “Trapped in the Closet” series count as a slumber party movie? I think it does, when IFC runs them all in a row. So I’ll share my Storified live tweet:
Trapped, Part 3: The live tweetfest · Storify.
My favorite character is Pimp Lucius, for reasons both outlined in the Storify and demonstrated in this video.
Somebody grab Lucille and turn her ass around, would you?
In a lovely case of life imitating art, the guy who plays the creepy boss in Flashdance turns out to be a scumbag. Allegedly.
He doesn’t look creepy at all.
Oh dear. One of my very favorite comic actors, Alex Karras, is on the roof and is not coming down. His family has been losing him bit by bit, but it seems the poor guy is, as one friend of his said, “in transition.”
Karras is probably best known as the dad from Webster, or maybe Mongo in Blazing Saddles, but to me, he’ll always be the closeted, then freed, bodyguard from Victor Victoria. God, how I love Victor Victoria.
As “Squash” Bernstein said to King Marchand:
Good night, sweet prince.
Animated GIF scrounged from Strange how you know inside me.
I’m going to sleep with truck drivers and get crabs.
Holy cow, the 1980s were rad. Witness parody movies like Student Bodies and Pandemonium. No, really, witness it.
Edit, Oct. 9: Embedded video.
Good morning, and happy Monday! May your job be not quite as horrible as Dolly’s. There’s a better life – you read about, don’t you?
I just watched Scream 3 for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised by how weird it was. Funny, not so much. It made me nostalgic for the days when shitty parody movies seemed brand new.
The innocent ’80s, my salad days. When The Movie Channel would play stuff like Student Bodies a bazillion times a day. And now, thanks to the obsessive nerds of the internet, I can once again watch this gem any time I want.
Posted in Detritus, Horror