Starring: Arlene Sue Farber, Howard Lee May, Julia Ange
There was a time, in the glory days of grindhouse, when the ‘hygiene’ films were all the rage. These films, meant to shock and educate at the same time, were also a sneaky way to get around all the pesky Hays Acts, with their enforcement of strict moral fibre, by pretending to have, well, strict moral fibre. However, more often than not what they actually tended to do was to show situations when sex, liquor and drugs were used and people’s lives were ruined due to lack of morals. Kind of like a cinematic pulp fiction novel, for people to shake their head and ‘tut tut’ to, but you just knew that when people got home they were going to jack it to what they had just seen. Films along the lines of REEFER MADNESS and even one of my favourites from the ’40s from Disney, THE STORY OF MENSTRUATION, strove to explain what would make decent folk blush.
It’s from this vein that we find TEENAGE MOTHER. Kind of a SWITCHBLADE SISTERS meets JUNO. Arlene Sue Farber plays our Lolita who knows everything about how to drive boys wild, and follows her from drag races, to seduction of her goody-two-shoes boy, to hitchhiking trucker hanky-panky and almost gang rape. While rocking Amy Winehouse hair and dressed like Velma from Scooby Doo (or maybe Scooby Do Me). There is a school educator with a hard-to-place vaguely European accent who teaches biology and life skills, including sex education and convinces the faculty to allow her to equip the young people with skills for life. After all the pulp and circumstance of the film, it shows a birth with forceps that leaves nothing to the imagination. I still see it when I close my eyes, which is kind of disturbing.
With films like this of its time, it’s the early days of grindhouse, with Jerry, Russ, and their ilk making these babies that depict what happens to fallen women and the bad girls. Much of it was titillation masquerading as a cautionary tale. But with films like this and BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL
, all it did was serve as prime wank material to it’s mostly male (then) audience. This was all kind of happening around the time that bras were starting to get burned, and women were starting to say ‘fuck this shit’ to being treated like second class citizens. I don’t think it’s wholly a coincidence that women who behaved outside of the moral standard of the day were demonized and then dehumanized on screen. When our antagonizing protagonist is very nearly the subject of a gang rape revenge, Fred Willard
, who intervenes, later reminisces about how at one screening the audience booed his character when he stops the assault. Kind of gives you an idea of the sort of mentality we were dealing with and how people wanted to see these wild women punished.
Today, I’ve heard of a television show called Teen Mom. Apparently it’s enough of a thing that there are MULTIPLE seasons of this on television, which is kind of why I don’t watch television. Rewarding the reality stars with fame and cash for their allowing the general populace to shake their heads at the ‘bad girl’ behaviour is kind of hard to take. Same shit, different pile. It worries me that these girls are happy to let people look down on them for their choices and condemn for quick cash and fame. It’s keeps the moral compass pointed to the idea that it’s okay to cast a judgmental eye on others, particularly women and girls, who would do better to receive encouragement rather than disdain.
Personally, if they really wanted to halt teen pregnancy, they’d put condom machines in every high school bathroom, and show the TEENAGE MOTHER birthing scene on repeat, a la CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Problem solved.
Little Miss Risk is the star of stage and scream. Her legendary burlesque performances can be seen at the wrong place at the right time across this landscape of ours. She co-starred in AMERICAN MARY, directed by The Soska Twins, and most recently starred in THE EDITOR and in THE ABCs OF DEATH 2. Check out all of Little Miss Risk’s previous journeys into the wild and the wicked here!