(CS: Scott returns with his mission of seeing if movies that have a reputation of being not just bad but awful are actually much better than believed. This week he looks at the box office hit that kicked off the teenage sex comedy boom of the 1980s, Porky's)
Different people will have their own reactions when they hear the word, Porky’s. The 1981 movie, written and directed by Bob Clarke has a reputation that is… perhaps not the best. Defenders may say that it is simply a ‘boys will be boys’ movie, and haters use words like misogynistic. Remember, this film was made in the early 80s, so there is a chance that our modern reaction to the film may be one of over political correctness and forgetting that it was made in a different time. (CS: To be fair, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel despised this movie but loved movies like MASH, Animal House, Sixteen Candles and Revenge of the Nerds without mentioning any of the issues in them that we see now)
Not everything ages well. Some movies get forgiven for their sins. Some movies don’t. And then there are also films where nostalgia seems to paint over issues, leaving people forgetting that there were even any problems at all. I feel that MASH fits into this category, where it seems as though people don’t recall any of its inappropriate aspects. On the podcast, we recently reviewed Animal House, and a great deal of attention was paid to talking about changing times, and what wasn’t even to be considered correct when the film was released. (CS: Yet oddly enough even liberal-minded critics like Roger Ebert seemed to have very little issues with those things at the time) As I said, some films get forgiven, while others don’t.
I wanted to look at Porky’s to see if perhaps there was overreaction towards it. I think I’m kind of politically correct, but I know people can take it way too far. Maybe the memory of Porky’s through the mind of the modern person really misses out on the true heart of the movie. Maybe we all project our own sense of ‘rightness’ on anything that dared do things differently and had a bit of edge.
Watching Porky’s, I saw a movie about male comradery. In 2020, the alpha view of the male is quite different than what we see in this film set in 1954. Are we even allowed by the PC culture to focus on the primal elements of manly brotherhood? It could be that Bob Clarke’s film hit on something that is quite important as a counter argument to the demasculinization of gender and the focus on free-flowing neutrality. The story is one of teen guys on the cusp of becoming men. Many issues that the characters' face, such as overcoming bigotry and standing up for themselves and their communities are legitimate even this many years later. The story is about coming together, being the band of brothers and standing shoulder to shoulder with our peers as we stare down the challenges of the world.
And it’s about Pee Wee. He’s, I guess, the main character. He is awful. He is more than awful. I don’t condone violence, but I honestly wouldn’t have minded if our little, misogynistic pit stain of a lead character got tossed over the side of a sea-bound galleon and keel-hauled until there was nothing left of him but a memory of our delight at seeing him vanish from site on his way to an intimate date with the barnacle covered hull of such a mighty vessel.
Honestly, I did hate that character. Thankfully, I found comfort in the fact that I could spread my loath across the entire cast of characters. Boys will be boys, sure. I never really agreed with that stuff, but if the characters are likable and ultimately not mean-spirited then we are able to accept that they are flawed. (CS: Bluto from the aforementioned Animal House, for example) It’s not just something that affects raunchy comedies, but all movies. Audiences can accept many actions from characters if we believe that these people on the screen are just trying their best to find their way. The people we watch on the screen might well do many things we ourselves would never, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t connect with us.
What doesn’t work in Porky’s is the lack of likability of anyone, as well as the fact that there is but no objective in their lives. Ultimately, their trouser trusses are divining rods that get them dowsing any which way that will lead them to any kind of sexual fulfillment. Jeremy spoke in class today.
Sorry, I was temporarily distracted by the music I’m currently listening to. But this distraction is a good opportunity to stop talking about hateful characters put in hateful situations and mention that this is one of the highest performing Canadian films of all-time. Yep, this film that was written and directed by an American, shot in Florida, and starring mainly Americans is a Canadian film. This is because of tax stuffs that I seriously tried hard to understand and research, but financial words and even the basic idea of trading a dollar bill for an asparagus evades me. Thankfully the transaction works, and I can walk home with my handful of asparagus. Because of a tax something or other for movie production that was ultimately increased by the papa Trudeau in 1974, filming in Canada (but apparently not even needing to film in Canada) in the 1970s was all about tax somethings. Credits? You know… monies. (CS: Director Bob Clark was also mostly working in Canada at the time, and the executive producers and one of the production companies behind it were Canadian based, so that likely is a reason it is considered Canadian, just like an American production can be filmed elsewhere)
As a Canadian, this means that technically Porky’s will be discussed as one of the biggest home-grown hits of all time. It was the sixth highest grossing film of 1982, and really paved the way for teen sex comedies. Bob Clarke is a director I quite like for films like Black Christmas (CS: Also, Canadian!) and A Christmas Story, but this tale of his missed the mark for me.
This could have been a really good film. Yes, teenage boys can be sex-obsessed, but they can also be more than just that. If the characters had something else to them then we can attach while we can shake our heads at their antics, because we know they mean well. The antics themselves would also have to be managed a little differently. Porky’s could have easily been a film that rattled a few people but told an endearing story about boys becoming men. Instead, it focused on unlikable characters doing unlikable things, and sticking their asparagus through walls. This film does indeed deserve its reputation.