I did it! I watched two ridiculous campy cult classic Halloween movies that I have never seen before somehow. Very Proud.
Both these movies are a particular category of film, the against the grain feminist picture. The female characters are “bad” and “unnatural” and must be defeated!!!! But on the other hand, they are also way WAY more interesting and entertaining than any other characters, including the “good” female characters and the “hero”. This goes all the way back to the grand age of female stars, the 1930s and 40s. Back then, the female audience and female fans were appreciated and there was an awareness that they followed their female idols even closer than their male. Fashions, hair, make-up, all of those industries relied on the female stars. And so they outgrew the boring passive “good” girl roles and grew into amazing “bad” girls. Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Barbara Stanwyck, and on and on and on. They were “bad” and the audience was told again and again that they were bad, and then they died. But you don’t remember that when you leave the movie, you just remember how AWESOME they were and how dull everyone else was.
These two movies are a fascinating contrast in awareness and unawareness. Hocus Pocus, it’s a children’s movie. So you have to have boring relatable child actors as the leads. All the fun is always in the adult characters who can actually act. Disney knows this very well, they’ve been making movies with character actors propping up dumb kids for YEARS. The filmmakers knew perfectly well that Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah-Jessica Parker were going to be the best part of the movie. They get songs, they get costumes, they get all the best scenes, everything. But they didn’t wink to the audience that this was what they were doing. The movie played it straight, said that the good people are good and the bad people are bad. They witches are killed and that is good. The dull white teenagers are alive, and that is good.
But Death Becomes Her, it knows PERFECTLY well what it is doing!!!! It takes the template of Old Acquaintance (Miriam Hopkins, Bette Davis. Remade as Rich and Famous with Candace Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset), the pretty friend and the plain friend and the surprisingly boring man trapped between them, and twists it around. It even uses classic 1940s filming styles, the camera coming through windows, canted angles, bit monologues and clever reveals. And of course, shoulder pads and backless dresses and Veronica Lake hair styles. The male lead, Bruce Willis, is made into the saddest most worthless man in the history of the world. While our two female leads, Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep, are hilarious and powerful and impressive. There is wink after wink to the audience if “ugh, this dude.” The ending is the two women resolving their friendship issues and realizing the guy was always just a prize and they don’t really want/need him.
In both films, the surface message is that women are obsessed with beauty and youth and it makes them “monsters”. Very misogynistic. But the hidden message is “women understand how the world works, that youth and beauty matter, this knowledge makes them powerful while it makes the idealistic men into IDIOTS”. The bigger message is just, “women understand the world differently from the rules, the public values, that men are intended to care about, they see a sideways special power they can use”. In Hocus Pocus, the 3 witches dance around and control the men and other people. And meanwhile, we see that our teenage boy is completely controlled by the pretty girl he has a crush on. So, yeah, the witches aren’t wrong. In Death Becomes Her, idiot Bruce Willis bounces between the two women based on who is more attractive, and also props up his ego more. So yeah, the women are right that youth and beauty gives them control.
Anyway, now, REMAKES!!!!
Hocus Pocus: Vidya, Rani, and Farah Khan. Right? That works, doesn’t it? Or else, Madhuri, Juhi, and Raveena Tandon. What do you think?
Death Becomes Her: For once, I think Priyanka might be PERFECT. Alternatively, Sushmita Sen. And Rani opposite. And the boring hero, I really want it to be SRK.