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April 8, 2013

This past Sunday at 4am I was watching Mannequin for the first time in years (shup) and I was struck by what a weird movie it was. It wasn’t so much the mannequin bit (though that is a sticking point) but just how bitchy of a movie it is that there’s competing department stores–you know, the 80’s and materialism. Who thinks, “You know what would make this movie work better? A department store take over!” If none of you have ever seen it then I recommend watching it for I think it sort of encapsulates the 80’s and how they viewed merchandise, women, and oddly enough, homosexuals. I’ll give you a brief rundown for the stupid curious:

The movie starts off in ancient Egypt in which the most awesomely racially insulting bit happens, Kim Cattrall is an Egyptian who’s cursed (obviously) to be a mannequin until she finds twoo wuv (also obviously). Fast forward to modern (1980’s modern) Philadelphia (tada!) and Andrew McCarthy plays a loser (very obviously, have you seen his resume past 1989?) and he builds Emmy because if there’s ever been the most Egyptian name on screen it’s Emmy. And he saves a Golden Girl (Estelle Getty) who hires him on for saving her. Then he rises through the ranks by making the most spectacularly amazing mannequin display that there ever was (who knew?). Then James Spader is there playing a rather wormy effete boot-licker and then GW Bailey shows up as an asshole. Really, you could interchange Captain Harris, Skroeder, and Felix since they’re essentially the same person. Some forced drama, bingo bango happy ending with stereotypical 80’s montage.

Now, whether you hate this schlock or not it definitely was a pretty good signpost of 1987 America because there’s stores fighting over who can sell more merchandise, white ‘Egyptians’, and how villainous gay people are, but oh so helpful as well. Yeah, first off is the materialism–I kind of blame that on the culture of ‘buy, buy, buy’ and how the world seemed to turn on profits and ambition and that as long as you’re creative and driven, well by golly it’ll work out in the end for you. That’s pretty much it for me on that area. It’s a silly premise, but it was the 80’s and silly worked. It doesn’t quite hold up as well these days. Granted it didn’t hold up well then yet it was more excusable.

Add to the fact that the Egyptian woman is white. White and a manic pixie dream girl: she’s just so wild and creative and everything possible! She also is very loving and caring, but not too caring or too domineering–no, no, no, she’s amazing, but not too amazing with a personality beyond some sugary sweet concoction thought up in a movie studio. I would have far less problems with this woman if she acted like an actual person with feelings and a personality beyond just, “Magic!” I would call her a flat character, but she’s not quite flat or round–just annoying. But not too annoying to be unwatchable.

Next you have the African-American character, Hollywood, played by Meshach Taylor who is as camp gay as camp gay can get without going to a pride parade. Yeah, he’s that bad. But he’s ‘stylin” with his pink car and stupid 80’s sunglasses because he’s sssssuper gay. Yeah, that’s pretty much the norm for that era and they call him a faerie and such and are generally dismissive of the character. He gets revenge by making security guards drink from the firehose! Yeah…that’s his big moment. That and acting like a total woman. Honestly if they revealed he had a pair of breasts and desperately wanted to be a woman I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Then you have James Spader’s character, Richards, who is wormy, but also kind of fits stereotypes about homosexuals and how they act. It’s never outright stated, but it is strongly implied by his mannerisms.

He’s meant to be a threat to our hero, but not too much of a threat because then he wouldn’t fit in with this movie. All in all none of the characters nor its execution are spectacular, groundbreaking, or noteworthy beyond 1980’s trivia. The premise doesn’t even work. For all intents and purposes this world is supposed to be our world which follows a certain set of rules and physics, but heeey…Egyptian curse. Because that’s apparently all Egyptians did back then was curse each other and then curse their pets and then curse their curses. So no one ever sees her, but they definitely hear Emmy when they eavesdrop on our hero’s sexual activities in the bathroom, but never think that he might have an actual woman in there because mannequin.

So why am I ranting about this stupid, silly movie? Well, because it was 4am and I was feeling analytical and that was my take-away. Again: I’d rank it with Howard The Duck as far as movies go–not as bad as people say, but not good. Just somewhere middling. And if you’re awake at 4am then you take what you can get.


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