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Director: Zelda Barron
Writers: Lanier Laney, Terry Sweeney, Robin Swicord
Producers: Julia Chasman & Stephen Woolley
Starring: Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda, Scott Coffey, Annabeth Gish, Page Hannah, Robert Rusler, and Tyrone Power Jr. et al.
Don’t You Wanna Shag With Me?
Week 11 of Film Phonics was a near-tie between “Italian” and “shag.” I would’ve gone with the former and watched the original “Italian Job” (1969) directed by Peter Collinson and starring Michael Caine. But, the latter won by one vote; thus, I saw “Shag” (Zelda Barron, 1989). Prior to the Austin Power films (1997, 1999, 2002), I don’t believe I had ever heard the word “shag,” but since the releases of these Jay Roach-directed, Mike Myers-scripted films, I may have learned that “shag” isn’t always slang for “having sexual intercourse.” According to urbandictionary.com, it’s “amateur beach-style dancing” popular in the US. It is this definition of “shag” provides the backdrop for Barron’s film “Shag.” Set in 1963 South Carolina, this beach-party romantic comedy follows four best friends who spend their final weekend together at Myrtle Beach before going their post-high-school graduation ways. There’s also a beauty pageant, an unplanned house party, a shagging competition tossed in for allusive measures.
What struck me more about this film than its themes (girl power), its intertextuality (“Dirty Dancing” and any Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon film), or that Kenny Ortega (“One From the Heart,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Newsies”) did the choreography was that the four gal pals looked like Barbie and friends. Bridget Fonda, who plays aspiring actress Melaina Buller, goes from 60s Barbie to Confederate Beach Barbie to High Fashion Evening Wear Barbie to Elegant Evening Wear Barbie. Phoebe Cates is Carson McBride, who is engaged to Harley Ralston (Tyrone Power Jr.), but meets warm-hearted bad boy Buzz (Robert Rusler) and the sparks fly. She shares the role of Barbie’s friend Midge with red-head Luanne Clatterback (Page Hannah), who has a crush on Harley and is the anal retentive one of the group, and Caroline “Pudge” Carmichael (Annabeth Gish), who teaches blond-haired bartender Chip (Scott Coffey) how to shag.
If there ever were a politically incorrect edition, Melaina would be Almost Rape Victim Barbie. Psychologists tell us time and time again that regardless of how provocatively a woman is behaving, men should not assume they want to shag in the non-dance sense. Feminists will assert the same idea and possibly add that a woman who is behaving provocatively can always change her mind and say “no.” Not that I disagree, but … I’m going to go against my sex and gender, and utter “don’t make me say ‘I told you so.’” In this case, Melaina seduces a local boy (who already has a girlfriend), gets into his car, goes with him to a wooded area, changes her mind, and gets dragged out of the car just in time by two local girls, one of whom is the girlfriend. Melaina may not have been raped, but she gets whipped creamed for coming on to someone else’s property.
In terms of “girl power,” “Shag” touches on the socially constructed “fates” of girls who graduated high school in the early 60s. Melaina is pretty, which seems to be her only asset. Pudge is a nice girl who may be a bit of a prude. Carson—who names their daughter Carson?—probably doesn’t really want to get married but has little say in it. Luanne is going to college. One could, I suppose, argue that these scenarios still manifest themselves today.
On a lighter note, though, I leave you with my two favorite lines:
Pudge to Chip: “If you don’t shag with me, I’m going to ask someone else.”
Carson to Buzz: “I can’t go around sleeping with every boy that likes me.”
Every week, Stina Chyn puts her viewing habits in your hands. Readers vote on five random words posted at Back Talk every Tuesday. The winning word dictates what she will have to watch and review the following week as that word must appear in the title of the movie. Choose wisely!