One of the most powerful and moving films of the past 30 years has got to be Overboard starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Perhaps best known for winning the 1988 Academy Award for Best Picture of All Time and defining an entire generation of rural mini-golfers and boat riding debutantes everywhere. Or perhaps not. If you're not familiar with the majesty that is Overboard, here's all you need to know: Kurt Russell plays down on his luck carpenter, Dean Profitt, who makes a wealthy socialite with amnesia, Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn), believe she's his wife. Wackiness does ensue: it's one of those feel good abduction comedies.
Most of the time kidnapping is considered a deplorable activity unless, of course, it happens to someone we don't like then it's funny. The only thing the film Overboard does to excuse this capital crime to the audience is to establish very early on that Goldie Hawn is a bitch. Bad things that happen to a good person is drama, bad things that happen to a bad person is comedy. So, Hawn falling off a boat and getting her comeuppance is comedy gold. If the story was reversed and Russell was a rich tycoon who kidnapped a poor working class woman who recently lost her memory then the message to the audience would most likely be a little different. It's the same way it's funny when a burglar gets hit in the face with a swinging paint can a la Home Alone. But as the movie goes on Goldie Hawn grows as a person, so does this negate the horribleness from earlier in the movie? Or intensify it?
Upon dozens of viewings though, the thing that really strikes me about Overboard is that Goldie Hawn is technically sexually assaulted and the implications are really just glossed over. The argument can be made that they were in love when Russell and Hawn consummate their relationship in the film. However, Hawn's character is not in full control of her faculties. How is getting amnesia after falling from a boat into cold waters any different from being slipped a roofie? At best, Hawn has minor brain damage and any decisions she makes with said minor brain damage should be questioned, at worse, this is a highly traumatic experience that she will need years of therapy to recover from.
Of course, people will say it's just a movie and to relax. And it is, in fact, just a movie. I still find it interesting that in one context sexual assault can be considered light comedy, while in other contexts, such as Monster, Boys Don't Cry, A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs, or Last House on The Left, it's considered horrific (and is horrific). Is there a difference? Why are we willing to look the other way when labeled a comedy or if the sex happens off screen?
Other examples of questionable sexual behavior in similar comedies:
50 First Dates
Adam Sandler has to seduce accident victim and amnesiac, Drew Barrymore, every day in order to trick her into falling in love with him. I think there are some definite gray areas in this seduction. How much can you love someone that you don't know? How much is this actual love, and how much is this believing that you love someone because you're told that you love them? The more terrifying part in 50 First Dates to me is that they have a kid at the end of the movie. Any plot that ends with a baby is scary, but this is the worst. If you went to sleep one night with no baby and woke up say 7 months pregnant the next morning, wouldn't you be concerned? My first thought would definitely not be, “Oh, I must have some sort of anterograde amnesia. The husband I never knew must be around here someplace to explain it.” It would probably be something more like, “Aliens! There's an alien inside me, where's the nearest sharp object I can cut this out with?”
The Truman Show
The sex in the The Truman Show is consensual, although, Truman is definitely in the dark as to who his wife really is. While Truman is a willing participant, how much of a participant can he possibly be when he's been pushed and prodded into the direction the producers want the show to go into. When Truman is not part of the selection process can he truly be a willing partner? But his wife, Meryle, actually has more at stake because she knows what is going on and has accepted the terms. Meryle is essentially a prostitute who's been paid extra money to have sex with Truman. And while porn stars do get paid to have sex on film, few (or any that I know of) are asked to conceive a child on film.
One thing that I think makes a comedy a comedy is that we prefer not to think about the repercussions of certain actions, whereas with dramas all we are left with are the repercussions. Although, maybe, the less we think about Goldie Hawn and Overboard the better.
Happy Valentine's Day!
|Print article||This entry was posted by Wolfie G. Nards on 02/14/11 at 12:04:10 am . Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0.|