My Clue Remake Dream Cast: 21st Century-Style

Life can be a dream, yes? The song says so! And in dreams, they remake Clue–not as a duplicate of the first movie (as if that’s possible) but as a wonderful, 21st-Century vision of Mr. Boddy’s mansion on a hill.

SPM Rules for Casting Clue

  1. Funny: If you’re not funny, why are you here? Leave through the front door and step in some dogshit on the way out.
  2. Mature: We need mature actors with whom we can trust our favorite movie ever. It’s true the spirit of the original and is a welcome difference from the young-and-pretties.
  3. True to the character: That’s a purposeful word choice: I’m not suggesting we stay true to the actor’s portrayal; just that we stay true to the character on the page. With some minor exceptions, of course.

In my dream cast of Clue, the script stays virtually the same, with the only differences being adjusting for gender as needed, and eliminating the lazy, easy jokes that were the hallmark of too many movies in the 1980s.

WADSWORTH: Martin Freeman

MartinFreeman

And you’d had a letter and you’d had a letter and you’d had a letter–

With all apologies to Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, the best choice for Wadsworth is Martin Freeman. The defining characteristics of Wadsworth are that he’s British and he reacts. Martin Freeman is the next Bob Newhart, who was the next Jack Benny, and Jack Benny built a lifelong career on reaction. We know he’s funny; we know he’s very British; stop dithering and cast him.

Alternate: Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch

MR. BODDY: The Rock

TheRock

This is preposterous.

This casting choice is credited to a Facebook friend of a friend. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson not only is funny as hell, but he also plays serious well, and the action of moving his body from place-to-place will eliminate the need for the Cook’s fat jokes later in the script. Also: The Rock, because The Rock.

Alternate: Tim Curry.  I kind of like that idea, but I have other plans for Tim Curry.

PROFESSOR PLUM: Viola Davis

ViolaDavis

Wait a minute. Who did I kill?

Professor; condescending; can do slightly sleazy. Who’s it gonna be? Viola Davis. She’s brilliant, and from HTGAWM, we know she makes a kick-ass professor who plays every side of every coin she’s given. And how different is a psychiatrist from a lawyer? One caveat is I haven’t see her play a lot of funny… but I bet she’s a funny bitch.

Alternate: Lucy Liu; Jordan Peele

COLONEL MUSTARD: Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch. Don’t insult both of us by making me explain this.

JaneLynch

This is WAR, Peacock!

Alternate: A verrrry distance second is Suzanne Cryer. But, come on. Jane Lynch.

MISS SCARLETT: Sofia Vergara

Sexy, funny, elegant, brilliant? Sofia Vergara. This woman has overcome the burden of physical perfection to become hilariously self-effacing and goofy.

SofiaVergara

Oh, I’m being blackmailed, all right. But I did what I’m being blackmailed for.

Alternate: Salma Hayek, who is also hilariously self-effacing and sexy.

MRS. PEACOCK: Laverne Cox

LaverneCox

BUT LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COOK!

Senator’s wife? Party planner dresses like your very elegant crazy aunt? Laverne Cox. The batty absent-mindedness is a bit of a stretch for her, but I have faith.

Alternate: Buzzfeed suggested Meryl Streep, and that’s marginally acceptable.

MR. GREEN: David Hyde Pierce

Fundamental character change: Mr. Green is gay. Most 80s movies I love have a moment that just rubs like sandpaper these days. In Soapdish, it’s when they out Montana Moorehead as being trans, sending her screaming off set. In Clue, it’s when Mr. Green says he’s going to go home and sleep with his wife. Ha! Ha! He’s a good guy, and whew, he’s not really gay! Thank goodness.

So: David Hyde Pierce. Niles Frasier practically IS Mr. Green.

DavidHydePierce

I CAN’T UNLOCK THE DOOR WITHOUT THE KEY!

Alternate: Javier Munoz. No, I haven’t seen him yet in Hamilton, but I have to cast someone from Hamilton, because it’s my movie so you shut up.

Second Alternate: Kenneth Parcell.

MRS. WHITE: Tituss Burgess

This was the hardest call. Casting anyone in Madeline Kahn’s role hurts my heart: she’s gone, she’ll never return, and no one will ever be Mrs. White. I’ve seen people suggest Kate McKinnon, but she’s too young, and too likely to play it like Madeline Kahn.

TitussBurgess

I hated her… so… much.

So we need someone who will capture the spirit of Madeline Kahn–her wide-eyed deadpan silliness, her utter embrace of absurd gravitas–but someone who will make the role all her… or his own. So I give you Mr. White: Tituss Burgess. He’s funny, he’s over-the-top, and he will never, ever be mistaken for Madeline Kahn.

THE VICTIMS

The victims will be played by their murderers, with some exceptions (RIP Eileen Brennan and Madeline Kahn). I love the idea of killing them off, one by one–it’s a fabulous way to kill our sacred cows, and it also gives these bit characters new life. And also new death.

THE MOTORIST: Martin Mull

THE COP: Christopher Lloyd.

THE COOK: Michael McKean (Eileen Brennan, we miss you so; you’d have made a wonderful Cook.)

SINGING TELEGRAM: Tim Curry (OMG Tim Curry as a singing telegram could you DIE?)

YVETTE: Kate McKinnon. See, I got her in there after all! Imagining Kate McKinnon pissed off about being in a French Maid costume makes me so warm and fuzzy inside. Also, I would like to see Tituss Burgess hating on Kate McKinnon in a French Maid costume.

THE CHIEF: Howard Hesseman, and we’ll credit him this time.

Don’t screw this up, Hollywood. Do it right or don’t do it at all.

 

 

Ghostbusters Twirls Them Haters: Female Friendship, Gaslighting, and Doing Your Thing

OK, Lerlines, I did it: I packed up the 7- and 5-year-old daughters, the husband, and we checked out the new Ghostbusters film.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m a scholar of the first movie. It came out when I was 9, and I still watch it two or three times a year. I have video of my three-year-old lying on the floor, having been “slimed,” and asking the Ghostbusters to save her. I know that Louis Tully has been an accountant for four years, I know about that time many Shubs and Zuuls were roasted in the depths of the Slor, and I know that when Ray gets a fellated by a ghost, he’s wearing epaulets.

OK, that’s done.

I really, really wanted to like Ghostbusters 2016. I’ve been terrified it would be a gross disappointment: even worse than the trailers suggested (those trailers were not good), and that all the angry, pouting guys at home whose childhoods were ruined by the suggestion of a new Ghostbusters film would end up being right, and would walk away thinking, “See? Girls ruin everything.”

Last night, after leaving the theater? I was grinning from ear to ear, and didn’t stop smiling for at least three hours, most of which were spent in my kitchen, discussing the movie with my husband (who also really enjoyed it). My seven-year-old spent half of the movie with her face buried in my lap–it was a lot scarier than the first one–and my five-year-old spent most of the time staring, wide-eyed and beaming, at the screen.

The five-year-old's favorite was Holtzmann. "Why?" "Hair!"

The five-year-old’s favorite was Holtzmann. “Why?” “Hair!”

I’m not going to get into the details of the movie, with spoilers and whatnot; Emily Asher-Perrin’s review of the movie is quite good, and captures a lot of what I liked about it. So I encourage you to head over to Tor.com and read it, if you want a more traditional movie review. She’s spot-on with what works and what doesn’t, how the world-building is fantastic in this one, and how brilliantly the characters work.

Kevin, I love you forever, you big dumb bimbo.

Kevin, I love you forever, you big dumb bimbo.

A few of my own thoughts: I saw that one reviewer complained that the first joke was about a queef, and this puzzled me, because there were a lot of jokes before getting to that one-and-only fart joke. Zach Woods is the first person we see on screen, and he’s one of those actors whose very presence has me bracing for hilarity. Granted, he doesn’t tell jokes. He does what he does best: he softly, and with great delight and curiosity, delivers information like a quietly psychotic children’s librarian. So, no. Queef is not the first joke. Unless, of course, your definition of a joke is “Wait for it… deliver… pause for laughs.”

In which case, this movie is not for you.

Generally speaking, it takes some time to get off the dime. After that first terrific scene, we get Erin’s (Kristen Wiig) backstory. Then she reunites with her old friend, and we get some nice character-building. About 20 minutes in, I got worried. Aside from a few laughs, I hadn’t burst out laughing yet. Is this not going to be funny? I thought. But then I resolved to set that aside, because, hilarious or not, I was really enjoying the movie.

I can love this movie without it being the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

And it is funny. I was dying to see Kristen Wiig be as hilarious as I know she is, but many scenes had me and the entire audience cracking up. They balanced the humor with great special effects, scary ghosts, suspense, and a central villain who was, essentially, the embodiment of of all those angry, pouting guys at home.

Women Being Women

In discussing the movie with my husband, I kept coming back to several very sweet, poignant moments where the women were just having fun. Dancing, singing, ribbing each other, squealing and jumping up and down. And I mentioned to him that this movie had a much greater focus on their mutual friendship than the first one did.

“That’s not true,” he said. “The first movie had a lot about their friendship.”

“Really? I mean, you knew they were friends, but…”

“The scene where they’re eating the Chinese food! And….” he named a few more.

“Oh. I guess so. But it didn’t really affect me like this one did.”

“Well, of course it didn’t. Because they weren’t women.”

Then he gave me a duh look. Because duh.

He saw all the subtleties of male friendship in the first movie, and appreciated that on a deeper level than I ever did. I can recite Ghostbusters from start to finish (and have), but now I understand that he gets it on a deeper level: they’re guys being best friends in the ways that guys are best friends, and I’ve never had that experience.

And there you have it, folks: the reason representation matters. The women in this movie are women acting like women. They’re not women kicking ass in characters that could be male; these kick-ass characters are unapologetically female.

Aw. They love each other.

Aw. They love each other.

When they first see a ghost, Abby can’t stop talking about how beautiful she is. Erin can’t stop jumping up and down, chanting, “WESAWAGHOST! WESAWAGHOST!” That is exactly what I would do in that situation. The men in the first Ghostbusters were excited (and terrified) but they didn’t jump up and down, clapping their hands. Because generally, guys don’t do that.

Women do. And these women  are women, through and through. They’re also brilliant scientists and clever historians and brave and funny, and they love each other, and they make each other laugh, and they show each other affection openly. They have the same friendship I have with my friends. And now I’m getting choked up.

If you don’t like movies  that are, at their core, about female friendships, this movie is not for you.

It’s Not Ghostbusters. It’s Annie.

After we put the girls to bed, I turned on the original Ghostbusters. Ten minutes in, I remembered what I’d always known about Ghostbusters: it’s a near-perfect film comedy. Every moment is in the service of pace and humor; it doesn’t bother with world-building or explaining much about the back stories; fuck all that, it says to us, get on the goddamn train and ride this bitch all the way downtown.

Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t like that. It takes its time. I look forward to rewatching it. Many times.

Some of the haters have complained that the new movie isn’t canon. And I love canon as much as any nerd, but from the start, I accepted that this is a different movie. Same high concept, same premise, same city–different people, different story, different world. In a nutshell, the parallel to this movie is not Star Trek, where they invented an entirely new timeline just to say it’s canon.

The comparison is the new Annie.

When I saw ads for the new Annie, I had a “don’t ruin my childhood” reaction, I’ll admit. But then I saw Quvenzhané Wallace’s gorgeous smile and thought: my girls deserve to get their own Annie. I had Aileen Quinn and the traditional Annie, and I loved that movie. But now my girls have their own Annie–one that’s relevant to them, who looks like their friends, who lives in the here and now. They have new songs and Daddy Stacks instead of Warbucks, and they live in a smart penthouse instead of a mansion, and they have a foster mother instead of an orphanage headmistress, and it’s all theirs.
annie

I didn’t love all the updates: There is one Miss Hannigan, and that is Carol Burnett. That said, it’s just as sweet and catchy as the original, and it resonates for my daughters. I can still love the original, and like the new one, and know that the new one is important.

Semi-Spoiler Alert: Fuck the Haters

In the end, the original Ghostbusters was about having a rollicking good time on the world’s greatest high-speed comedy rail ever run, and Ghostbusters 2016 is a terrific SFF comedy with a fantastic message, subtly delivered by the people who should deliver it.

That message is: fuck the haters, and do your thing.

A deep thread of gaslighting runs through the movie. As a child, Erin is visited by a ghost every night for a year, and her parents don’t believe her. In fact, no one believes her, until she befriends Abby. She knows the truth, because it’s happened to her, over and over again. But because the people around her haven’t experienced her life, they disbelieve her outright.

When the mayor’s character comes aboard (portrayed vacantly and hilariously by Andy Garcia), the denial goes big: well, sure, we believe you. But to do something about it would be politically difficult, so instead, we’re going to publicly discredit and humiliate you.

Sounds familiar.

Erin spends much of the movie trying to preserve her reputation; she doesn’t want anyone to make fun of her. She doesn’t want to be “Ghost Girl,” the object of ridicule; she wants to be well-liked and get tenure. So she decides to deny her own truth because she’s tired of defending herself.

When Erin finally faces a grumpy old man debunker, the embodiment of all the people who have told her she’s crazy, she makes a terrible error in trying to gain his approval. In trying to appease him, she causes more pain.

The other three women? They’ve got it right: Fuck those guys. “We know we’re right. We saw a ghost and we know we’re right. Who CARES whether he thinks we’re lying and hysterical? We know we’re right.

When they’re facing down the villain, he complains that the world has been so cruel to him: people made fun of him, they’ve been mean to him, they never appreciated his work!

In response, we see the sad, kind faces of the Ghostbusters.

“We’ve been there, too,” they say.

In that moment, the importance of this movie comes into high relief: this guy wants to destroy the world because he feels threatened and unappreciated. These women, who have also lived threatened, underappreciated lives, know that it’s more important to save the world than to give in to the haters.

I don’t know of a better message for 2016 than that.

ghostbusters

We’re here. We’re women. Get used to it.

 

Beysplaining to a Music Critic

I recently read this terribly lazy preview of Beyonce’s Formation tour (which is coming to Pittsburgh in four days and OH MY GOD I AM SO EXCITED) and was inspired to write a letter to the editor. Because, in addition to writing pages-long theses about “Lemonade” in a blog, I am now also compelled to call out music critics who are bitter that their bosses make them cover Beyonce when they’d rather talk about The Avett Brothers. Or Neutral Milk Hotel, or something. I probably don’t know the name of the band he wants to cover, because I’m not that fleek.

Here’s the article.

I crafted the letter carefully, hoping to strike just the right tone of condescending mansplaination. Only, of course, I’m not mansplaining; I’m Beysplaining. Shindancer suggested I post the letter here (I don’t know if it’ll be published or not.)

So at the risk of being as smug and self-aggrandizing as this guy, here’s my best crack at Beysplaining Formation. Let me know how I did.

Scott Mervis’ preview of the Beyonce Formation tour was one of the most depressingly lazy examples of music journalism I’ve read. Not only does he joke in the first three paragraphs that Beyonce herself will take a bat to attendees’ cars–a joke that, at best, is obvious, and at worst, foments ridiculous rumors that she’s personally violent–but he also says she depicts cops as “the enemy.” If anyone with critical thinking skills listens to the album, or watches the film, they’ll understand that’s patently untrue.

Later, he says “Daddy Lessons” includes a gun that “you fear might go off in the third act.” That little dramatic hyperbole unnecessarily feeds the rhetoric about Beyonce, as well. Lastly, “Becky” isn’t slang for “white girl.” It’s slang for a narrow-minded white girl who uses sex to climb the social ladder.

I have no idea whether Mervis likes the album or if he’s seen the tour and can speak to it personally. My suspicion is that he’s annoyed that he has to cover a female pop star’s tour, conducted his research on Buzzfeed, and opted for rabble-rousing over a real review. (Aside from the shoutouts to local Pittsburgh musicians, of course.)

That said: I’d like to see a more in-depth piece about the “local industry insider” who believes that “women don’t want to see other women” at concerts. As a woman who’s attending the Formation tour with three other women (and we’re all also seeing Dolly Parton later this summer), it seems to me that a reason women aren’t seeing other women is because the men in power aren’t actually bringing women here.

Newsflash: Women like music by women. Women have friends who also like music by women. And women have money. In the words of the Queen Bey: “Boy, bye.”

 

Lemonade is “The Wall” for Women

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock since the Super Bowl, you may have heard that Beyoncé has a new album out. Remember how she marched a bunch of armed women onto the field in February and then threatened to kill all the cops? Except that she actually didn’t do that at all? I remember it, mostly because I had no interest in the guys in the helmets. Then she released the video for “Formation.”

No fucks given.

No fucks given.

Fuck yeah.

I like singles, but I’m an album listener. That’s why I’ve been listening to nothing but “Hamilton” since December. So when  Beyoncé  released “Lemonade,”  a bittersweet, empowering story of betrayal, fear, fury, self-doubt, and eventually, redemption–and released it with an hourlong film, scored by the music and interspersed with monologues–well, step aside briefly, Aaron Burr, Sir. The Queen has entered the building.

The music is potent on its own; coupled with the movie, it should be studied in film classes.

The Wall: It’s the Fat and Psychopathic Wife’s Fault

Which brings me back to my own freshman college experience, when we studied Pink Floyd’s double-album opus “The Wall.” As an 18-year-old, I loved “The Wall,” for all the reasons I listed above: it was dramatic, theatrical, had a narrative arc, scenes playing out, majestic music, and even a movie to go with it. Animation! Symbolism! Nazis, I think! PAIN!

Watching it in a freshman class, during “What Shall We Do Now,” a friend of mine said, “This guy has some issues with women.” She was not impressed, and seemed insulted.

I didn’t want to think about that theme in “The Wall.” I loved the music too much. I loved that the movie was so dark and animated and like nothing I’d seen before. Emily was less impressed. She saw the misogyny inherent in every scene. I didn’t want to.

I watched it again a few years ago, and found myself so disgusted with Pink, the melancholy, suicidal rock star protagonist, that I was pissed off at my 18-year-old self for days. Little bits of the album and movie kept coming back to me: his abuse at the hands of his evil schoolmasters, whose “fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives.” His mother, who lost her husband in the war and then became overprotective of him. His wife, who apparently got tired of his boo-hooing and left him. So he turns to his groupie, and then trashes his hotel room when she tries to cozy up to him.

That's the fat and psychopathic wife on the left, FYI.

That’s the fat and psychopathic wife on the left, FYI.

His mother, his wife, his groupies, his schoolteacher’s spouses–they’re at the root of all his problems. The women in his life are too mean, too loving, too distant, too empty-headed, too something or everything to satisfy him. And when he hits rock bottom, when he overdoses to numb his pain, and his manager busts in to force him to go on with his life and put on his concert like he promised? He decides to become a fucking Nazi. Women drive Pink to become a Nazi.

This what we call "very subtle symbolism," class.

This what we call “very subtle symbolism,” class.

This is the story of “The Wall.” Pink blames the women in his life for everything that goes wrong, from his miserable schooldays to his failed marriage to his overdose to his eventual embrace of fascism and violence. People die and are persecuted because Pink’s women didn’t love him enough in just the right way.

It’s like a textbook for MRAs. And I studied it in college as an example of existentialism in 20th century America.

Lemonade: Is It My Fault?

“Lemonade”‘s protagonist doesn’t entirely disagree with Pink: throughout the album, she constantly asks some version of, “What did I do wrong?” In “Love Drought,” she asks it so many times she even says “Oh, I already asked that. My bad.” She apologizes for asking what she did wrong. She kept it sexy, she kept it fun. She’s been committed, she’s been focused. She’d give up being a star for the sake of saving her marriage and family. She gives him life, but he’s her lifeline. Which part wasn’t right? Tell her and she’ll fix it.

Of course, it’s not all self-doubt. Before “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” her enraged guitar anthem, she asks, “Why can’t you see me? Everyone else can,” before rolling into “You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.” He has power, but so does she. But even this is tempered by Malcolm X’s assertion that the “most disrespected…and unprotected… and neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

All of it piles into a rage focused on this one man who took advantage of her vulnerability and power to betray her. In this number, she accuses him of all the same things: You didn’t love hard enough. You didn’t try hard enough. “If you hurt me, you hurt yourself.” The message? You need me.

I don't think wearing an ankh is a coincidence.

I don’t think wearing the Egyptian symbol of life is a coincidence.

She closes that number with “If you try this shit again, you gonna lose your wife.” Which is the first clue we get that she’s considering giving him a second shot. She’s willing to forgive. But not until after he lives life without her for awhile. Not until after she’s spent time with her sisters. Not until she’s thought about her relationship with her father, trying to figure out how she got here.

That’s when she comes back around to examining herself. How much can she take? How can she fix it? What did she do to make this happen? This, I believe, is the clearest commonality between “The Wall” and “Lemonade,” and also a pretty goddamn clear illustration of something men and women seem to have in common: It’s the woman’s responsibility. If it doesn’t work out, it’s because she did too much, or not enough.

What did I do wrong?

What did I do wrong?

The difference, of course, is in the ultimate result. In “The Wall,” his perceived abandonment justifies violence and taking over an entire nation of people; he’s been so crushed that his only recourse is to crush others. When he’s brought to task for his crimes, a judge in the shape of an ass sentences him to “be exposed” before his peers. To “tear down the wall.” And so the wall falls–the wall he’s built to protect himself against all the pain in his life–falls. And little boys are left to pick up the pieces.

Lemonade_boys

The next generation will fix it?

In “Lemonade,” she picks up the pieces herself. After the pain of suspicion, anger (and she does get angry, hoo boy; but she only hurts things, not people), testing her independence, she decides in “Sandcastles” that her marriage is worth more than the betrayal, and begins to re-forge her bond.

In the haunting number “Forward,” she leafs through photos, presumably of her marriage in better times; then we witness grieving women holding photographs of Black men. I can only assume they’re men who died young. Men whose women–mothers, wives, sisters–will never get them back.

Lemonade_Forward

Will she abandon this man in her life because of his sins? Will she move forward, without him, and raise her daughter without a father in her home? Or will she move forward with him, so she doesn’t join the grieving women? Black men are an endangered population in America; will she cut off her care of the one who is most precious to her, because he betrayed her?

In the next number, she moves from the dark place of grieving to join women in 19th-century-style dresses. As her sisters look on, she stands alone on a stage, singing “Freedom,” with its Doors, Civil-Rights-era-style keyboarding  and the refrain, “I break chains all by myself/Won’t let my freedom rot in hell/Hey! I’ma keep running, ’cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” Meanwhile, we witness visions of Black women in the South, dancing a haunting ballet, eating together, standing stoically together in strength.

 

Lemonade_Freedom2

Freedom, I can’t lose.

I can’t watch these two scenes back-to-back without crying.

How It All Ends

“The Wall” ends with “The Trial,” and the man being shattered by his society’s expectations of himself–he’s not strong enough to expose who he really is without being broken down into dust. The women in his life forced him to feel emotion, and, terrified of it, he built a wall that would protect him from the depth of his feelings. The wall metastasized into violence against others; his self-protection branched out until he destroyed anyone who even glimpsed his true self. He’s a human firestorm, consuming everything in its path until he consumes himself and is destroyed.

Tear down the wall.

Tear down the wall.

“Lemonade” ends with “Formation,” where this Black woman–who, like Pink, is a superstar on whom millions pin their hopes and expectations–is not destroyed. Like Pink, she’s experienced pain, the endless drip-drip-drip of sexism and racism on a daily basis. Like Pink, she’s channeled that pain into art. Like Pink, she comes face-to-face with her rage.

Unlike Pink, though, she does not believe she’s alone. She’s supported and surrounded by women who have been where she’s been. Because she’s a woman–a Black woman–she knows she is not the first, and not the last. She can make or break men. She is who she is, and she has made her own decisions, and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.

I hope men study “Lemonade” the way I studied “The Wall.” I hope they see the enormous responsibility women place on themselves. I hope they experience the beauty, symbolism, and visuals as the film it is, not as “eye candy” or a long music video.

Approve or disapprove of her journey and ultimate outcome, but at least listen. Try to understand it. Because that, in my opinion, is the difference between “The Wall” and “Lemonade.” “The Wall” is about sinking deep into one’s own pain to the exclusion of anything else.

“Lemonade” is about empathy. It’s about exposing the gray areas in relationships. It’s about taking down walls, exposing wounds that can be healed by sunlight. This is what the 21st century holds for us, I hope: understanding that our pain is not unique, that we are not alone, and that looking outward, not inward, is how we save ourselves.

Pink feels the weight of the world, and tries to crush it. Beyoncé feels the weight of the world, and she carries it.

Pink builds a wall; Beyoncé makes lemonade.

Prince: Tonight, You’re a Star. And I’m the Big Dipper.

Man, this year has sucked.

Every post we’ve done in 2016 has been mourning those we’ve lost–and the last post was bidding farewell to Vanity, one of Prince’s girls. I admitted in that post that I’m not as much of a “Purple Rain” film aficionado as my fellow Lerlines (who I hope will be able to fumble through their sparkly tears to share with us their favorite moments, again), but I did love Prince. He fell squarely into the David Bowie he-makes-me-feel-funny sensual attraction, with the same androgyny, beauty, slender build, and eyeliner.

(Men: wear eyeliner. Seriously. You’ll get some.)

“Purple Rain” was part of the soundtrack of my childhood, but by the time I actually passed my David Bowie-induced puberty, and hit high school and college, Prince had pulled together the New Power Generation and released some of the best dance singles to come out of the early 90s (and there were a LOT of dance singles). Nothing got my ass on Bubba’s dance floor faster than “Seven.” Seven was bizarre and fantastical, and kind of religious and sort of made no sense, and goddamn, was it a hip-grinder that got the pelvic regions in contact with other pelvic regions? Yes, yes, it was. I’m pretty sure anybody who danced to “Seven” can say they got to second base.

There was also “Cream” and “Diamonds and Pearls.” But the Prince I really loved? That was the Prince whose songs were the opposite of metaphorical. The AppleJack-honest, in-your-face, “I am a sexy muthafucka,” THIS SONG IS UNQUESTIONABLY ABOUT THAT THING THAT ALL OF MY SONGS ARE ACTUALLY ABOUT.

One of his greatest songs –yes, I said it, I’ll put it up against Nothing Compares 2 U and Purple Rain–is “Gett Off,” a song that is unapologetically, 100% about orgasms. Specifically, women having orgasms. Specifically, Prince ensuring women get orgasms. Which I’m pretty sure he can do by raising one perfectly-crafted eyebrow.

What other song so effortlessly ties together a hip-thrusting bass line, rap, hip hop, soaring vocals, and James Brown funk? What other song has lyrics that are both domineering (“Now bring your big ass round this way so I can work on that zipper, baby”) and submissive (“I’ll only call you after if you say I can”)? It’s celebratory (“I like ’em fat! I like ’em proud!”) and insulting (“You better be happy that dress is still on. I heard the rip when you sat down.”).

It compares stripping down a woman to opening an ALMOND GODDAMNED JOY. (Did anyone ever see him eat a candy bar? Or video it? Please, share. The world needs that now.)

What other song so perfectly personifies Prince that he can say, straight-faced and OMG you giggle but you SO BELIEVE it: “Tonight, you’re a star. And I’m the Big Dipper.” (Nananana! Nananana!)

So let’s walk through the video. Note: the screenshots are VHS-blurry, so I recommend watching the video carefully, several times, to fully internalize its majesty.

Diamond and Pearl are auditioning for something. Diamond is wearing one of the best baby doll dresses ever to come out of the 90s, and good god, I still want to wear it all the time. (Halloween costume idea!)

Diamond wants the gig and is all in. Pearl ain’t so sure, especially after Diamond gives her a fake name.

The double doors open, and…

Why, hello to you, too.

Why, hello to you, too.

I watched that scream several times yesterday. I’ll watch it again now.

Diamond, of course, knows what her biz is and runs right up to Prince to start in. He enjoys it. And we cut over to Tony M, with amazing hair. He’s wearing what seem to be elbow-length black gloves. Why? I don’t care. His voice is butter.

Yes, you can call me after.

Yes, you can call me after.

(BTW: I cannot adequately express how excited I am that this hair is coming back. One of my first-grader’s classmates has a high-top fade and I have to control myself from giggling and clapping every time I see him.)

THEN we cut over to the effortlessly majestic Rosie Mays, with a soaring voice and her fabulous refrain “Let a woman be a woman and a man be a man.” It could be ironic–when has Prince ever let those two things be distinct entities?–but we know what’s for reals: it means we have complimentary parts that fit together nicely, so let’s make them fit together nicely, shall we?

Has champagne satin ever looked so good? No, it hasn't.

Has champagne satin ever looked so good? No, it hasn’t.

So Prince and Diamond get down for a bit, and we see all the gorgeous characters dancing all around… and then, “Oh, no, little cutie, I ain’t drinkin!” And he totally ditches Diamond and goes after Pearl, who seems mildly disgusted by the whole thing. So what’s he do? He strips her down like the ALMOND GODDAMNED JOY. That’ll teach her.

Parking meters sound uncomfortable, but in this case, I'll make an exception.

Parking meters sound uncomfortable, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

Tacky and overeager as ever, Diamond runs up to try to win back his attention, and then darts off, pouting–which is when Prince throws the shade:

“So here we are, here we are, in my paisley crib. Whatcha want to eat?”

“Ribs!”

“Ha, toy, I don’t serve ribs. You better be happy that dress is still on. I heard the rip when you sat down.”

A few items of note: 1) Prince’s paisley crib is decorated with human furniture.

Have a seat on my humans. They like it.

Have a seat on my humans. They like it.

 

2) Appreciate the shade.

Honey, them hips is gone.

Honey, them hips is gone.

Incidentally, that woman in the back is letting loose a gorgeous scream. I’m not sure if she’s laughing or horrified. Is she Pearl, and found a coverup? I’m not sure. The red dress makes the whole thing very Lynchian.

And then he gets down and the sex starts. All over. I’m not going to ruin it with blurry screenshots. Watch it, several times. Today.

Take note:

1) OH MY GOD.

2) Dance moves.

3) Flaming torch orgy.

4) Drag harlequin.

5) COME ON.

6) Sexy flutes.

7) The guitar. Always, always, the guitar.

Vanity, Tearing Up the Neon in Seventh Heaven

If you haven’t seen Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, stop reading this, go to Netflix, and educate yourself. I’m not kidding, Go. GO NOW.

OK, now that you’ve seen the finest example of Berry Gordy producing a kung fu musical set in Harlem,  we can pay proper homage to our dearly departed Vanity.

Vanity’s one of many women who fall into the “Prince protege” category, and she’s not much different than the rest. She was stunning, moderately talented, had legs that ended somewhere around her neck, and performed in a movie that’s adored by those of us who watched it to tatters in the 80s, and little understood by pretty much everyone else.

I was always more of a “Last Dragon” girl than a “Purple Rain” girl–probably because my mom nearly drove off the road once when she actually heard the lyrics to “Erotic City” and we were never allowed to watch it, and my dad loved both “Shogun” and Bruce Lee, so there you go.

“Purple Rain” may have had Morris Day, but “The Last Dragon” had Shonuff. It also featured the line “Directa your feetsa to Daddy Green’s Pizza,” not to mention Faith Prince, who sang a series of hilariously bad music videos, including one called “Dirty Books,” which I thought until just now was actually called “Dirty Bugs.”

But we’re not talking about all that. We’re talking about Vanity, she who had absolutely  perfect skin, sculpted cheekbones, dancer’s legs, amazing hair, and a stunning smile. Her performances were all completely over-the-top, tempered with a comfortable magnetism that came through in every fabulous roll of her perfectly eyelined-eyes, every arch of her flawless eyebrows, every long-fingered Tina-Turner-like point at the camera. The concept that she hosted “Soul Train” was so convincing, I was always bummed she never actually had her own live dance show.

Alas, despite her magnetism and beauty (or because of it?), the 90s were not kind to her, seeing her through the crack addiction and subsequent kidney failure that eventually killed her a few days ago.

I hope your heaven is as amazing as Seventh Heaven was, and I hope you meet the Master in all his golden glory.

David Bowie Moved the Stars for… Me

Since the inception of SlumberPartyMovies.com, we’ve had to say goodbye a few times. Harold Ramis got me choked up. Roger Ebert hurt a lot. I shed a few tears with him.

Losing David Bowie breaks my heart.

Typing that sentence, in fact, led to a torrent that required me to shut down this document, go to my work bathroom to compose myself, then head back out with my head down and my hair in my face. That’s happened a few times today.

None of us knew he was sick. He never seemed old. To the contrary, David Bowie always felt eternal. Yes, yes, his art is eternal, yadda yadda, but we all knew he’d never go, right? He would look distinguished and wise and beautiful, and then he would open that wide mouth and laugh like he could swallow the world, and look like joy. And that would go on forever.

David Bowie wasn’t some rock god in the way people think of all the men who fell around him back in the early 70s. He was a rock saint. He knew the power of music, and he understood the importance of his talent. He understood that the experience of great music isn’t just the words, the notes, the arrangement, the staging, the story, the voice, the instruments; it’s all of it, and the whole of that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

He knew he had a gift, and he was a responsible steward of his gift: he became a craftsman, too, experimenting and writing, always seeking perfection. David Bowie gave, and gave, and gave to us, knowing that anything less than perfection in all those aspects of rock music would be unfair to us, and unfair to his own capacity for greatness.

David Bowie knew his music could touch and help people, and I really believe that’s why he kept doing what he did: because doing anything less would be cheating us and himself. The proof of that was in his last act for his fans: a final farewell album and video that was autobiographical, even though we didn’t know it. He told us he was dying, but we wouldn’t believe it.

My personal story of David Bowie is one that’s still evolving. My parents listened to Motown and the Beach Boys, so David Bowie (beyond Blue Jean and China Girl) weren’t in my house regularly. I’ve only really been pursuing his work in the last 15 years; Hunky Dory is still my favorite, but I’m slowly growing a collection of all his work. I’m grateful I came to him this late in life, because I can spend the next 40 years making up for lost time.

Here’s one of my favorites from Hunky Dory, the sweetest lullabye ever written:

Except… yes, you knew this was coming. I wasn’t familiar with his music as a kid. Not until he found another creative genius who gave his own perfect gift compulsively and teamed up to make Labyrinth.

I’ve already done some posts on Labyrinth, of course. I also posted about My Very Bowie birthday over at my own blog. But let’s take a moment to talk more about Jareth. Like most girls my age (especially those of us who loved Muppets and fantasy and were pretty sure that there MUST be some other world just over the hill, if we said the right words, we’d make it there, and we’d escape this boring life, really we would!), Jareth marked my early sexual awakening. I was 11 when Labyrinth came out, and puberty was still two years away. I wasn’t conscious of I felt the first time Jareth shows up in Sarah’s parent’s bedroom, other than a confusing blend of yearning and fear. He was threatening, and I liked it.

Oh, you didn't?

Oh, you didn’t?

Jareth was domineering. He was a terrible person. He was bored and carried a riding crop like most people carry… well, no, no one carries anything like he carries a riding crop. He was supremely confident, and he seemed to really, really desire… Sarah? Her orders? To rule her? Seven minutes in the masquerade? He’s overbearing and bossy and generally would make a horrible boyfriend in any context. But some part of me knew, 30 years ago, that he’d have been a wildcat in the sack.

Is it any wonder Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey took off? Even so, that Grey guy has nothing on Jareth. Does he sing? I haven’t read the books, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sing. I know Edward doesn’t sing. He’s stalkery, like Jareth, sure, but I’m also pretty sure he never shows up in a bitch-ass cloak made out of snowy owl feathers, so suck on that, Edward. TEAM JARETH.

Jareth pretty well embodies all that’s safe and scary and alluring about sex when you’re on the brink of puberty: it’s adult, it’s threatening, it has massive consequences. On the flip side, you’re the only thing an intense, confident man desires; he’ll be your slave (if you’ll be his) and he’s MAGIC. Like, an actual magic person. Who is also a king. And horribly manipulative, and man, are you gonna regret it in the morning…

… but there’s an escape clause. And that escape clause is not ever, ever, ever, giving a man like that any power over you. No matter how sexy and convincing is his argument, no matter how good he looks in tights: ultimately, you have the power. You get to say yes or no. And you should use that power.

And so she does. And she’s safe, at home, with all the best parts of him, and none of the scary ones. Lesson learned: fantasy is best when it’s dangerous. Reality should be safe, and good.

I grew up to marry a guy who looks great in eyeliner (although I wish he’d wear it, like, all the time, instead of only when my friends ask him to be in a video), but who is the direct opposite of Jareth. In fact, any time I’ve ever dated a guy who showed any Jareth-like qualities, I dropped a Sarah right quick, no-powered them, and they blew off like Hedwig on an express delivery.

That said: most fantasy romances I enjoy (and I read a LOT of them) have Jareths. For instance:

  • Black Dagger Brotherhood: ultra-stud vampires who are possessive macho men, but ultimately bow to every command of their mates.
  • A Discovery of Witches, featuring another ultra-possessive, domineering vampire in love with a kick-ass witch who doesn’t let him push her around.
  • My favorite romantic lead on Buffy? Spike, of course. With his blond hair and eyeliner and British accent, his morals were so screwed, he tried to rape her once.
  • The new Sherlock, who’s a self-described sociopath and an asshole to just about anyone who looks his way.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle, which I don’t even have to explain; I’ll just show you a pic of the petulant wizard who lives in Baba Yaga’s walking castle.
My 5-yr-old daughter noticed the resemblance, too.

My 5-yr-old daughter noticed the resemblance, too.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

In closing… well, back to tears, now. There would be no Jareth without David Bowie. There would be no Labyrinth without David Bowie. For me, Jareth is David Bowie, and David Bowie is Jareth, and now, some part of me knows I’ll never have that chance to follow the Labyrinth past the Goblin City, to see his lined, perfect face, begging me to stay.

I feel as though a piece of my heart is gone. And I know you do, too.