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.
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.
I’m lucky enough to be home on a Saturday night with a sleeping child and all of my work done, and the best possible movie just came on TV36 (KICU): 9 to 5 (1980).
Booze helps any situation, right?
Now, all three leads are legendary – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and the always adorable Dolly Parton – but it’s a strong ensemble cast. My favorite person in the whole movie is Margaret Foster, the office drunk played by Peggy Pope. One of the things about 9 to 5 that lift it above a standard revenge fantasy or office comedy is its ability to treat pathos with humor and compassion. Margaret starts off so depressed about her terrible job that she keeps a flask – and drinks from it in view of her coworkers. She could have just been a standard drunkie played for laughs, but, while Pope is hilarious, her innate sadness is left exposed and raw. Her resuscitation while bossman Dabney Coleman is incapacitated still touches my heart.
There. I may be a jaded old whore, but I’m one of those hookers with a heart of gold.
Gina Gershon, you old whore, you.
As I said in my previous post, Showgirls (1995) is full of career development advice. Fifteen years ago, when I was the young woman fighting my way up the corporate ladder, it was important for me to learn from Nomi’s actions that you sometimes have to push an old whore down the stairs to get ahead. But I am older and more fragile in the hip area these days. Can I still learn from Nomi and Cristal?
The answer is absolutely YES. Now that I am the old whore blocking the advancement of other, younger working women, I can look to Cristal’s example. The lesson is a little more subtle, though. What you must do is get the young hookers on your side, so that even if they do end up pushing you down the stairs, they will at least feel bad about it. Cristal tried to bond with Nomi over their shared love of booze and dog food, but got way too honest.
The lesson is: You cannot tell a young whore that she is a whore. She thinks she’s a dancer, or a sex worker, or a contractor. Honor that distinction or you might have your next bonding session in a hospital bed.
Hello! Welcome to Slumber Party Movies, where a group of friends spends even more time analyzing the terrible movies we love than we spent watching them.
For example, I spend a lot of time thinking about Showgirls (1995). Not because I enjoy my porn extra-talky and full of old people, but because it contains a surprising amount of life lessons, ones I have put in use in my own career.
Elizabeth Berkley interviews with Gina Gershon
The most important lesson I learned concerns the tense relationship between up-and-coming whore Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) and queen whore Cristal (Gina Gershon). Cristal has the lead in some stupid revue that Nomi for some reason really wants to star in, and Cristal won’t just nicely step aside. Then the old whore makes the crucial mistake of walking down the staircase in front of the young whore. One savvy career move later and boom! Cristal has a broken hip, and Nomi has the lead!
The lesson here: Sometimes you have to push an old whore down the stairs if she won’t get out of the way.