Saturday, October 6, 2018

Porky's II: Let's See Your SCOTUS

80's Movies Show Boys Had It Made, Girls Were The Joke:

The top movie of 1982, by a wide margin, was “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg’s fantasy about a group of boys who try to get an alien back to outer space. Below it, at No. 5, was “Porky’s,” about a group of boys who try to have a lot of sex. It coasted on the pre-J.F.K.-assassination nostalgia that made huge hits of “American Graffiti,” a decade earlier, and “Animal House,” five years after that. But “Porky’s” wasn’t innocent, or for that matter, nostalgic. All that the boys long for is girls — to talk to, sure, but mostly to peep at, ogle and harass.

The gang visits a sex shack in the sticks, where at least six of them plan to take turns with the same prostitute. They scheme their way into a roadhouse nudie bar (Porky’s) so that one guy — Pee Wee — can more expediently lose his virginity. And a horny male gym teacher finds out why a pert co-worker — it’s Kim Cattrall — has been nicknamed Lassie.

By 1982, if you were a teen male, your fantasies no longer had to live under a mattress. In a movie theater, you were free, say, to do some vicarious peering into the girls’ shower after gym. The drooling voyeurism, the casual racism, the aggressive anti-Semitism, the backhanded homophobia: None of it is quite the reason to bring “Porky’s” up now.

The reason to bring up “Porky’s” now is the laughter — the uproarious laughter. Last week, when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was asked what she most remembered about the night she says Brett M. Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her, she offered, with some quavering, that it was the laughter between Mr. Kavanaugh and his friend. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “indelible in the hippocampus” — Dr. Blasey’s a professor of psychology — “is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
Suddenly having so many flashbacks to the 80's reading this article, but the author is precisely correct: the movies of that era, which were catering to Gen X's older wave of teenage males, are horribly sexist and brutally dumb by today's standards. Actually, not that I was a prude or anything back then, but I remember not wanting to see most of those movies when they came out in the 80's. And my initial reaction to not wanting to waste my money on stupidity was pretty much always confirmed. 
Judge Kavanaugh, who denies Dr. Blasey’s accusation, mentioned “Animal House” in his opening statement. But my mind suddenly found itself on a journey back to “Porky’s.” Laughter accompanies most of the movie’s pranks, many of which are at the girls’ expense. For a comedy, that tends to be lousy filmmaking. It means the movie is hoping its laughter is contagious. The boys laugh at one another and, later, at Porky himself. But women tend to be the object of the most uproarious laughing, especially the Germanic battle-ax gym coach, Ms. Balbricker, who, in the movie’s meanest scene, asks the principal to open an investigation into a shower room peephole. She’s sure she can ID the penis she caught poking through the wall.
I was too young to see most of the movies referenced in this next paragraph (Porky's, Zapped, Fast Times, Risky Business, etc) in the early 80's, but would catch up on most of these later via HBO and cable. And by the late 80's I did see a lot of these in the theater such as Weird Science and Can't Buy Me Love. 
In stories envisioned by grown men, boys in movies — smartass, horny, fun-loving white boys — had it made. They ran brothels (“Risky Business”); punked the principal (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”); battled the school psycho (“Three O’Clock High”); committed all kinds of battery (“Revenge of the Nerds”); excelled, albeit brutally, at juvenile detention (“Bad Boys”); combed the Caribbean for a family vacation (“Hot Pursuit”); invented women to boost their popularity (“Weird Science”); turned into werewolf jocks (“Teen Wolf”); and lied about passing their driving test (“License to Drive”), being a finance executive (“The Secret of My Success”), being cool (“Can’t Buy Me Love”) and being black (“Soul Man”).

Deflowering odysseys stretched from Florida (“Porky’s”) to Tijuana (“Losin’ It”), and somebody even made a movie called “The Last American Virgin.” There was usually a system for spying on women and girls, although, to be fair, lots of men did that in the 1980s, in “Stripes” and “Sharky’s Machine” and “Stakeout” and every other rock video on MTV. It all lasted from about 1981 to near the end of the decade, when, in “Like Father, Like Son” and “Big,” magic started turning boys into men. The terrain was divided among nerds, sensitive weirdos and jocks like Josh Brolin in “Goonies,” and the pools seemed full of beer.
The Goonies I never had much of a problem with, in fact it's become more of a cult classic and generational touchstone since the 80's. But there's a lot of cringe today in movies like Revenge of the Nerds, Last American Virgin, or Soul Man. Even Ferris hasn't aged well... what seemed like one of the funniest movies ever made now, 30 years later, seems completely out of touch. 
From the sounds of what Judge Kavanaugh has disclosed about his high school and college self, he seemed part of that landscape. Though, movie-wise, he also appeared to be into the harder stuff, too. His opening statement last week described his class’s ambitions for the 1983 yearbook as being “some combination of ‘Animal House,’ ‘Caddyshack’ and ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ which were all recent movies at that time.” He was trying to explain and apologize for the book’s general crassness and its perceived cruelty toward one girl in particular, who had to wait 35 years to learn that he and his buddies had formed a club in her name — a teen movie in reverse.
Which tells you all you need to know about Kavanaugh and his friends. As I wrote already, I remember dopes like that... they seemed like the kind of popped collar asshats who weren't particularly smart, coasted on on their white privilege, wore Members Only jackets, and smashed empty beer cans against their foreheads while listening to Bon Jovi. Whether they sexually assaulted Dr. Ford or any other women, I have no idea. But given the culture of the time, and remembering the kind of privileged knuckle-draggers who not only were drawn to those movies, but thought they could act them out in real life? Probably more a function of privilege than the movies.

Being a drunk douche in the 80's and thinking you're the next Bluto at the frat house shouldn't DQ one from being on the Supreme Court. And enough senators feel, apparently, that the accusations of sexual assault from that time made by multiple women don't disqualify him either. 

Frankly, it's astonishing that sexual assault allegations and endless discussions of brewskis and keggers were the things that almost derailed his nomination, and not the fact that his judicial opinions, which are poorly written, sloppily reasoned, and filled with a lot of turgid, conservative dogma, should have gotten him rejected. 

"The most qualified nominee ever," said old three-chins... LOL. I can't think of a more unoriginal thinker or writer to ever ascend to SCOTUS, save for Anne Burford's kid last year.

Anyway, while this article was certainly a trip down memory lane for those of us who were teenagers in the 1980's, it's a misnomer to suggest that "all teen males" were somehow like or products of those movies. While it certainly seems like "Bart" and his friends were, most of us, in fact, weren't running around trying to reenact what was on the silver screen.

Most of the movies discussed do not hold up today upon further review. I saw a bit of Fast Times recently over the summer and gagged over several of the scenes that once seemed so "classic." Ditto Caddyshack and Animal House, which I always thought were overrated anyway. 

We've certainly come a long way from the outright misogyny and sexism and sexual objectification on display in these 80's teen movies (as an example "8th Grade" was one of the best movies I've seen in decades). But let's not try and excuse the allegations leveled against Bart and his friends as being "boys would be boys" or "everyone did that in the 80's." 

Only a small minority of males ever did the things he was accused of, and it's the same minority of males who still commit sexual assault today. In that sense, the movies may have gotten better, but nothing really has changed.


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