Ladyboys in Leather.
Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery
Women, my court-ordered sensitivity training has taught me, can do anything that men can. It’s just that most of the time, they can’t do it as well, especially when it comes to either hand-jobs and action movies. In the case of the former, they just can’t beat years of practice, and in the latter, its because they’re generally entirely too intelligent, though it’s a shame that intelligence is wasted on remembering how many tablespoons go into a cup. The fact that women would even attempt these androcentric tasks is insulting. You don’t see guys going out on a Saturday night to bake holiday–themed cookies, debate yesterday’s episode of The View over tiramisu instead of discussing the latest Toni Morrison novel on Oprah’s Book List, or try and figure out how a clitoris works. Some things are best left to men, and others to women, especially the sub-genre of biker films, which is why it’s odd that such a masculine genre would be attempted by a woman, even one who is essentially James Cameron with breasts.
Biker films are a strange grouping of action movie clichés, blatant homoeroticism and one-liners torn from Archie comics sexed up with the occasional ‘Daddy-O’. They are perhaps best exemplified by Kenneth Anger’s extraordinarily gay Scorpio Rising, which distilled the essential homosexual undertone evident in films like The Wild One into a 20 minute experimental short that inspired critical praise and guilty erections the world over. However, that film underlines the point that biker films exist in a fantasy world far removed from reality. I live in a biker intensive city, and I have a few quibbles about the unreality of the genre, drawn from personal experience.
1. Bikers are not attractive twenty-somethings clad in leather jackets hinting at a well-muscled bare chest. They’re generally about fifty and look like they've spent the majority of that half-century eating stake and growing a beard. Think ex-professional wrestlers crossed with a twinkie.
2. Bikers do not have cool nick-names like ‘Jack-knife’ or ‘Ratchet’. They have lame handles like “Tit-Chou” or “Mom” because they’re all French-Canadian, and their concept of cool is informed by hockey players and farcically unfunny film comedies that make The Pink Panther look like a Royal Shakespeare Company staging of Much Ado About Nothing.
3. Bikers do not actually ride motorcycles, as this would tend to get them arrested rather quickly, because the police have also seen Easy Rider. Instead, they drive black SUVs when they’re parked outside of my apartment waiting to kill one of the crack-dealers who lives in the building on the corner. For the record, black SUVs are much scarier.
The Loveless dreamily follows the formula of a traditional biker film, where a gang of muscled and attractive youths roll into town and kick up a fuss without swearing or really doing much of anything other than shrug their shoulders a lot and refuse to respect their elders. The film does provide a couple of twists, however. The first is that the bikers don’t actually cause much trouble. Instead, the townsfolk react to the bikers’ presence by degenerating into debauchery and violence. The second twist is that the bikers are led by Willem Dafoe, in a monumentally ineffective bit of casting. No matter how old Dafoe is, he always looks like someone crumpled up a fifty year old man and kept him in a jeans pocket for a week before putting him through the wash, so him leading a youth gang is ludicrous. Secondly, he’s entirely too good an actor for a part like this, making everyone else seem silly in comparison. At least in The Wild One, Brando had Lee Marvin to play against, so he didn’t stick out quite so much, but here, Dafoe feels out of place, like a hooker in church, or a straight biker.