Friday, December 17, 2010
by Laura "Knockin' Silver Space Boots" Roberts
I don't know if this theory has been put forth before, but having recently viewed seminal sexploitation flick Barbarella for the second time, it occurs to me that the title character is essentially the female version of Captain Kirk. Both are screwing their way across the universe, in a voyage of discovery, and neither seems capable of engaging in long-lasting relationships, because each is married to his or her respective spaceship.
Okay, so Barbarella's on a mission to find mad scientist Durand Durand and bring him back to Earth, before he uses his WMDs on us all. And, played by a young Jane Fonda, she's way hotter than Captain Kirk ever was. Plus she's willing to play for the other team, taking literally all comers: male, female, machine… even angel. Captain Kirk, boring old hetero that he is, wouldn't be caught dead playing catcher to some dude in a bear suit. Kirk: 0, Barbarella: 4… 5…? Hell, I lost count after Pygar and his golden abs.
Based on a French graphic novel, Barbarella changes clothes every time she makes love. Many suggest this is "a French thing" (French women being stylish and all of that cultural BS), but it's probably just a feminine thing; after all, who wants to wear the same tired Peter Pan outfit when she's just met a hot new guy who can fly without pixie dust? It is a bit curious, however, that all of her lovers (particularly the men) seem to have random women's clothing lying around in just her size. Then again, when you're screwing a dude named Dildano, I guess that's just a given.
Some would argue that Barbarella's willingness to fuck everyone she meets implies promiscuity, if not the exploitation of women as fuckable objects, but I say those people are narrow-minded prudes who need to get out and mix with the animals sometime. Barbarella's not a slut; she's just never been fucked good and proper. And I mean that literally, as Earth has apparently succumbed to some sort of love drug, where "making love" means taking a pill and then pressing your palms against your lover's until "maximum rapport is achieved" (in about 3 minutes). Of course, you'd only do it if your profiles matched up in some pseudoscientific manner. Not exactly panty-dampening material there, so when the first alien Barbarella meets suggests doing the horizontal polka--the old-fashioned way--she is at first taken aback. Being a good sport, however (she has just suggested she can "repay" the man who has saved her from some evil children and their flesh-chewing dolls), she takes one for the team and is soon humming in post-orgasmic bliss.
Once she's had her cherry popped, Barbarella is eager to continue down this path of pleasure. And who could blame her? Holding hands is hardly erotic, beyond the age of 13, and if our gal is somewhere in her twenties with a wicked figure and plenty of pent-up sexual frustrations, thanks to Earth's sexual fascism, I can't see why she wouldn't be into banging every Tom, Dick or Harry that expresses an interest.
Okay, so she expresses her thanks and repays people for their simple kindness with sexual services, which is kind of slutty, but what else has she got to offer? The goodwill of the people of boring old Earth? She doesn't seem to have any space currency or a Titanium AmEx card to throw around, and she's asking favors left and right (Can you repair my spaceship? Oh, by the way, can you lead me to Durand Durand?), so left with little else but her feminine wiles, and when in SoGo… ooh, that feels good, maybe just a little more to the left? Oh yeah, baby, just like that, unnnnngh.
Of course, like any good female character who loves sexing it up, Barbarella must be punished. She falls into the clutches of The Great Tyrant's evil Concierge, who stuffs her into the Excessive Machine, which is meant to kill her by playing her like a fiddle. Or in this case like a creepy pipe organ. Death by orgasm; how ironic! And yet, since Barbarella is so insatiable, she even more ironically ends up destroying the machine instead. As it grinds to a smoking halt, Barbarella is surprised to find herself sexually unfulfilled, but also not dead. She puts two and two together, realizing the inventor of this orgasmatron must be Durand Durand, the mad scientist she's come to retrieve.
The plot thickens!
Durand Durand sets Barbarella up with some scheme about breaking into The Great Tyrant's sleeping quarters with an invisible key, double crossing her by locking the ladies into the bedroom together. Now for a little hot girl-on-girl action, right? Not quite. It seems the two are perched directly over the evil goo that fuels the city of SoGo, the Mathmos, and will be killed by overexposure to its pure evil. While Durand Durand attempts a coup, resistance leader Dildano leads a counter-attack. Unfortunately, Durand Durand has a positronic ray on his side (the WMD previously mentioned), and everyone's being zapped to kingdom come. The Mathmos has decided it's had enough of this human/alien crap and swallows everybody up, ejecting only Barbarella and The Great Tyrant onto its shores.
In the final scenes of this crazy love-fest, it is revealed that Barbarella was "too good" for the Mathmos to swallow, unlike the rest of the denizens of SoGo with their sexual kinkiness and hookah-smoking ways. Figure that one out, after she's spent the whole film fucking. Actually, isn't it obvious? FUCKING IS NOT EVIL. Fucking people over is evil, and fucking people up is evil, but straight up fucking? Pure and natural. How's that for a moral?
The only head-scratcher is why The Great Tyrant has also been rejected by the Mathmos, when it seems she's been about the nastiest bitch in town, but hey, every heroine has to have her villain. And why does the angel, Pygar, collect them both under his sexy wings, even though The Great Tyrant has blinded and tortured him? He claims it's because "angels have no memory," but I think we all know it's because two girls and one guy is the ultimate threesome, and he's taking them both back to feather his nest and put yet another notch in his golden belt.
In the end, is Barbarella a sexploitation flick or free-love fable? I leave that to you to decide, while you drool over Barb's silver boots, chain mail and assorted miniskirts.