Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Porky's (1982)

by Jimmy "A Night to Remember" Callaway

More often than I care to admit, my brazenly chauvinistic tendencies show through this veneer of unrelenting charm that I don like a suit of velvet armor. And more than once, I have been rightly called out for such actions. "Jimmy," these detractors say, "How can someone who appears to be of above-average intelligence cling to such outmoded and patriarchal mindsets? I mean, what gives?"

And my usual response falls somewhere along the lines of "You don't know what I've been through, so fuck off!" Y'know, like some crazy Vietnam vet of love. "I've earned every iota of this glaring misogyny that I nurse like a festering wound that won't scab over, and you can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands! And yes, I'll mix my metaphors if I goddamn well please!" Which reaction is, of course, more telling than I'd like it to be: a wellspring of unexamined emotional pain becomes projected on the world at large and at women in particular, since the best defense is, after all, a good offense.

But as follows the Let's Exploit Everybody! charter, this sort of argument falls under lazy writing, which under my regime is a crucifiable offense. If I won't let lazy-ass filmmakers get away with unnatural dialogue and contradictory plots, then neither shall I be allowed to fall back on such bullshit emotional arguments for why the blatant sexism in Bob Clark's 1982 opus Porky's doesn't really bother me all that much.

Also, rest assured that I will not fall back on such chestnuts as, "It's only a movie." In fact, if you ever hear me say something like that, put a bullet in my head. Nor does it really matter that this movie is set in the American south in the 1950s, especially since the anti-racism sub-plot is indicative of a social consciousness not normally associated with that time or place.

No, I'm going to be hoeing the Freudian row pretty heavily here, so if you're some sorta smart-ass Jungian or something, you might as well take a powder now. The way I read this flick and its sub-text is that, basically, it is imperative that we, as young men coming into our own identity, assert our manhood, even (especially?) if that means stripping some of our fellow human beings of any and all dignity. Sorry, ladies, nothing personal, but I've got to prove to my dad that he's not the boss of me anymore.

The aforementioned sub-plot about racism is the most direct address of these ideas. Tim has got a real problem with the new kid, Brian, because he's Jewish. But as Tommy and Billy, who are pretty much the leaders of our horny little band, point out to Brian, it's really Tim's own father that Tim has a problem with. A drunk, abusive ex-con, Tim's father is not about to abide his son being some kinda kike-lover. But really, it's not a stretch to imagine that Tim's father doesn't want Tim to surpass him in any way, whether it be socially, educationally, financially, or any -ly you can think of. This sort of quasi-direct competition between father and son is really nothing new at all, and I personally find it to be one of the shittier things one human can do to another (yes, even more so than treating women like unfeeling jizz-jars). Tim finally redirects his anger back to his father, thereby freeing himself from that yoke and allowing he and Brian to put their differences aside and become friends.

But the biggest father-figure in this flick is none other than the eponymous whoremonger, Porky. Larger than life, a Florida cracker version of Boss Tweed, Porky is the biggest obstacle for the boys from Angel Beach to overcome, bigger even than Pee-Wee losing his cherry, in order for them to become men. When the boys all show up to party (except Billy, oddly enough, which plays into my largely unformed theory that he acts as the mother of the group), they have to get Porky's say-so, they have to please him in order to score some pussy. But like any father-figure, this acceptance as an equal, a peer, is just never gonna happen.

So the boys get the shaft(!), literally, a trap door into the swamp below. Porky is the guardian of the pussy, and no buncha snotnoses are gonna sup from this trough on his watch. Mickey, the most stubborn of the bunch, attempts time and again to enter Porky's establishment, only to receive several beatings, each more vicious than the last. So in a grand display of their own power, the Angel Beach boys pull a full demo job on Porky's place, effectively castrating the big fat redneck who is father to us all.

"Yes, Jimmy, yes. We get it. Our fathers suck and we have to destroy them and it would all make Sophocles very proud. Now, what's this got to do with treating objects like women, man?"

Well, I guess where it really starts to get uncomfortable for me is the famous shower scene. In a set of circumstances I could only pray for as a boy, Tommy and the fellas have got a set-up in the walls of the girls' shower room where they can peep at the young ladies in secret (until Pee-Wee, ever the limp-dick, blows their cover). As discussed over at Let's Kill Everybody! this month, the male Gaze in cinema is often synonymous with male power: men see, women don't, and as such, the latter are rendered victims. Now, just because this situation in Porky's isn't played out to the same gruesome end as it is in flicks like Psycho or Peeping Tom, that doesn't mean it doesn't make me feel like taking a shower myself.

I mean, seriously, Tommy sticks his dick in through the drainpipe. How can I not read that as him raping the whole showerful of girls? Of course, Wendy, though not quite yet the strong female character she will become in the mostly miss-able sequel, is not frightened by this pecker and directly confronts it on her own terms (at first, anyways), which only makes me love her more.

And Ms. Balbricker, the sour-faced wet blanket of a gym teacher, comes in and ruins all the "fun." We, the audience, are meant to dislike her because she's an ugly old stick-in-the-mud. And, y'know, yeah, I'm with you on that, movie. But I dunno, man, when Balbricker grabs hold of Tommy Turner's dick and transfers his power to her (she sees him, after all), part of me cheers. And that same part is really kinda sad when Principal Carter and the male gym teachers laughingly dismiss her concerns for the safety of her young female charges (even if the rest of me finds this to be one of the funniest scenes in the whole movie).

So, look, here's where I think I'm going with this: for most of my adult life, I managed to justify and rationalize just about every shitty thing I've done to others, including and especially women, because of what I considered the raw fuckin' deal I'd been dealt by life. Having lately been making more of an effort to correct this, I've found that I now have a new perspective on such things like Porky's, a perspective I couldn't have achieved without doing some serious personal reaccounting. But as it happens, the old perspectives remain, and even if they don't dictate my thoughts and actions as they once did, I can still find them relevant if not completely valid.

In essence, the 33-year-old Jimmy is kinda creeped out by this flick. But even given all of this, the 33-year-old Jimmy and the 13-year-old Jimmy still really like the shower scene. The actual nudity in this scene still transports me back to a time in my life when the female body was a strange and wonderful mystery. And now thanks to digital technology, when I pause this scene today, I don't have all those shitty tracking lines getting in the way like they used to do with VHS. So even though I've got all this new-found overeducated male guilt going on in this essay, there is still very much a part of me that is as gleeful and joyous at this unabashed smorgasbord of female nakedness as it ever was.

Naked chicks is, after all, naked chicks. And I fervently hope I never lose that perspective.