30 October 2011

24 Oct - "No means no. Don't you guys get that?"

Devil in the Flesh (video, 1998)
dir. Steve Cohen

Rose McGowan (Encino Man, 1992)
Alex McArthur (Conspiracy Theory, 1997)
J.C. Brandy (What Lies Beneath, 2000)
Phil Morris (Wag the Dog, 1997)

There seems to be a lot of movies that are about beautiful girls who go batshit crazy, contrive a romance with a totally innocent male victim, and almost ruin everything for anybody before their sexy conniving ways are revealed and the girl either dies or is brought to justice.

This is one of those movies.

What's frustrating is that this one was a little different in that it focused on McGowan's character, Debbie, instead of centering the narrative on her romantic interest and English teacher, Peter. This kind of turned Debbie into an anti-hero, she was just playing the odds! Unfortunately, as Debbie gets crazier and crazier, we get less and less insight into her mind as the story turns toward Peter trying to convince his virtuous fiance that all this is just in Debbie's head. But it's not! Peter plays into it, giving Debbie special attention in class and feeding her fantasy.

But I'm appealed by this idea of crazy-bitch-as-hero and I think it should have been explored more. In one scene, her grandmother hits her with a cane when she discovers that Debbie's been hiding her own clothes instead of wearing the outdated, conservative duds that granny provided for her. So Debbie rips the cane out of her hand and fights back with prejudice. The grandma begs for mercy, and in a vicious moment of self awareness Debbie says, "Fuck mercy! You don't have any mercy. My mother never had it, my father didn't have it, and I don't have it. It's a family thing!"

I found myself wanting Debbie to succeed in her escapist fantasy, until she started murdering people, and I find myself reflecting on that essential feminist critique, "how would this story be different with a male protagonist?"

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