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In ’80s Comedies, Boys Had It Made. Girls Were the Joke.

Category: Political News,Politics

They resurface at a moment like this, when, say, the president is telling the press that the Kavanaugh accusations have him worried about young men. They resurface involuntarily, sand you’re still finding in shoes and pockets, sand like “Zapped!,” something perversely dumb from the summer of 1982, in which Scott Baio uses telekinesis to a pop open a girl’s cardigan, then seduce her. He’s not the real creep though. That would be his buddy Peyton (Willie Aames); he does the sexual harassment and surreptitious snapshotting. They drink themselves silly, have sex with remorseful girls, grow pot, outsmart the principal and go unpunished. Tagline for the poster, which has Mr. Baio and Mr. Aames fixated on a girl’s levitating skirt: “They’re getting a little behind in their classwork.”

There are no long scenes of uproarious laughter in “Zapped!” One girl loses her entire outfit toward the end, in a mass stripping, and the laughter is supposed to come from us. The movie wanted to spoof the telekinesis in “Carrie,” which was a hit in 1976. Laughter, of course, was the trigger point for Carrie — kaleidoscopically uproarious laughter that sends her into an infernal rage that only she survives. The aberration of that kind of comeuppance should tell you where the movies’ priorities had shifted by the early 1980s: from the rumbling psyches of girls to the sexual amusement of their tormentors. At a rally the other day in Mississippi, the president lampooned Dr. Blasey to big cheers. Even now, men are laughing at her.

WHAT ENDED THE ’80s teen-boy movie wasn’t revolution so much as graduation. A lot of these kids became men in adult movies; they became superheroes. And eventually the sexual awakening and inner life of girls — white girls — made it to movies, in “Dirty Dancing,” “Adventures in Babysitting,” “Mystic Pizza” and “Shag,” in the miraculous early career of Winona Ryder. Horror movies made warriors of a few of them. But for most of the 1980s, girls got drunk, spied on, stuffed in car trunks and shopping carts, and laughed at. What they never sufficiently got, besides concurrent movies of their own, was revenge or even justice.

Well, Ms. Balbricker — she tries. “Porky’s” ends with her charging from the bushes and tackling Tommy, demented yet determined to expose him as the owner of that peephole penis. Presumably, she hasn’t forgotten the failure of the men who laughed uproariously rather than catch the culprit. But her attack doesn’t feel anything like justice. It’s like something from a horror comedy instead. The boys have just gleefully demolished Porky’s business, yet it’s Ms. Balbricker whom the cops haul off. Tommy turns to the camera and says, “Jeez.” But the boys don’t admit anything. They just laugh.


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