Aug 15, 2016

The Legend of Billie Jean (aka "Becoming American Through Tv/Films")

Who remembers this film from 1985?

If you have never heard of it, but you love (like me) any of these subjects:

  • strong female lead
  • fallen women
  • injustice done to women (especially by men)
  • followed by revenge by said women to above men
  • heroines
  • girl gangs, female outlaws
Then by all means rent it on YouTube for $3.99. Helen Slater who also played Supergirl (1984) is the lead, and a very young Christian Slater plays her younger brother and is BLONDE in this movie.

This film was seminal in the education of what I call, "Becoming American". Some other influences included Jordache Jeans commercials and the sisters band Heart in their late 80s look and sound. I didn't see Billie Jean until a couple years after it was released when it was on cable TV re-run. I watched every time it was on. I was completely in awe of this awesome, bad ass female lead. My family have only been living in the States for 3 years, and we were in Houston by then. Since this film takes place in Corpus Christie, TX, the environment such as the mall scene and the driving scenes resonated with familiarity, and the central characters who were "trailer trash" were true to life to me since we also lived in the poor part of town (although not in a trailer park) in one of those all utilities-included low-income apartments. This film was real and, to me, it held the key to understanding American kids and thus unlocking the complexities of fitting in (aka: project immigrant assimilation).

So from this movie I formulated in my young mind:

  • "American" meant blonde and tanned
  • poor kids are maybe nicer and more tolerant of people who are different
  • sporty guys who wear popped collars are assholes
  • older men in positions of power are NOT to be trusted
  • introduction to Pat Benatar for the first time - mind blown

I just re-watched it this weekend and I was reminded of how non-diverse films and tv used to be in the late 80s to 90s. There were hardly any people of color in this film, and that seemed very odd in light of present day's more true-to-life presentation of America's demographic.

But some things still remain true in my mind like I still think guys who wear popped collars are assholes, older men in positions of power are not to be trusted, but I no longer think to be American you have to be blonde and tanned, because later on when I was a pre-teen, I encountered The Lost Boys and I said, fuck this shit. I'm going to that side.

By the way check out the fashion in this film, remind you of any hipsters you know? Haha!

No comments:

Post a Comment