My Quarantine Watchlist: Part One

Our first instalment of “Ah, screw it, why not.”
Image: TriStar Pictures

So last month, before everything officially went to Hell over COVID-19, I was talking about musicals, and the temptation to turn my scripts into jukebox musicals, and I mentioned my newfound fondness for Pat Benatar’s “Invincible.” Here’s a reminder.

For those who watched the video, you may have noticed a bunch of movie clips in there. I certainly did, and somewhere around my fifth viewing I started to wonder exactly what movie it was all from. I needed context on these random shots, damn it!

Well, it turned out that all of those clips were from the 1985 teen rebellion movie The Legend Of Billie Jean, of which “Invincible” was the official theme, and which I feel I had literally never heard of.

(Maybe I’m wrong. When Highlander 2 came out, I felt I had no idea what it was a sequel to, but my mother insisted I’d seen the first Highlander on multiple occasions.)

The Legend of Billie Jean tells the story of a Texas teen whose name you can probably intuit from the title, played by Supergirl’s Helen Slater*, whose brother Binx (little baby Christian Slater!) gets roughed up by some preppy douchebags after they steal his scooter in retaliation for Billie Jean not wanting to sleep with the alpha douche. She confronts alpha douche’s shop-owner father to get the money to repair the bike, things get a little attempted-rapey, then they get a little gunfire-esque, and suddenly Billie Jean, Binx, and their friends (the youngest being an even littler-than-Christian Yeardly “Lisa Simpson” Smith) are on the run for trumped-up charges of robbery and attempted murder. But before long, Billie Jean has accidentally become a folk legend to the disaffected Texas youth… something she leverages to get justice for her and Binx.

(*Which Supergirl, you ask? The movie or the TV show? Thanks to the Arrowverse’s love of legacy casting, both.)

I… did not have high hopes for this movie. As an example why, name a beloved Helen Slater vehicle. No, I won’t wait, we both know you can’t. And sure, it started out kind of cheesy, and the douchebros were swiftly and severely uncomfortable to watch. But then there came a moment when it went from “Eh, it’s not great, but I’m fine to keep watching” to “I suddenly and unironically love this movie.”

And no, it wasn’t this moment.

In the words of Oscar Wilde, “HACHI-MACHI!” No, wait, was that Oscar Wilde or Jay Sherman, The Critic
Image: TriStar

No, it was this moment, around the halfway point, in which Billie Jean decides to take the reigns of the publicity surrounding her and tell her side of the story. With her new haircut.

I reiterate. Hachi. Machi.

Context: Billie Jean has just cut all of her hair into a punk pixie cut to closer resemble Joan of Arc, a historical figure she learned about basically five minutes ago, thanks to the rich kid film buff who decided to be their friend after they broke into his house. Again, by this point, she was an icon to even slightly rebellious Texas youths. And as she shows off her new haircut and new outfit, she strides forward, accompanied by the power chords of “Invincible,” ready to take control of her story… and I found myself thinking “Do I… do I love this movie? I think I do?”

It is important to note that at this point I had only had two sips of wine. I was basically stone-cold sober. So take that into account.

Soon the young followers of Billie Jean are cutting their own hair into punk pixie cuts, making it harder for the police to track her, as young girls keep “I am Spartacusing” themselves into custody to muddy the waters, and I will sign on for any rebellion embracing this aesthetic. I was now unabashedly loving this movie. Also, Dean Stockwell was suddenly in it, that was neat.

If I’ve piqued your interest, YouTube will rent it to you for five bucks, or Amazon Prime will rent/sell you a digital version. It’s not exactly a huge cash investment if you want to roll those dice.

Next page: Probably not tricking you into talking about superheroes

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