Saturday, November 10, 2012

A few thoughts on 'Flashdance,' Age 37

1. Archeologists will tell you that back in the 1980s, human beings used to turn the television to Channel 9 and record movies onto video cassette tapes. These duplications would include commercials for things like Dawn and Tony Home Perms. After the human being watched the recording, they had the option of taking a piece of masking tape and writing "Flashdance" along the edge of the video or blowing on it and re-inserting the tape back into the large metal machine and recording "Degrassi Junior High" over the material.

After a few go-rounds, recordings would begin to take on a graininess and the horizontal rainbow stripes of a film that has been exposed to sunlight. While this was frustrating at the time, it now lends a sort of hipster aesthetic to these old recordings and if you can find a VCR at your local electronics graveyard, it might be worth it to snag a friend and have him help you hoist this beast into your trunk. Worst case scenario, you can take the VCR apart and use the pieces to build an electronic car.

2. As you've probably guessed by my introduction, we had a copy of "Flashdance" in our stash. My mom claimed to love this movie, though I never remember her watching it and imagining it now makes me wonder what about it appealed to her -- and, if I knew what appealed to her, would it provide some sort of putrid window into her psyche that I wish I'd never opened?

Though she had been a ballet dancer in her youth, dance line dancer during high school, I doubt that the career path our hero Alex takes, a sort of cabaret-style of almost stripping, resonated much with my mom. Perhaps she believed the male romantic lead, played by Michael Nouri, was handsome -- speaking of Tony Home Perms. Perhaps her romantic drama wheelhouse is the idea of being saved by a wealthy steel tycoon with a house shaped like a Pennsylvania castle. Maybe she has wanted to sit on a chair and get doused with something in front of an audience, although I doubt it because otherwise she probably would have watched more "You Can't Do That On Television" than I believe she watched (none).

3.Yesterday, when I was headed to Subway, I got a whiff of someone getting a perm at the adjacent Cost Cutters. What a strange thing we did to ourselves back then. I remember sitting at the kitchen table while my aunt wrapped my hair into tight curls, a towel tossed over my shoulders like a boxer. Standing on a chair so I could bend over the sink while she squirted solution onto my skull, this strange mix of sensations: burning and chill.

4. Jennifer Beals, as Alex, is such a lovely little pup, all big brown eyes, unruly hair and slight puffy frown. One thing that I really like about Beals is that here she is, just so adorbs as a 20 year old. But only an insecure lout would choose 20-year-old Beals if she was up against the 40-something Beals who starred on "The L-Word." If she lives to be 100, I can only assume that she will have aged into someone so lovely that it will burn our retinas to look at her face.

5. Beals plays an 18-year-old in "Flashdance," which isn't a stretch. If you look closely, you will still see a squishy fetal-ness to her fontanelle. I'm not sure I can get behind Nick Hurly as a suitable love interest. She is presumably a recent high school graduate; He is presumably in his 30s -- if not late 30s. He's built a successful steel operation, he lives in a big house, he's got a snippy ex-wife, and he's enough of an arts patron to comfortably attend the ballet. I'm not sure Alex and Nick have enough in common, mentally, emotionally and pop-culture wise, to be on similar footing.

I think that Nick Hurly is only interested in Alex because she is young, flexible and looks great covered in water. Adult men probably shouldn't date hot-headed teens who throw rocks through windows when they don't get their own way. Likewise, teens probably shouldn't date men who don't need to save up the dough to replace said window.

Fair question: Does human resources at the steel mill know about this relationship between the boss and the sexy welder?

6. I have to believe there was some kind of early 1980s backward feminism at the root of this movie. We, as women, are supposed to puff our chests with righteousness when it is revealed that beneath that welding mask is a long-locked lovely rather than the expected image: the grizzled mug of a Vietnam vet and skilled tradesman. Unfortunately, this is all negated by Alex's belief that stripping is a viable alternative to ballet. It's further negated by her willingness to be "saved" by the rich and handsome man who is her boss. And, it is especially broken when the handsome rich boss's ex-wife is portrayed as a middle-aged catty shrew.

7. In fact, it's hard to get behind Alex as the protagonist at all when she reveals such an embarrassing level of immaturity. Aside from breaking Nick Hurly's window with a rock and her total freak-out that he would pull strings to get her an audition at the ballet conservatory, there is a moment when she is dining with him at a fancy restaurant that is especially cringe worthy.

Nick's ex approaches the table and reveals that she's heard all about Alex. She infers that Alex is a hussy. She attempts to urinate on Nick's leg right there at the table. Alex, in response, removes her coat to strut a tuxedo shirt slash dicky that enhances her naked side breasts. Dear Alex: Proving that you are the sexier woman is a silly and fleeting argument. You, too, will someday be 35. And although, as I stated early, you improve aesthetically as you age, at 18 you cannot yet know this. You have to assume that you, too, will someday battle facial creases and a slowed metabolism. That someday you won't be able to get a perfectly waxed leg behind your neck. That grey whiskers will poke out of your chin. I'd have been more impressed if you'd worn a turtle neck and solved a quadratic equation on the table cloth, using the purple crayon you'd squirreled away in your purse.

8. In this same scene, Alex flirts with Nick using a piece of lobster meat to simulate oral sex. While this act is presumably challenging the pleats of Nick's perfectly pressed khakis, it's really not hot at all. Here's why:

Lobster is meat that is probably slathered in butter. The first time Alex puts this into her mouth and then removes it without chewing, she has probably sucked the butter off of the meat. The second time she does it, there is a good chance the meat has been rendered flavorless. The third time she does it, she's simply sucking her own spit off of the meat. And every subsequent time she does this, is likely only serving to enhance the fishiness of this creature of the sea.

I have to imagine that director Adrian Lyne -- who I am not at all surprised to learn also directed "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Lolita" -- said to Beals: "Make love to the lobster with your mouth."

A better option for this scene would have been a sexy food: strawberries, whipped cream, even a corn dog.


Tori said...

I love this series. Keep it up!

Christa said...

Thanks! I've already got a new one on the horizon. As long as TiVo suggestions continues to offer up brilliant fare, I'll be rich in fodder.

Sproactually said...

"Lobster is meat that is probably slathered in butter"

This is incorrect, Lobster is simply a media to carry the butter. The only reason to actually eat the lobster, is because of the butter, thus making the consumption of butter directly a socially acceptable practice.

As you enter Maine, you can see where the butter is stored.

I had a crush on Jennifer Beals (who didn't in 1983), but you know about the body double scandal... Jennifer Beals did not do those dance scenes, where water droplets were flung with great velocity from all those taunt surfaces.

It was at that point in my life, i started to realize not everything is as is seems...

Christa said...

Ah! I understand better now. The lobster is just a very expensive vehicle. I get it.

I can't believe the body double thing was every a scandal. I guess I just assumed that Jennifer Beals didn't perform her own choreography. I must just be another jaded Gen Xer.