“In order to know virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with vice.” – Quills
Let me preface what I’m about to write with this first: I have recently come down with a case of the sniveling snot-monster with a side of beef throat, and was actually too sick to go to work today and spend the entire day touching dusty things people will want to take home that would inevitably be carrying my diseased germs. So instead, I called in sick and watched three movies in a row. I preface the forthcoming rant because under no other circumstance would I just happen to be watching three relatively obscure movies right in a row.
The three movies I watched were Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy (1997), Phillip Kaufman’s Quills (2000), and a recent release, What’s Your Number? (2011) directed by Mark Mylod. This is a weird group of movies, I’ll give you that. You could argue that one is a cult favorite, one a historical melodrama, and the last a crappy romantic comedy. Okay, you wouldn’t have to argue that because that is all, in fact, accurate. And before I come around to the point of this little diatribe, I want to make it perfectly clear that I watched these movies totally at random. One I had wanted to see for a while, one I thought looked funny and mindless and that was what I wanted, and one was recommended by someone with better taste in movies than me. I did not watch these movies in the order in which I’ll talk about them, but the order of their viewing did not affect the overarching theme that I took from – one might say miraculously – all three of these movies.
That theme is this: no matter who a woman may be or what she stands for, the quality a man should most admire in her is virginity. Chastity. This certain brand of wholesome inexperience that somehow makes a woman more desirable, a better human being, and in some totally unfathomable Hollywood-perpetuated fantasy, a better lover. And unfortunately for the three female protagonists of these movies – Joey Lauren Adams, Kate Winslet, and Anna Faris – I fear they went into these films with feminist altruism in mind, and I hope upon viewing them they realized some of the inconsistencies in the plot. Let me describe some of the major plot points in these movies in the hopes that you’ll see what I mean. (At this point, if you had hopes of enjoying any of these movies in the future, I beg you to STOP READING.)
Chasing Amy (1997) is about two bff-comic-book-writers played by Ben Affleck and Jason Lee. Ben Affleck meets the ladybusiness of his dreams at (where else?) New York ComicCon and falls in with her merry band of gay and lesbian artsy bohemian types. Ben Affleck’s character, appropriately named Holden, falls madly in love with Alyssa and THEN finds out she’s exclusively interested in her fellow ladies. That’s right, kids, Alyssa is introduced to the audience as a balls-out (literally, think about that and it’ll come to you) superfeminist, cute and ladylike and totally uninterested in the less-fair sex. Until she befriends Sir Holden and OF COURSE falls in love with him, because despite her solidly set Sapphic ways all she really needed was a “good dicking” to turn that around. (I’m not being crude, that’s a quote from the movie.)
So now Holden and previously-gay Alyssa are Happily Ever After in love, until Holden’s jealous friend Jason Lee (who is of course a closeted homosexual) finds out that Alyssa used to be not just a slut for the ladies, but a regular old does-it-with-dudes ho, too. And while it was totally acceptable for Holden to be dating a girl who slept around with other girls, it was entirely unacceptable to think that other men had gotten that action before him. The way he goes about solving this problem is by suggesting a three-way with himself, his lesbo girlfriend, and his bromantic ally, so that he may gain the experience he feels Alyssa has but he lacks. Jason Lee’s Banky bizarrely agrees, and Alyssa appropriately freaks out and says something about Holden “sharing his whore” before breaking up with him and now both of Holden’s most important relationships are ruined simply because his girlfriend was not as virginal as he originally assumed, because lesbian sex could not possibly count without some sort of penis involved. In the end, Holden learns his lesson and profits off of it by writing another comic book.
On to Quills (2000), in which Kate Winslet plays a chambermaid working in an insane asylum during Napoleon’s reign in France. Her main duties are gathering laundry to be washed and smuggling chapters of pornographic books out of the asylum to be published. Geoffrey Rush plays the horny author, the Marquis de Sade, who is told to write down his perverse thoughts in order to purge them from his mind. (Which I guess doesn’t work as well when your publisher is paying you for your perversity.) Joaquin Phoenix plays a sexy young priest (you know something is wrong with your film if Joaquin Phoenix is the main source of sex appeal) the Abbe de Coulmier, who we know is madly in love with Kate Winslet’s Maddy from the beginning of the movie but OF COURSE has taken a vow of celibacy, what with being a priest and all.
The main conflict arises when Napoleon sends Michael Caine to the asylum to stop the spread of the Marquis’ evil erotica. Michael Caine does a fantastic job of oppressing the Marquis, even as he’s regularly forcing himself on his teenage bride within the legal servitude of holy matrimony. Once all of these previously mentioned important menfolk find out that Maddy has been helping the Marquis publish his work, the Abbe instantly questions her morality and assumes that she is also sleeping with the Marquis. Kate Winslet puts him in his place by explaining that indulging in the pornographic literature has helped her remain chaste in reality. She comes to him late one night, begging to be loved by him, and he leads her on for about a second before he turns her down, proving once again that celibacy is pretty much the biggest BUMMER, especially in movies. Or maybe he simply wasn’t convinced that she had not been boning the raunchy, racy Marquis.
Maddy promptly dies, killed by a crazy that kept wanking over her, and Abbe has an incredibly creepy necrophilia dream, mourning the fact that he had the chance to love her and turned her away. A clearly important (?) autopsy reveals that she was, indeed, a virgin, which leads Geoffrey Rush to kill himself and Joaquin Phoenix to go TOTALLY INSANE which is convenient since he already lives in an asylum. The moral of the story seems to be that those who have the chance to corrupt a virgin and miss out are doomed to unhappiness. Or that trying to be virtuous will drive you bonkers. OR that men are incapable of chastity while women should wear it like a badge of honor. Either way, Michael Caine ends up starting a porn-printing business and feminism takes a brutal kick to the nads.
Finally, there is What’s Your Number? (2011), in which Anna Faris plays a girl named Ally who’s younger sister is getting married before her, prompting her to SUDDENLY realize she’s had sex with 20 dudes that she struggles to recall. She does what any girl would do, and turns this unsettling piece of information into a bachelorette party game where everyone has to recite their number of sexual partners. The only thing she learns from this game is that 20 partners is indeed a high number and, in fact, icky. So she resolves to hunt down all of her exes to find her One True Love amidst all the people she’s already slept with, in order to ditch the nickname of Beantown Bicycle. (That wasn’t part of the movie or anything, I just like alliteration and thought that was clever.)
She enlists the help of manwhore-across-the-hall Chris Evans, who besides being Captain America can also play guys who inexplicably know how to Find People. She has lots of Wacky Adventures during which she realizes that all of her ex-boyfriends were losers like she originally thought. She holds out hope for the One Boy she remembers because it would garner her crappy mom’s approval, the high school boyfriend who now runs some loosely defined philanthropic jetsetting rich-person business. But of course by now she knows she is Totally In Love with Manwhore Captain America, because they spent the night together without doing the deed and it magically transformed him into a 1940s gentleman. (Come to think of it, Chris Evans may have still been playing his Avengers alter ego in this movie, though it would be a really strange place to go for a prequel.)
In the end, Ally learns that a guy who accepts her for the skank she is ranks WAY HIGHER than the rich guy who builds schools or helps orphans or something, especially because Manwhore of her Dreams can sing covers of Lionel Richie songs. In the end, what we have learned is that women who are loose with their feminine gifts just need to find men who are MUCH looser and more experienced in order to be accepted. Just before the credits, Ally does a happy dance because one of her hunted-down exes calls and explains that she passed out well before they could do the dirty on Spring Break, so Chris Evans is IN FACT #20 and NOT #21. Because when you’ve already hit double-digits, it DEFINITELY matters.
My point in describing each of these films (at length), is to show you that even with their diversity in genre, storyline, and general quality, the lesson is the same.
If you’re a lady, it is best to remain a lady, if you catch my drift.
None of these movies had anti-feminist messages in mind; each movie struggles to point out that your wealth of experience or lack thereof shouldn’t matter because we are all humans who are meant to love each other for our faults as well as our triumphs.
But if you are a virgin, your love just means a lot more in the eyes of your man. If you are not a virgin, you best not have out-humped the man of your dreams, because he will be incapable loving you correctly. Mostly because you are a strumpet.