Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: American Beauty

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 1, 1999

It’s that time of year again: Awards Show Time! The Oscars. Golden Globes. The Flying Rat’s Ass That I Could Care About Them Award.

However, some Rough Neck members pay attention to that sort of crap, so I’ve been kind of suckered into a parade of “let’s go see everything before they win” to appease my subjects. I’m so out of it, I don’t even know if the Oscar nominees have been announced yet.

I already saw BOYS DON’T CRY by myself, but that was an accident. I wanted to go see MR. DEATH, but the Saturday I wanted to see it I lost track of the time. Well, I do guess I’m not that out of it since I do know Hilary Swank won a Golden Globe for her astounding performance in that film. However, I do work for a website that does TV listings, so the Globes were a topic of conversation in the office the day after the awards were given out. I always seem to find this shit out whether I want to or not.

So, anyway, the first film in the parade was AMERICAN BEAUTY. This movie has been out forever. I wanted to see it when it first came out last fall or early summer, but that was during when I was on unemployment, which is my excuse for a lot of things. Then when I started making money there were just too many other movies I wanted to see that I kinda forgot about BEAUTY. So I’m sort of glad someone else made the decision for me to go see it because I did want to go.

Now that I have seen AMERICAN BEAUTY, I have to ask this question: What the dilly-o with all this kiddie porn these days?

Tracy Lords, who has had some legitimate film and TV roles in the past ten years or so (due to no small part of John Waters who cast her in CRY-BABY), will forever be known as the underage porn star. That’s just an image and title that no one will ever let her forget. She’ll be 90 years old, one foot in the grave and someone will ask her, “So, Tracy, tell me the real reason you lied about your age so you could have sex on film.”

Now, Tracy might be a very nice woman and I’m not bringing her name up to cast aspersions. Heaven knows she’s not the only teenage girl who ever had sex. When I was in high school, it seemed like most kids were gettin’ some. Not that I was. That’s the topic for another review. But when the truth about Tracy Lords story came out it was a big scandal. All the porno shop owners had to pull her tapes so they wouldn’t get arrested.

Also a couple years ago, there seemed to be a big crackdown on kiddie porn on the web. This was in all the newspapers and magazines and on TV. But of course discourse on the subject died out without any resolution. Since I’m too lazy to do any research. I don’t know if it became law or if it was only pending legislation, but web sites were going to be forbidden to even suggest the idea of underage kids having sex. You know, like those “teen sex” web pages where the producers of such entertainment claim all the models and actresses are over 18 even though they look like they’re 15. Or am I the only person reading this who’s seen sites like that?

Please bear with me here while I switch gears for a second:

Ok, I’m not gay. But when I click on MTV and see a video for the Backstreet Boys or ‘N Sync, it doesn’t look like they’re being sold as sex objects. I generally see them in baggy clothes when they’re jumping around like monkeys or pouting like tender, sensitive wusses in their videos.

The chicks on MTV, on the other hand, look like they’ve hired Tracy Lords’ makeup artist and fashion designer to sculpt their looks. The “plots” to their videos are almost identical to the “plots” to porn movies, but instead of some spontaneous cocksucking breaking out the girls break out into spontaneous dance moves.

Look at some of the Backstreet Boys videos (yes, I AM embarrassed I know all this). In one video they dress up like monsters and dance around a giant mansion. In another they’re intergalactic space pilots in a STAR WARS-esque universe.

What does Britney Spears get to do? Tie her little Catholic schoolgirl outfit up into a belly shirt and give the camera her best seductive looks. I saw some other ho tonight (I tried to wait around for her name, but I couldn’t take the song anymore without killing myself) trying to win the heart of her favorite non-threatening male celebrity at a movie premiere. “What, I don’t look like a slut enough for you, Corey,” she thinks to herself as she bats her glitter encrusted eyelashes.

And then AMERICAN BEAUTY comes out. In one scene, Thora Birch gets to flash the camera her 16-year-old jugs. The other teenage chick in the movie gets naked, too, but I’m not sure what her age was at the time of filming (and as always I’m not going to bother looking it up). But I guess because this was considered an “intelligent” film, it’s alright to show teenage knockers and it never gets any serious mention in the mainstream media. The teenage male star of the film doesn’t have to show his cock in the movie, does he?

Is that the same thing, I always wonder? Is seeing female breasts the equivalent of seeing dicks in movies? Women are always expected to get naked in movies and they’re actually considered “bad sports” when they don’t, e.g. Neve Campbell in WILD THINGS.

These are odd times we’re living in, folks, when the most popular female entertainers in the music industry look like a cross between Tracy Lords and JonBenet Ramsey.