Monday, November 13, 2006

I am Going to Try to Write a Short One: Thoughts on Some 1980s Teenager Movies That Have Unduly Affected My Psyche

1. Can't Buy Me Love. This is the one where the pitiful nerd pays the blonde cheerleader type $1,000 to pretend she is his girlfriend for a month. For his expense he is not allowed to lay so much as a finger on her though presumably she gives the muscular types whatever they want for free on a regular basis. I was struck at the time that this was an excellent illustration of the desexualization, demoralization, emasculation, what have you, of the nominally intelligent but utterly dominated and personality-less state of modern suburban maledom. He never feels himself in a position of power, and indeed is quite grateful that the object of his desire accepts his money after she initially wavers over his harsh condition that she sacrifice some of her social status for his perverse gratification, which I suppose is the point of the movie. The real point of the movie, however, is that he, and others like him in his generation, have surrendered all sexual claims upon women whatsoever, have simply ceded that entire area of their lives to women's discretion and mercy, and accepted their judgements on the propriety of their own desires and conduct. The character in this movie had no understanding that a man's status among women and his insistence on maintaining his own sexual prerogatives and privileges cannot be separated, that one cannot negotiate the privileges in exchange for the status. The situation reminds me a little of Bunuel's Obscure Object of Desire, in that the male desirer allows his frustrated sexual obsession to reduce him to a kind of animal fury. But at least he tries to rip off the impregnable corset and has to be confined in a cage before his love can freely cavort with another in front of him. Our suburban fools apologize to women when caught in a look that suggests they might be having such a thought.

When I was at the height of my own desperation, around age 17-20, I frequently thought about offering $1,000 to various girls I knew in school to have sex with me. I suppose I thought the sum would indicate that I was "serious", as well as explicitly lay out my real objective. A series of dates might not achieve the result I wanted, and I was not confident that I could even get the dates in the first place. The girls I was planning to offer the money to besides were not girls I especially "liked" as far as companionship, nor were they very hard-to-get or unreceptive to boys who knew what they were about. They tended to go to colleges that were a hundred times more famous for partying than they were for intellectual rigor. In other words I thought my offer might have a shot, with the money providing a more convenient excuse for them to say yes, so that they did not have to pretend they liked me, and give up all their power. Unlike going to a prostitute, who advertises and makes no discretion between men beyond who can pay
the fee, I imagined this would not really be about money, that I would simply be showing especial favor on someone of my own choosing, who I kind of liked, which would be our little secret, and who would still be in a sense "exclusive" to me as opposed at least to other losers at my school. Obviously I never carried out any such scheme, but the most interesting of these teenage movies are the ones where the plot is simply an acting out of the ridiculous ideas and thoughts that occupy the minds of hopeless boys...

2. For example, Zapped!, surely one of the rawer manifestations of the true adolescent psyche ever brought to light, in which the protagonist comes into contact with some kind of toxic waste or something and emerges with the power to kinetically make women's clothes fly off any time he wishes. What more can really be said about this film?

3. Encino Man. While I would have liked to have introduced this as the undisputed masterpiece of Pauly Shore, he is actually an insignificant force in the film, which of course centers around a couple of nerds who dig up a block of ice in their backyard (in southern California) in which is contained a man from the Paleolithic period who turns out when the ice is thawed to be both alive and still a teenager. Though the caveboy has no language, prefers to eat out of the dog's dish rather than at the table and has little propriety as regards his bodily functions, he has long hair and rippling muscles, so naturally the nerds enroll him at their high school, where his barbarism is not only indistinguishable from most the other students, but is considerably more attractive. When he sees the cheerleaders walk by he is totally unrestrained and immediately moves to grope their breasts and attack them right in the school's crowded hallway, but he is such a hunk and so up front and in command with his desires that naturally they love it. The caveman in fact in almost no time has become the most popular kid in the school, all the while completely unconscious of where he is and what he is doing (I think he casually beats up the school bully in instinctive defense of his friends, which makes him immediately an awesome figure in the collective mind of the student body). A large number of the hottest female students openly declare a desire to have sex with him. I believe one of the underlying themes being hinted at is that in the raw and untamed state of humanity we discover something essential to the condition that is sensually very attractive, and that the spirit of the typical modern suburbanite is so molded in the image of the plastic which is the dominant feature of his world that it is not capable of being a serious force in any aspect of life, including that of the shell in which it resides. For several days after seeing this movie I told myself that I must act like the caveman at school and parties, and surely I would get some action. But this was hardly a reasonable persona for me to even imagine adopting.

4. Hamburger: the Motion Picture. I begin by saying that I have only watched the 1st ten minutes of this abomination of the human spirit, which stars Dick Butkus, of all people! One can only hope he really needed the money. The plot of this film centers around a guy who is due to inherit about a zillion dollars, with the stipulation that he must get a college degree 1st. (There was another movie starring Judd Nelson and Andrew Dice Clay which I forget the title of, but had the same theme of the inheritance riding on the character's getting a diploma. Is this a common condition in the wills of incredibly wealthy people who only have a single very indolent young man as a plausible heir?) The guy keeps flunking out of college however, I kid you not, because every time he attempts to go to class he ends up having sex instead. If he tries to take a shower two sorority girls immediately jump in with him and compel him to go to town. If he tries to slip down the back staircase a medically diagnosed nymphomaniac with D-cup breasts and clothing that has shrunk to half its original size in the college dryer on will be lingering on the next landing. Even when he is called to the dean's office to receive word of his expulsion, the secretary tears her shirt off and jumps on him while he is waiting to be received. In a word it is quite possibly the stupidest narrative ever produced for the consumption of human beings and yet...

This was around the time when sex addiction was in the news a lot, and men in varying degrees of trouble would confess that they suffered from this terrible affliction whereby they were powerless to resist constantly having sex with different women. To a 20-year old who cannot get any girls to save his life and who can daily sense his mind becoming irreparably deranged as a result, this is the most fascinating idea in the world. "There are people--men--who can't stop having sex with woman after woman after woman even if they want to?" I never believed any of the self-proclaimed sex addicts were the least bit sincere in their regrets, though the phenomenom remained awesome to me. When I was in college there was a fellow who was such a ladykiller and stirred up such violent jealousy and general havoc among the ladies on one floor that the administration had to ban him from going there any more, and one report said that they requested him as well to try to refrain from seducing anyone else at the school for a couple of weeks at least, which of course would hardly be a challenge for most people, but for this guy to make it through one weekend, which he did, I think out of a sense of the comedy and also the furious envy and hatred it must produce in all the inferior men, required an almost extraordinary effort, for naturally a decent bulk of the school's friskiest ladies rallied to his defense when the loss of emotional control he had produced in some of their rivals became public.

Mr Spectator naturally had wise, if not comforting, observations on this matter, delineated in no. 602, October 4, 1714:

"...there is no Sett of these Male Charmers who make their way more successfully, than those who have gained themselves a Name for Intrigue, and have ruined the greatest Number of Reputations. There is a strange Curiosity in the female World to be acquainted with the dear Man who has been loved by others, and to know what it is that makes him so agreaable. His Reputation does more than half his Business."

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