Coraline and the color palette of childhood

Here’s the short version of this entry: I just love Coraline.

Look out, world!

There haven’t been a lot of movies made in the last ten years that I can watch over and over again and still enjoy, that offer a really escapist feeling, that I’m not distracted by overblown production values or weak performances; Coraline definitely falls into that category.

There’s something beyond reproach about it. That’s not to say it doesn’t have flaws, but when you’re completely engrossed in the liquid grace of the stop motion puppetry, the textures of the world, sharp writing, brilliant characterizations, and beautiful music,  it’s easy to forgive.

There’s also the beauty of the color palette.

We first meet Coraline as she moves into a depressingly drab house on a gray, late-winter day. Dead trees cluster in the background, and a slate sky drops rain. Her parents are just as drained, with good reason: her beige-sweater sporting Mom was recently in a car accident and also wears a neckbrace, and Coraline’s dad resembles the microwavable version of Adrien Brody.

I shouldn't make fun, I'm only a few steps away from this myself.

From a child’s standpoint, Coraline’s parents might be viewed as selfish and neglectful; an adult looks on their attempt to focus on their desperately-needed work and sympathizes. After all, without the catalogue, the family doesn’t eat, since they’re freelance writers.

There were even a few moments when their plight seemed more serious than Coraline’s, and her whining for their attention made her less sympathetic and seem overly-self centered, even for a child.

It’s a depressing world for anyone, and an intelligent child like Coraline is doubly affected.

Which is where the color palette comes in.

I'd watch this cooking show. Hell, it's less terrifying than anything Paula Deen can come up with.

When the Other Mother builds a world to tempt Coraline, she fills it with lush, warm colors and luxuriant textures. The delicious food, the wallpaper, furniture, clothing, and plants of the Other World radiate color, almost drown the viewer in hues. My DVD came with a 3D version of the movie (and glasses! SO COOL!) and I haven’t given that a spin yet, but I hope it’ll be worth all the kerfuffle.

The color palette of childhood is simple, visceral. We want to wear our straw hats with our green pinafore and orange sweater and blue sock, possibly while wearing fairy wings or a tail, if we’re fairly young. Therein lies the appeal in the colorful mishmash of Coraline’s outfits: her pink dress and green tights, or the green and orange gloves she covets which her mother initially rejects have an individualistic charm to them, but also symbolize the time in our lives when we still did things for ourselves rather than others.

Once in high school a girl in my class was horrified with embarassment when a teacher pointed out the girl was wearing brown shoes with a black belt. I took this lesson to heart and swore never to make the same faux pas; now I could give a shit, although I do tend to shy away from bright colors.

From early high school until just two years ago, I wore black, gray, and if I was feeling saucy, purple or red. That was it. I was terrified of wearing The Wrong Thing together, and those four colors made me feel safe. Somehow, I forgot that wearing clothing had everything to do with what I liked, and nothing to do with what other people wanted. Inch by inch I’ve crept away from that security blanket, and now wear bright greens and blues, as well.

Now, I am seriously covetous of Coraline’s Other Outfit, which the Other Mother has made for her.

Cringing Genius Nerd and Horrific Ghost-child sold separately.

Part of the reason I like it is because the stars remind of me of the character Eleanor from Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House.

You don’t need to know the whole story of Hill House if you don’t already; what you need to know is that Eleanor is a shy, vulnerable woman bullied for years by her mother, who decides to take part in an experiment mostly as a way of asserting herself. As she drives to the house, she imagines a destiny for herself that is extricated from her overbearing mother: she’ll have a house some day, with stone lions guarding the front door, and she’ll drink from a cupful of stars. In short, she’ll do what SHE wants, HOW she wants, WHEN she wants.

The cupful of stars thing has always stuck with me, and when I saw the color and design on Coraline’ shirt it reminded me forcibly of Eleanor’s cupful of stars. It reminded me of those childhood things I’d given up or lost, most of all the intangible ones.

A person can live without their old toys, but not without the imagination that brought them to life.

There’s merit to the putting away of childish things as you become an adult, but finding a balance–neither giving up entirely on childish things nor retreating back into them–is what most people struggle with.

So I’d like to raise a cupful of stars to Coraline, for helping me find some of those things I thought I’d lost.

I actually found a woman on Etsy who’ll make the sweater, and while the child part of me wants it now, NOW, the adult part of me insists I wait until I actually can afford to drop 150 dollars on a sweater.


Big Drunk Posts – Babe: Pig In the City

Read this. Don’t skip it. You’ll be thankful you did.

Mrs. Hoggett learns Horrifyng Lessons

When the original Babe movie came out, a young cousin of mine insisted on watching it over and over again. Although I loved the movie when it came out (I was in high school at the time) watching it ad nauseum turned me off to the notion of the sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, when it appeared in theaters.It seemed like a shameless attempt at cashing in on zeitgeist.

It sort of fell off my radar after that.

In 2008, The Onion did a New Cult Canon review of the film, and in reading about it and watching the clips I realized I might really be missing out on something. I put it in my Netflix queue and sort of forgot about it.

Then one of my dad’s closest friends died.

I found out the night before, was up most of the night crying, and decided to call in to work the following day.

While at home, I saw we had movies, and being a person who likes movies in a time of emotional upset, I decided to watch whatever the hell was near at hand. It turned out to be today’s entry.

As a children’s movie, Babe: Pig in the City is somewhat wanting. There are a lot of bizarre plot twists, characters with shady motivations, disturbing characters, and downright twisted imagery.

Things get weird. So, so weird.

As an affirmation of remaining true to oneself, throwing off the expectations of others, the benefits that may come with risk, and continuing to struggle in the face of impossibly bleak odds, it is a goddamn masterpiece.

That’s right: the truth gets typed in bold.

Between horrible Rube Goldbergian accidents, geriatric clowns, licentious chimpanzees, art deco/steampunk architecture, rampant species-ism, brutal life lessons, and animal violence, Pig in the City seems more like something one of the Davids (Lynch or Cronenberg) might jot down in their Bad Dream Diary and forget about. It’s easy to see why it failed as children’s movie, when it was really the next City of Lost Children.

At base, it’s about getting separated from one’s protector/parent/comfort zone and the inherent fear of needing to fend for oneself, as well as other less-articulated fears like fierce dogs, strangers, liars, clowns, and even the police:  in a particularly frightening scene where the Health Department conducts a Swat-style raid on a hotel full of animals in hiding,, many animals are brutally subjected to cages, choke-poles, nooses and just rough treatment. There are so many facets to the film it’s almost trite to try and name them all. What Miller was attempting was something less like Bambi and more like ET, but unfortunately the timing was wrong–a film like this would have cleaned up in the 80’s, when children’s fare tended to wander into the dark more often.Unfortunately, the late 90’s was more geared towards the sugar-coated, Nerf-encased products of today.

Do not, do NOT, be frightened away from seeing this movie because of this image. It's worth it, believe me.

An important factor differentiating the first Babe from its much darker second is that the second was largely scripted by George Miller, who directed (but didn’t write) the first. Miller began his career as a trauma center surgeon in Australia, putting back together people who had grievously damaged themselves in traffic accidents, and it was this constant exposure to youth bike/racing culture that brought him to write and direct the films he’s much better known for than Babe:

The Mad Max films.

The man who directed a movie about a sweet little pig who refuses to conform to barnyard stereotypes also wrote Mad Max. He wrote THUNDERDOME for Christ’s sake.

Here’s a fun little gratuitous jaunt in the Wayback Machine, about a woman named Entity and her little Raggedy Man:

Yeah, I feel like watching it again RIGHT NOW, too. Mel Gibson may be a crazy ass ranty mysogynist, but that movie isn’t just Mel Gibson. It’s George Miller, Tina Turner, Angry Anderson, giant trucks, chainsaw battles, and everything else.

Pig in the City is a rightful entry into the new Film Canon: as mentioned above, it makes an abysmal children’s movie, and an amazing affirmation of keeping one’s moral compass amid unrelenting social pressure.

On the screen, I finally saw the sorts of things I believe in being displayed: respect for others and their rights and beliefs, understanding, reciprocal altruism (the concept that the good you do may be returned: karma, sort of), and most of all, optimism.

The first two-thirds of the movie are brilliant, but it begins to break down in the 3rd with an extended ‘zany party bungee’ scene. I can see why such a strangely lighthearted sequence would fit, if only it had been a little more underplayed it might have netted the Babe movies another Oscar nod.

There are rumors that Miller is writing a 3rd installment to the franchise: they may come to nothing, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a 3rd Babe film. I hope it’s as good as Babe 1, if only so it makes decent money and is a delight for children, but secretly I’m hoping for another installment of the wondrous weirdness that is Pig in the City.

Happy Pig! See it for the happy pig!

Pig in the City is not available on Instant Watch.

4 Badasses You Never Saw Coming

The Man With No Name, James Bond, Dwight McCarthy, Lara Croft, Indiana Jones, Marv, Al Swearingen, Titus Pullo, Tony Soprano, Han Solo.

Badasses are in no short supply these days–you could come up with probably five off the top of your head, and hands down everyone would agree ‘Yup, pretty badass.’

But what about unexpected badasses? Those badasses who don’t come immediately to mind but nevertheless can ‘tho down’ when necessary? What about badasses that come at you sideways?

Today’s entry is all about 4 Badasses You Never Saw Coming.

4. Princess Leia.

Way more than a steel bikini no matter what a Google Image search says, Princess Leia is more than capable of Throwing Down when necessary.

Just a small girl and her Big Gun

To wit: We meet Leia when she is running from the cops–that might not sound so badass, but consider what running from the police got her: dropped like keys into a storm drain.

Storm Troopers don’t know the meaning of the words ‘civil rights.’ That’s why the Galactic Empire is evil–because they do whatever the shit they damn well please, which is why rebels are even more badass in this situation: breaking the rules gets you zapped with lasers. And lasers are HOT. They burn through things. Sometimes those things are meaty, because they are people.

Consider also that Leia fed the Imperials bogus info concerning the rebel base–knowing full well they’d figure that shit out. Then she WATCHES while her home planet/family/pets/house/neighborhood/wallet/everything in her entire life, gets blown to hell. She’s definitely upset, but she also WATCHED HER HOME PLANET GET DESTROYED and still didn’t give up the real rebel base. Leia knows what the stakes are–keep silent and one planet gets destroyed, talk and LOTS of planets get destroyed. Considering that the death star’s main purpose is, you know, destroying planets.

In this rare exception, it might have been better for Alderaan to run from the police.

3. Babe The Pig

Who’s a good piggy? WHO’S A GOOD PIGGY?

ANSWER ME DAMMIT! I DEMAND TO KNOW WHO'S A GOOD PIGGY!

Babe the Pig is, and by and large, he’s a bonafide hero.

After all, on the one hand, he saves the farm (twice!), stands up to feral dogs and disapproving orangutans, faces a terrifying elderly clown and saves a bull terrier in one of the most moving and humane moments in film.

Some day I’ll get drunk enough to post my semi-hysterical and embarrassingly earnest review of Babe: Pig in the City, but today is not this day. Today is for Babe, and our other unsung badasses.

Watch this clip and tell me this pig doesn’t have guts.

Could YOU turn around and face an oncoming bull terrier bigger than you?

2. The Mad Hatter

Back in the Old West, you judged how ridiculously badass a gunfighter was by how outlandish and insane their outfit.

This would be the equivalent of holding a Desert Eagle and many shooting trophies in your hands at all times.

The logic went that if someone was fool enough to dress like a pretty pretty princess, they were the walking equivalent of an apocalypse.

From Doc Holliday to Wild Bill Hickok, who never met an ascot he didn’t like, nature’s maxim of  ‘the brighter the plumage the more serious the danger’ was for a brief time, applied to humans. What had been true of insects and poisonous plants for millions of years finally, and gloriously, applied to mammals.

Enter the Mad Hatter, Alice’s long lost friend and guide to the weirdness she finds through the mirror in the recent Tim Burton adaptation.

'At My Signal, Unleash Hell. And Cucumber Sandwiches.'

The statement his outfit makes is nothing short of a declaration of war on every living being on Earth.

There are alien satellites observing this shit and transmitting this declaration back to their home planets, and in about five thousand years a bunch of Lovecraftian horrors will land and demand to know where the BeHatted One is so they may kill him and bring order to the galaxy, Dagon Style.

But consider also the weapon the Hatter shows up with at the third-act battle:

The Hatter Comes Heavy.

That is a CLAYMORE. The folks who used them were called Highlanders, and the only thing that differentiates Highlanders from Vikings is that they wear plaid. Nothing else.

Here is a demonstration of what Claymores can do. It is worksafe and very entertaining, if by entertaining you mean HOLY SHIT LOOK WHAT THAT SWORD CAN DO. Please also note the hefty fellow waving that pigsticker around–if a weedy little fellow like the Hatter is using one, then it means his eyes probably got that way through a constant and consistent application of Angel Dust. Not the man you want to be facing on the battlefield.

1. Mr. Faun Tumnus

'Would you like to walk back to my house? I seem to have misplaced my big white molesty van!'

When first we meet Mr. Faun Tumnus in the recent Chronicles of Narnia adaptation, he’s a timid little fellow who drops his shit and screams when surprised by the terrifying countenance of a small girl.

He gets wild by breaking into the sardines, and making hot tea. He is adorable, except he has goatlegs and entertains children without wearing pants. Or maybe for some folks, that’s a plus. It’s a big world out there.

Anyhoo, we realize this is all a big act. Later on, once all the statues have been brought back to life, Tumnus is more than ready to plow furrows across the White Witch’s ass and he heads down to the battlefield to do it…

…in nothing but a fancy red scarf.

There was a name for the guys who used to go to war without clothes on: psychopaths Berserkers.

Mr. Tumnus hasn’t brought armor, or even a weapon. He IS the weapon.

I have figured out the secret of Faun Tumnus, and it is that he is a Berserker. He doesn’t have the spear and the wolf pelt, but just give him a few minutes and he’ll have a pile of them–taken from the enemy and dumped on the field.

You only see a brief scene of him running towards the battlefield, but it’s because ostensibly this is a children’s movie and watching a goatman tear monsters apart with his bare hands and then eat their organs would incur at least a PG-13 rating.

No more child molestation jokes. Seriously.

Additionally, Mr. Tumnus has HOOVES. Which are hard little pointy things.

It’s bad enough being kicked in the face by a human foot, imagine taking a hoof to the face–it be like being bludgeoned.

Now imagine that foot belongs to the mythological equivalent of Bruce Lee, and realize that Mr. Tumnus was the Narnians’ secret weapon all along. Aslan was just there to tell him where to go.

There are dozens, hundreds more unsung badasses to go, but I hope you enjoyed this little sampling. As always, there’s More To Come.

4 More Life Lessons from 80’s Movies

There is no saving Artax. He has reached his limit, and will not be moved. Atreyu can’t save his horse, because Artax doesn’t want to save himself–and when someone loses the will to live, even after the intervention of their friends and family, there’s little that will drag them back.

Every culture in the world will eventually produce a set of maxims for behavior; from the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, to the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas, to basic Internet Etiquette, there are morals and suggestions for human interaction everywhere–you could trip over them and someone would be there to tell you what you did wrong.

Oddly enough, I noticed a lot of 80’s movies had such maxims, and have been collecting them and posting them as I think of them. The first part of the list can be found here.

4. The Secret of Nimh – ‘Crying doesn’t solve anything.’

Sometimes, your best isn't good enough--whatever it is, it needs to get DONE.

Mrs. Brisby has some serious problems.

Her husband was recently killed in an accident, one of her three children is desperately ill, and she needs to move her family (including her house) to a new location, otherwise they will be crushed by the farmer’s tractor when it is time to harrow the field they live in.

Lady has a lot on her mind.

So when the tractor starts up unexpectedly, she and her friend Auntie Shrew (who I always thought of as one hardass bitch–she either had some messed up stuff happen in her life or did some time in Vermin Jail), who are both about the size of a lemon, take it on.

A mouse and a shrew take on a tractor.

While all the other animals in the field are hauling ass from the path of the tractor, Mrs. Brisby and the shrew are running towards it, screaming warnings. They reach the tractor, clamber up a loose chain, and begin scrambling about its interior in search of a way to shut it down. Brisby, faced with the prospect of falling into the churned earth the harrow blade turns up, shuts down, and can only cling to the tractor and shake. The Shrew winds up tearing out a crucial hose (oil?) and the tractor shuts down.

Later, as the two gather their wits in the high grass, Brisby breaks down crying over the ordeal, but also the recent traumas she’s faced.

Coldly, almost hatefully, the Shrew snarls at her to “Stop it.”

You'd be surprised how many good pictures there aren't of her.

The Shrew is disgusted, not by the display, but because Brisby doesn’t have the luxury of being selfish right now, of thinking about her woes and weeping. She needs to get her shit together and figure out how she’s going to save her children–when Brisby plaintively weeps ‘I wish Jonathan [her husband] was here’ you get a sense that Brisby was overly reliant on him, that he would have figured something out himself, saving her the trouble. She wants to be taken care of again, to have someone else fix her problems, and she doesn’t have that option anymore–it’s up to her.

Brisby is now a single mother. The rest of the movie consists of her learning how strong she truly is, as she faces terrifying creatures and learns to trust herself to do the right thing. I can’t think of another movie in recent years that so elegantly explores the plight of a single parent and all that it entails. Not a children’s movie about talking mice, anyway.

3. Legend – ‘Trust People.’

Who is our Generation's Tim Curry? What actor in recent years could step into these pants? WHO?

With all the fantasy trappings surrounding Legend–unicorns, goblins, fairies, pixies, wild boys in shorts, princesses, giant castles, monsters,  and a certain giant red campy fellow–it’s easy to lose sight of what the film is really about: trusting people.

Jack is a recluse, living in the woods with his animal friends and relaxed dress code. There’s a reason he’s there and not in the city, and it isn’t to save money on production costs–he’s a hermit, he doesn’t trust people. Only Lily, a spoiled Princess, can get close to him.

Which is why, when Jack takes Lily to see the unicorns and she ignores him, breaking a major rule and actually TOUCHING ONE, he loses his trust in her. He doesn’t know that the reason the unicorn freaked out was due to the goblins’ poisoned dart, or anything about the machinations of Darkness and his goblins. He thinks that Lily touching the unicorn is what ruined everyone’s day.

So though he spends the rest of the movie trying to make right what happened, and save her, it is also about him remembering to trust her, no matter what she’s done or how she’s changed. Remember, when he left her, she was all ‘Disney Princess Barbie,’ with the smiles and the charm and the giggling. When he finds her again, she looks like this:

If it doesn't fit, you improvise!

Since he dumped her, she’s been rooming and sharing clothes and makeup tips with Klaus Nomi Darkness, a red-skinned fellow with an infectious laugh and an even more relaxed dress code than Jack. They’re kind of like Mickey and Donald–Mickey (Darkness) wears pants, and Donald (Jack) wears a shirt–together they make a whole outfit.

Anyhoo, when Jack has to make his choice, he’s got a bunch of fairies yelling in his ear that Lily can’t be trusted, that she’s changed. His faith in her is an illustration of the pure goodness alluded to in the rest of the film–after all, being good means being good ALL the time, not getting to pick and choose when you follow the rules–the fairies hearts’ were in the right place but they don’t know everything, as is established earlier by Gump not being aware of Oona’s secret.  Jack trusts Lily–and the day is saved.

2. The Burbs – Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playthings

Dear Tom Hanks: Comedy misses you. Please take its calls again.

I miss the comedy films of Tom Hanks.

I haven’t seen too many of his dramas the last five years or so–no particular reason other than I already see more than enough dramas and have no interest in Dan Brown’s books.

But one upon a time, he made comedies. Fantastic, creative comedies the likes of which aren’t made anymore because of the lack of fart jokes and horrible people in them. Hanks took a middling comedy and elevated it to hilarity.

The Burbs is a comedy about a man who decides to spend his vacation lying around the house, drinking beer with friends and speculating on the new neightbors who have just moved in. He wants to garden, to vegetate, to putter, to wear his pajamas all day and relax.

But his bucolic rest is interrupted when he and his buddies begin inflating the importance of neighborhood events into something sinister–a missing neighbor, an errant toupee, the new neighbors digging in the backyard during a rainstorm in the middle of the night… conclusions are drawn and plans are made.

The lesson here (although it turns out that the neighbors WERE up to something unsavory) is that boredom can lead to invention the same way necessity can, the difference being that being bored usually gets people into trouble–boredom in a relationship can lead to cheating, boredom with a job leads to dissatisfaction and doing it half-assed, boredom with your life breeds a need for escapism.

Not only that, but The Burbs were one of those early movies that had the courage to suggest that maybe the good old days..weren’t so good? Like No Country For Old Men, it dared to present the idea that rose-colored glasses were a pretty poor medium for viewing the past.

1. The Neverending Story – When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.

This is the big one for me.

 i
Just looking at it breaks my heart all over again

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from The Neverending Story–about following your dreams, about courage, about trusting people–but the one that always, always, always jumps out at me when I am watching it is that no matter how shitty things get, you have to keep going.

Depression is a pervasive illness many people don’t realize they have. It’s insidious, it creeps in and ruins your good times, pushes you away from happiness, makes you hurt others (this numbness, where the things you usually enjoy bring no pleasure, is known as ‘anhedonia’) . Many people think of depression as being sad for a time, as a period with a fixed beginning and ending. Depression is not being ‘down in the dumps,’  it’s a chemical imbalance that can become more or less pronounced, but never really goes away. It can be medicated, and combated with therapy, but at best you will learn how to manage it and live with it.

Enter the nefarious scene with Artax the horse–Atreyu tries to drag the horse bodily out of the swamps of sadness, and when the latter won’t move he becomes angry, screaming, insulting the horse, then just pleading and begging as the horse sinks deeper into the black muck. ‘Move, please,’ still brings tears to my eyes, every time I hear that barely-teenaged boy’s voice.

There is no saving Artax. He has reached his limit, and will not be moved. Atreyu can’t save his horse, because Artax doesn’t want to save himself–and when someone loses the will to live, even after the intervention of their friends and family, there’s little that will drag them back.

It’s a scene that doesn’t get the cinematic respect it should–I mean, the movie isn’t Schindler’s List, but it’s no Battlefield: Earth, either. It’s a moving metaphor for depression: after all, it’s easy to stop moving, but sometimes nearly impossible to get going again.

More than anything else, depression is what happens when you forget the feeling of joy, of hope. Remembering it, rediscovering that warmth and happiness, can be one of the most rewarding moments in your life, but my god, getting there can be an uphill battle.

He Kept Going.

Ramblings: A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Awakening in Film

I cannot count the cinema essays and articles I’ve read over the years where some critic lists scenes in movies that first introduced him to the concept, ‘Whoa! Girls and Boys have DIFFERENT PARTS!’

If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard Phoebe Cates’s red bathing suit scene mentioned, I’d be dictating this entry to my houseboy ‘Ceviche’ while we lounged poolside somewhere decorous and decadent.

I cannot count the cinema essays and articles I’ve read over the years where some critic lists scenes in movies that first introduced him to the concept, ‘Whoa! Girls and Boys have DIFFERENT PARTS!’

If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard Phoebe Cates’s red bathing suit scene mentioned, I’d be dictating this entry to my houseboy ‘Ceviche’ while we lounged poolside somewhere decorous and decadent.

If this doesn't drum up traffic I don't know what will. Except porn.

There are others, usually somewhat unique to the critic; mentions are made of Marilyn Monroe’s famous subway grating scene, Raquel Welch’s furry underpants, Sophia Loren, Bridgette Bardot; the list goes on and on into the ‘sirens’ of today, none of which are coming to mind.

I remember in elementary school my good friend Eddie waxed rhapsodic about the tassle scene at the end of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark; we swore a pact that if I sprouted boobs like hers I would practice spinning tassles off them, and one day find him and show him. Alas, I sprouted no such thing(s). I’m sorry I let you down Eddie–it’s my life’s great failure.

Anyhow, I was reading one of the inestimable Todd Alcott’s  film reviews when I saw he’d chosen to review ‘Labyrinth.’ But Nowhere in his review did he mention how David Bowie’s tights-swathed area ignited a fascination in millions of young girls, sending them toddling down the road to puberty, or how Jereth’s entreaty for Sarah to love him by obeying him was the hardest task for her to face in the whole story–after all, physical dangers are often easy to identify. It’s the emotional pitfalls that are hardest to escape from.

So! In the interest of exploring new territory, I bring you the subject of this entry, and encourage you, the reader, whatever gender you are and however you are oriented,  to share your own stories in the comments below: A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Awakening in Film.

1. Labyrinth  – Men Can Also Be Objectified.

Ken’s parts were different that Barbie’s. That much I was clear on.

The Man, The Legend, The Peen

But how they differed was not readily evident, not even in the art books I was exposed to as a child. What wasn’t carefully covered by a fig leaf was pretty weird looking, and it was hard to believe such a fuss in our culture was made over covering the equivalent of a garden slug.

And well–just LOOK at our boy there. Not very inspiring, in the crotchal region. And of course that was intentional on the part of Michelangelo, but still. You hear a line in an action movie where someone says something about a ‘huge dick’ and that is your frame of reference.

There’s also the fact that for a few years in the 80’s, it was acceptable to show naked women in PG-rated movies. Sheena, Clash of the Titans..others that aren’t coming to mind. Anyway, I waited patiently to see naked men, thinking it was only fair–to no avail.

Enter a little movie about a sparkly, fancy-pants magic man who wants a girlfriend he can boss around.

This picture is worth lots and lots of words. LOOOOTS of words.

What really cemented my fascination with the movie was the fact that OTHER girls were fascinated, too.

What was IN there? WHAT?

We speculated, joked, stuffed our pajama bottoms with pillows and danced around. But our questions weren’t answered until much later in life, usually in sweaty and breathless encounters with people as terrified (or drunk) as we were.

But the magic of those pants and their mysterious contents lives on, both in the silly, girlish thrill I get watching Bowie dance and in the hundreds of thousands of websites, artwork, and articles dedicated to them. Articles like this one right here.

Objectification holds within it certain flaws; after all, turning a person into an object removes responsibility from the viewer for the object’s feelings, motivations, and any dissenting opinions they might have. It removes the object from being ‘The Other’ and makes being attracted to them simpler, and without emotional risk to the viewer. In short, you don’t have to care about them.

Since Jereth is the film’s villain (and I’m not confusing him with, you know, a real person) I feel quite okay objectifying him. I objectify the HELL out of him, in fact.

2. Conan the Destroyer – Girls can chase boys!

When asked by a young naive girl what Zula, played by Grace Jones, would do if she were attracted to someone, Zula responds ‘Grab him, and take him.’

When I was little, for a time, I wanted to be Grace Jones when I grew up.

This was MAGNIFICENT when I heard it.

I had been taught by movies, cartoons and books that boys went after ‘ladies,’ that they came to your house with chocolates, flowers, and awkwardness. You played hard to get, you pretended you weren’t interested, you spent your life waiting by the phone for boys to call.

We all know now what bullshit that is. I have been approached by men a handful of times, and each relationship I’ve had began by my showing interest in someone and pursuing them, not the other way around. Given my poor track record for social interactions and tendency towards bluntness, chasing the boys was pretty much my only option. And they ran, believe me. They ran like hell.

But for every ten or twenty who hauled ass, at least one was into that. Men (at least the men I tend to hang with or date ) are HUMAN, which means they are not above wanting emotional validation, and not above wanting to feel special, sometimes even feel pursued. These men, at least I’ve found, are often the ones who are much more secure emotionally, are are less likely to pull bullshit mindgames or marginalize their significant other. And they don’t want it done to them, either.

So I’d like to thank Grace Jones for her portrayal of strong, confident Zula, even if she was a little crazy. The rest of the United States might be thanking her for single-handedly introducing ecstasy to the New York club scene in the 80’s, but I’m glad she showed tomgirls (and anyone, really) how to really go after what you want.

3. The Breakfast Club – People Do Stupid Things To Impress Other People

John Bender. My god, that would have been my ultimate man right there when I was in college. Brash, arrogant, dark eyed,  floppy-haired, he had it all.

He was also monstrously immature and at heart a frightened child, which would have been tailor-made for me and all my unarticulated neuroses 0f the time.

It was a simpler time, then.

But growing up and leaving behind a fascination with ‘bad boys’ is why I’m where I am today, and not on my third divorce or struggling with a serious habit instead of just being an unemployed drunk. Lesser of two evils, believe me.

Anyhoodle, there are multiple scenes in the film illustrating Bender’s attempts to impress ‘Princess’ Claire; in several conversations, after Claire has made some kind of declaration towards one thing or other (it’s okay if a guy’s a virgin, sex with someone you love is okay), the camera cuts to a quick reaction shot from Bender, showing how he is processing this new fact and how he will probably try to use it to his advantage–or against Claire when he decides to lash out at her, as he is prone to doing. Bender is a criminal, but he’s also, like most people his age, deeply invested in other people’s image of him, and manipulating that image is a full-time job. He shows off by mouthing off to the principal and to Andrew, the Wrestler, and bullying Brian the Brain until he notices she isn’t impressed by that.

Also, I’d like to submit the scene later in the film where Claire has snuck into the closet to see him as exceptionally hot. When she leans forward and kisses him on the neck, it’s a special moment–there’s a smash cut to the scene, and you can tell from the way they’re sitting it’s obvious that Bender was probably saying something ridiculous and posturing to impress her, and was caught off guard by the move. I love that scene, because it acknowledges that yes, women can be sexually assertive and the world won’t burn down, and also that deep down Bender has been wanting to be pursued– just a little.

So, thus armed with my iconoclastic notions of romance, I sallied forth and probably wreaked unspeakable harm on the boys I chased. I left roses on their desks (I still cringe at that one), wrote them inane notes, catered to their egos, even gave them presents. I can’t even imagine how embarrassing it must have been for them, especially the ones I fixated on for more than a few days.

Sorry guys, but hey, we all had crap to work out back in the day. But if the worst thing that happened to them in middle school was being treated to cookies or handed a flower by The Weird Girl, then that’s not too terrible a thing. Maybe a few of my ‘victims’ even look back fondly on those days