You Haven’t Come Such a Long Way, Baby
by Kiersten Hallie Krum
I love the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Beyond the delicious meta trip of wondering exactly what parts of the interactions between John and Jane Smith are characters in a movie and which ones are the on screen courtship of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, it’s a great action adventure movie that is, at heart, a romance about a marriage in trouble.
Spies John and Jane Smith first meet when each spontaneously uses the other as a cover to avoid arrested post-assassination by South American police. Sexual attraction and personal compatibility is immediate and they eventually marry without revealing that they are each expert spies for rival agencies. Midway through the movie, they realize the true identity of the person each has chosen to marry, so, naturally, they try to kill one another. It’s only after their real identities are revealed that they are able to realize they inadvertently fell in love with their perfect mate even while pretending to be other people. Along the way of lying and deceiving each other all these years, they just happened to chose the perfect partner.
By the end of the movie, they realize that, together, they’re a matched set, a truth never more evident than in the climactic shoot out when they move in tandem, silently communicating need and solution, instinctively covering each other’s weak side.
John never denigrates Jane as less skilled a spy because she’s a woman. He never holds back during their knock-down, drag-out hand to hand combat when they beat the holy hell outta each other. She’s an opponent; that she’s also a woman has no bearing on how he treats her in a combat situation. It’s one warrior battling another equally skilled opponent.
Later, when John hands Jane the smaller gun and she objects, “why do I get the girl gun?”, after an initial incredulous “are you serious?!” he switches guns with her. It’s immaterial to him; he handed her the gun because it was the first one he grabbed and he trusted her to defend them, not because it was the smaller, less manly gun. It’s a partnership and one of the rare movies that depicts a warrior woman who not only does not emasculate the man to prove her skill, but also isn’t regulated to diminished status by the man himself. When she does trumped him or him her, it’s because their styles and strengths are different not a result of their genders.
Except when it comes to the sex.
There’s a scene where John and Jane meet at the restaurant where John had proposed to Jane. Jane thinks she’s killed John already but when he shows up to the contrary, they have a barbed tet a tet that’s essentially their idea of instigating foreplay, so naturally they tango. Literally.
Any scene that involves a good tango has my immediate attention, but this one also crackles with sharp, loaded dialogue and delivery. They don’t know what a lie and what is truth but, for the first time in years, they are fascinated by each other and frankly are having a great time sizing one another up anew.
During the dance, they systematically disarm one another, showing the first signs of a genuine understanding of the other’s true nature. At one point, Jane’s goes down…into a crouch to retrieve the pistol hidden in John’s sock. John looks over at an elderly couple who are watching in shocked horror and grins smugly as he nods. That’s right. That hot piece is going down on me right here in the middle of the dance floor.
Later, John and Jane beat up on each other—again, literally—as the second stage of their extended foreplay. But at the killer moment, neither can take the shot and they finally knock all pretense aside, and have wild, violent, seriously hot, passionate monkey sex. There’s a moment when John lays Jane back on the table, still in her black halter dress, to go down on her and boy does she enjoy it. It’s seriously hot and a visceral example of John perspective of Jane as an equal, professionally, emotionally, and sexually. It’s also a moment that is cut from the theatrical version of the film (it can be seen in the extended “unrated” cut.)
This bugs me. A lot.
I look for this moment every time the movie comes on. At first, I thought it a cut made for the basic cable showings, even though the blow job insinuation remains for those showings. But no, it’s only found on the director’s cut of the film. Because a hot woman with a gun doing battle needs to pay up even if only by insinuation. But a hot man giving said woman sexual pleasure solely for her own sake without a guaranteed return is a no no. I love a lot about this movie, but that always pulls me out every single time. Heh. Unintentional pun is its own reward.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me at this point. In 2010, Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams was given an NC-17 rating specifically because the filmmakers refused to cut the scene where Ryan’s character lovingly performs oral sex on Michelle Williams’ character and she dares to enjoy it! But it struck a chord this weekend when I absently watched it again, tuning in from my laptop for my favorite parts, like the minivan car chase. I had just finished the movie Hitchcock (well, most of it at least) about Alfred Hitchcock’s journey to make the movie, Psycho. The rampant sexism and pervyness of this depiction of Hitchcock was a reminder of how far we’ve come as far as the depiction and treatment of women in films and in the making of them. The scenes in which the Standards and Practices committee censors the film line by line were borderline ludicrous. Most of their complaints about what they deemed to be lewd and filthy images focused more on how much of the naked Janet Leigh appeared on screen than any objections over the level of blood and violence. Whether or not a naked nip made the cut was far more important than the fact that she was being hacked to bits in the shower by a man dressed as his mother.
I’m not surprised by such conservative, backward thinking among the conservative, backward censors of the 1950s, but I’m continually surprised when it pops up in modern culture. As Mr and Mrs Smith quickly reminded me, we haven’t really come all that long way. Jane Smith is every inch John Smith’s equal and he’d be the first to agree. And yet of the two depictions of oral sex, only the insinuation of the woman performing fellatio on the man (and it being some sort of proof of his masculinity) made the final cut of the film. Apparently, women’s bodies and their blatant, shameless enjoyment of the pleasure that can be enjoyed in those bodies is still verboten or, at the very least, only for the unrated edition.
In Mrs Henderson Presents, a charming film about a wealthy woman of a certain age who galvinates her newly found widowhood by running a bawdy burlesque review in World War II London, Mrs. Henderson is meeting with the cultural minister to get permission for her lady performers to be nude on stage. Stuttering about for the proper words to discuss what to him is a “disagreeable and somewhat sordid” topic, he is shocked and embarrassed by Mrs. Henderon’s blasé use of the word “p*ssy” and begs her to refer to “the disputed area” as “The Midlands”.
“Oh dear,” she coos, deeply amused, “You men do get into such a state about ‘The Midlands’, don’t you?”
Even in today’s rapaciously sexual media, when it comes to The Midlands, we still can’t see the foliage for all of the trees without making disagreeable and somewhat sordid, like, say, the sexposition that has become such a staple in the series Game of Thrones.
Look, I’m not banging my drum for more depictions of fellatio or cunnilingus in movies or appropriate television shows solely for titillation’s sake. Nor do I think some poor sod of an intern should sit there clocking the seconds of each scene to make sure they each get equal screen time (though I’ve met a few interns who wouldn’t mind the task.) Merely that when a movie designed around the fact that the hero and heroine are matched equals in every realm designates the scene of the woman’s solo sexual pleasure to be “unratable” it only perpetuates the fallacy that such pleasure is somehow still as sordid and disagreeable as it was seventy years ago. She can hit and shoot and blow men up but dear Lawd dont show her coming from oral sex. The heavens themselves will quake.
Give me a break. Surely by now we’ve come a long way from that. Baby.
What say you?
Follow Lady Smut. Our disputed areas are all kinds of sordid in the very best of ways.