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They Lost It at the Movies

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 OPINIONS








        
If you think that fifteen-year-old girls just want to have fun, then you
haven’t seen the 1980 summer camp flick Little Darlings (tagline:
“Don’t let the title fool you”). No, girls just want to have sex.
It’s the only movie in this classic

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genre that gets where the dirt is: In
the girls’ bunk. Thus, there’s nary a tit or ass shot in sight (unless
you’re counting ass of the male variety), because the entire movie is shot
from the perspective of fifteen-year-old girl campers. Horny
fifteen-year-old girl campers. With binoculars and potty mouths. And we’re
not just talking Britney-esque coquetry; this is full-on Christina Aguilera
ho-dom.

    

The gist of the plot is this: Ferris Whitney (a pre-coke Tatum O’Neal) is
the poor little rich virgin, and Angel Bright (a pre-lezzie Kristy McNichol)
is the street-tough, Marlboro-Red-chain-smoking virgin from the wrong side
of the tracks. All the other girls in Bunk Seven at this New England camp
(including a pre-Sex and the City Cynthia Nixon) claim to know what
it means to be a woman, though the only one who says it with any conviction
is bitch-slut Cinder the “Tidy Curl” Model (a pre-nothing Krista Errickson).
So Cinder wages a bet with the $100 she received for the “Tidy Curl” ad:
Whoever gets her cherry popped first wins the dough. The other girls all
place their bets on rich girl or poor girl, and the games begin.

    

The first order of business is to score some prophylactics.
(Told you it was filmed from the chick perspective.) The campers hotwire a yellow school bus, drive to the nearest gas station and
commandeer a condom dispenser from the men’s bathroom — the coin slot is
jammed so they have to carry it back to the campground woods and break it
open with an axe. (It’s the estrogen-fueled version of the fax-machine
destruction montage in 1999’s Office Space.) When the metal casing
finally splits, the girls whoop and holler, punch their fists in the air,
inflate a few celebratory condoms, then stuff the remaining rubbers in their
pockets and head back to camp for the second order of business: Identifying
willing (or, rather, unwitting) guinea pigs.

    

Actually, Angel has already laid eyes on her man: The
cherry-lipped, hair-flipped Matt Dillon who was loitering, drunk, in the gas
station parking lot. She (and the camera) clocks his denim-clad ass first;
Angel raises an eyebrow (baum-chick-a-baum), tilts her head (as in “Yeah,
you’ll do”), lights a smoke and waits for him to turn around. Her seduction
is deliciously to the point: “What’s your name?” [Exhale] “Mine?” [Inhale]
“Yeah, yours: I already know mine.” [Exhale] “What’s yours?” [Inhale]
“Angel. Don’t let the name fool you.” [Exhale] “Randy. Don’t let the name
fool you.” Turns out he’s staying just across the lake (not to mention the
wrong side of the tracks). Aw yeah.

    

Ferris stays closer to home, setting her
sights on hunky French camp counselor/failed writer Mr. Callahan (Armand
Assante, a.k.a. the hunky French luvver in Private Benjamin and hunky
Cuban luvver in The Mambo Kings). Ferris (and her lead investor,
Cinder) employs every bad pick-up line and sexual-harassment trick in the
book to get Mr. Callahan to abandon his white tube socks and his prissy “I
don’t do fifteen year olds” policy, including the fail-safe “I’ve got six
months to live” and the solid runner-up, “Help, help, I’m drowning.” Angel’s
not so smooth with the lines, so she gets her prey wasted instead.
“You’re supposed to get turned on, stupid, not pass out,” she tells the back
of his slumped head — probably the last time that phrase was uttered by
anyone other than a frat boy in heat.

    

Meanwhile, the other girls prance around camp in tight T-shirts emblazoned
with their loyalties (“Angel” or “Ferris”), playing sexy music (on a
recorder!) near the would-be lovers, keeping bit-part campers away from the
girls in action, and spying on boy campers frolicking naked in the lake to
while away the hours till dinner. (This voyeurism scene is the only
acknowledgement that there are, indeed, boy campers present.) The
objectification is both crass (did I mention the potty mouth and the
binoculars?) and naive, and it’s eminently clear that Cinder’s the only
camper who has made it past second base. But it doesn’t matter, because the
movie’s not about the boy, at all, it’s about “becoming a woman” — and
about learning what that phrase (and that phase) really means. And most of
all, it’s about who’s watching whom — the girls are the subject, while the
boys are merely the objects of desire in butt-cheek-skimming tight shorts,
cut-off shirts (apparently that was a male-only fashion statement back
then), and tube socks.

    

I never went to sleepover camp — in England, where I grew up, not even the bad
kids or the really fat kids got sent away for weeks on end — but I think
that if I had, I’d find tube socks a lot sexier now. (Assuming that
Little Darlings has even an ounce of truth to it.) In fact, after
watching it three times this week, I’m ready to buy a six-pack of tubies
at Kmart and keep them in my nightstand right next to the condoms. Those
things are hot. Especially when paired with tighty-whities and
nothing else on a barely legal Matt Dillon. (Madison Avenue resurrects pixie
boots and leg warmers, but not tube-socks — what’s up with that?)

    

But the so-this-minute ’80s outfits in Little Darlings (from Angel’s
tight slogan tees to Ferris’s Bianca Jagger white trouser suit) aren’t the
only reason this movie seems decades ahead of its time. This movie is more
than just a portrait of the female gaze; it’s one of the most grown-up
portrayals of teenage sex I’ve ever seen. The concept of
wise-beyond-their-years campers was lampooned in Wet Hot American
Summer
(the recently separated counselor played by Molly Shannon elopes
with a ten-year-old camper), but here, it works. Sex is so much more and
so much less than the girls expect, and that’s true whether you’re fifteen
or fifty-five. Both more intense (“I felt like you could see through me”)
and less so (“I feel so lonesome”); more permanent (“I’ll never forget you”)
and less so (“Summer dreams ripped at the seams . . . ” wait, wrong movie). And
sex is everything from a means to a betting end, to a way to declare true
wuv. “What are the after-effects of sex?” Ferris asks a female counselor.
“You make it sound like a disease,” she responds. “It sort of is,” says
Ferris. Good luck finding a truer sentiment than that in a teen sex romp —
because I’ve been to band camp, and I’m telling you, no one sticks
their flute anywhere.
 

For the rest of the Summer Camp Issue, click here.

©2002 Emma Taylor and Nerve.com, Inc.