Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Barely Legal

Uh, yeah, so this is not one of my usual reviews, because this movie is actually softcore porn. One of the interesting things about sharing a Netflix account with family members is seeing what they watch on their own. My friend has an 18 year old brother, and one night was sharing with us some of the titles that she figured that he had watched (because she did not attribute them to her mother). Barely Legal was one of them. It sounded so bad, that we actually decided to watch it.

This week is porn week for me (not kidding, I'm reading about porn in not one but TWO of my classes) so here we go.
Here I am, Saturday night, reading the history of porn culture and drinking French wine.
ThIs iS wHaT CoLleGe iS LiKe. If you choose to study social sciences and humanities, that is.

Barely Legal tells the classic story of three girls, all born on the same day, who live in basically a porn den sans parents, who resolve to lose their virginities on their 18th birthdays. One is religious and decides against saving herself for marriage, one is kind of klutzy and has a cheating Adam Lambert-lookalike boyfriend, and the other is a floozy who does everything-but. From this start this movie is over-the-top-absurd. The four of us watching were practically wiping tears from our eyes as we laughed hysterically at what was happening. The three BFFs have this big birthday party where they all plan on losing their virginities. But through a serious of mishaps and escalating absurd situations, none of them actually have penetrative sex. Which I thought was an interesting twist on this "sex comedy" tale of losing virginity. The promiscuous one realizes that she's a lesbian, the religious one fails at trying to seduce her friend from church (who is gay for Jesus, wow! How original, obligatory gay jokes lololol) and ends up finally discovering the joys of self-pleasure (and as one of my friends described it, "masturbates with every appliance in their house."), and the klutzy one just is klutzy forever until she realizes she's in love with this other guy.

This is a terrible movie. We had a running debate on whether or not it was a parody of porn movies or just bad, and I think the conclusion we realized was that it's just bad. Really, really, hilariously bad. We kept saying, "This was definitely written by someone who has never spoken to a woman. Or been around a woman. Or probably had sex with a human."

Porn is visible in every aspect of society. As I'm reading in The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What it Means, and Where We Go from Here, the rise of popular media in the last century especially has been saturated with pornographic images so that we're more or less completely desensitized to the porning of our culture. From actual porn movies to reality TV shows about Playboy Bunnies to R-rated sex scenes in movies to Bratz, sexual images are commonplace and accepted. Some are more accepted than others, so the pornographic qualities of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams' sex scenes in The Notebook are more "acceptable" than sex scenes from hardcore porn, but in general we live in a society that expects sex.

One of the interesting things I've read in The Porning of America is that in the mainstreaming of porn, humor was really important. I'm not very familiar with movies from the actual "porn" genre, but when my friends and I were watching Barely Legal we were all sort of baffled by the cheesy dialogue, lame jokes and slapstick gags that inundated the loose plot of the movie. It was just so bizarre! In Porning, the authors cite the film Deep Throat as the first mainstream porn film. It was made to look like a regular Hollywood movie with a plot and everything (a departure from earlier porn films, which lacked a plot and usually featured filmed prostitutes), and made use of really cheesy, humorous dialogue. They say, "Humor, even lame humor, is disarming. From a propagandistic point of view, the makers of Deep Throat had stumbled onto a mass-market presentation of porn that would assist its acceptance, its normalization" (page 15).

And it is disarming! There were a couple scenes in Barely Legal with this phone sex dominatrix nun that were so bizarre and hilarious, and we were all certainly disarmed by the surprising humor. Despite the inundation of sexual/pornographic images in the media, graphic sex still has a disarming effect. Sex is taboo! Not for everyone, but it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

As a 15 year old, the atmosphere of watching Sex & the City was drastically different for me when I watched it in the same room as my mother and when I watched it with just some of my friends (and someone's thumb on the pause button so we could analyze Samantha's prowess). The atmosphere of a class talking about sex is drastically different than at a "Sex Toy Party," and drastically different between dudes in a locker room talking about sex than among teenagers at a sleepover. We have all sorts of contexts for sex and discourse about it, and porn plays a huge part in that. Reruns of Sex & the City aren't going to get played at any porn theater, but they form part of American's consciousness of pornographic images.

I'm about halfway through The Porning of America and I have a couple more readings on porn to do for another class, but I think this is interesting stuff. Porn is controversial in the feminist community, and recently I read a quote (I wish I could remember where) on a blog about how the person being quoted (I'm pretty sure she was a feminist blogger, probably from feministing) was not against porn implicitly because porn can be really helpful and enjoyable and offer new points of view on sex, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be critical of bad porn. Child porn, disturbing violent porn, porn that exploits racist stereotypes, all those are bad. Barely Legal isn't in the category of truly evil porn, but I was definitely hoping that it was made with some parody-esque goals in mind because... if that's how dudes envision women, I'm officially disturbed.

2 comments:

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