Friday, November 29, 2019

We need to talk about that scene in Getting Lucky. No, the other one.

The sex comedy has all but died out at this point landing in the pile of other virtually deceased subgenres like jungle adventure films, and biker gang movies. There are several reasons for its decline, the ubiquitousness of sexual imagery on the internet and the rise “prestige” television shows such as Game of Thrones which often features sex and violence far exceeding anything in mainstream cinemas today. There is also the matter of the slow but gradual change in the public’s view of consent and autonomy. Strange early blips of this modernity can make an interesting note out in an otherwise unremarkable movie.

Getting Lucky, released in 1990 from director Michael Paul Girard is one of those(mostly)  unremarkable sex comedies. Getting Lucky is the tale of a nerd who happens to find a leprechaun trapped in a beer bottle. The leprechaun must do three good deeds to escape. The nerd pines for a girl way of out of his league, and you can guess the rest.

Around the half-way point, Getting Lucky decides it’s time to spice things up with an attempted rape. Video below, content warning for sexual assault.

99% of romantic comedies up to this point would feature a determined man pursuing a woman who is, at best, dubious about having sex. Revenge of the Nerds (1984), for example, has seen its reputation rightly soured from scenes of men spying on women and coercing them into sex. So when high school jock, Tony (Rick McDowell) starts forcibly trying to have sex with cheerleader Krissi (Lezlie Z. McCraw). These two were a couple earlier in the film and Krissi did sneak out of date to go have sex with Tony, so I expected this scene to turn into a ‘boys will be boys’ moment and an uncomfortable reminder of this movie’s era. So it was with some surprise that the scene kept going and that it wasn't letting Tony off the hook or soft-pedaling what he was doing. It’s only the intervention of Krissi’s mom (Pattie Gordon) that prevents anything more awful from happening. Tony even faces some consequences for his actions in the form of some jail time.

This whole scene is a weird dark note in an otherwise forgettable sex comedy that is only notable for a) constantly airing on USA’s Up All Night and b) a scene where Bill shrinks down and accidentally ends up in Krissi’s underwear. The underwear scene is the kind of goofball titillation that I expect in a sex comedy from the early 1990s. The movie doesn’t have the resources to render giant thighs and pubic hair with any realism so the whole thing takes on a surreal quality. Even here there are consequences for Bill as Krissi wants to break-up once she discovers him in the girls’ shower returned to full size. Krissi wields an unusual amount of agency for a subgenre that is notorious for denying women any; they are often objects to be pursued or challenges to be overcome.

This isn’t to say Getting Lucky is some spearhead of progressiveness, the core of it is still a mindless horny comedy featuring a badly realized leprechaun in a beer bottle, but it is indicative of the cultural change that would be coming later in the 1990s and onward. In that respect, it has at least earned itself another footnote in its bizarre history.

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