Tag Archives: feminism

How did I miss this? Shag

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.

Flashdance as a rough draft for Showgirls

Nice move, breakdancer


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).

Lick that pole, Nomi.

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.

    Backlit Alex from Flashdance

    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.

    Molly the Best Friend

    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

    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.

Nomi with a knife

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.

The Vagina Train. Or Sexual Segregation in John Hughes movies.

Yeah…why isn’t it He’s Having a Baby, huh? Just kidding…I know why men can’t get pregnant. This isn’t a post about Rabbit Test (but when I do write one, it will be mostly about the fact that it was directed by Joan Rivers…or maybe about how Miss River’s shtick was stolen by Junior.) But there is a bizarrely not-so feminist a scene in 1988’s She’s Having a Baby (you know…the “What? John’s Hughes Directed that movie?” John Hughes movie).

I’m not saying John Hughes isn’t a feminist, (or that Kevin Bacon isn’t a feminist…if that’s what you’re thinking), but I get the idea that, when making this movie, Hughes was imagining a world where men worked, and women worked too…but they did it in a different way. And in a different place. See, there’s a scene where momentarily happy wife Elizabeth McGovern drops off her angst-hiding husband off at the train station with a great big soul kiss. 



And then, freshly Frenched, he gets on a train that looks like this:



I was so freaked out by the all the smoking (and whatever those big papery iPads are), that I didn’t really notice the odd lack of vagina on that train car…at first. But in the next scene, when we discover that Elizabeth McGovern is “quite the little career gal”. (Possibly a direct quote from Mrs. Poole.)  I thought, “What the heck? So…which train did our career gal take to work? The V limited? The Boobs Express?”

For a moment, I thought, maybe that was how it was in the 80s–with all the boys on one train and all the girls on another.  But it wasn’t. I mean, this movie came out the same year as Working Girl. Yes, feminists, I know the title of that movie is sexist because they don’t call men “working boys”, or even “career guys”, they just call them “men”, and also because Working Girl means prostitute in just about every language on earth, but at least Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver didn’t have to ride a separate, smokey train to work. Melanie took the ferry…with everyone else.




Oh…and Sigourney took a helicopter. I don’t think she let any guys ride on it.

Girls and their toys

Girls and their toys

My grandmother, the grease monkey?

I’ve been struggling with what to write for International Women’s Day. The theme is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures,” which is just so lofty. I don’t really know what we can do to connect girls even across the city, let alone across the world. Then I realized, what I do know about is connecting across time.

What a girl wants when she’s 6 is different from what she wants when she’s 26, and it’s different from what lots of other 6-year-old girls want. As an adult, all I see in Flashdance is the stripping and the sexual harassment. When I was a teenager, all I saw was the dancing, and the awesomeness of being a female welder. I knew I’d never be a dancer, but I did think welding was within my reach. However imperfect, and sometimes even reprehensible, that movie and others like it are, I read in them the possibilities of a life very different from the ones I saw around me.

This picture shows me and my maternal grandmother posing with our Christmas presents (I think). I got a little blonde cheerleader doll. My grandmother, on the other hand, got a car repair kit. Depending on where you are in your own life, one of those presents might seem obviously better than the other, but we each got exactly what we needed.

The lesson: You don’t have to understand someone else to respect their desires, different though they might be from your own.

Woman’s Day tapdance

I’m still working on a real post for International Women’s Day, but in the meantime, please enjoy this Australian commercial for Woman’s Day.

Australian totally counts as “international” in the U.S.

See also: We’ve got the right to be angry, Tuesday’s link to the Pat Benatar video for “Invincible.”

We’ve got the right to be angry

In today’s political climate, American women must ask ourselves: What are we running for when there’s nowhere we can run to anymore?

As the heroine of The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) says, fair is fair. I think it’s time for a good old-fashioned sex strike. If it ended the Peloponnesian War, maybe it can end the war on women.

On a related and more serious note, we at Slumber Party Movies are participating in Blog for International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8. The theme is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures,” which is close to our hearts: between us, the ladies at SPM have five young daughters. I want them to grow up in a world that’s at least as good as the one I grew up in, and right now, that is in peril.