Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rubyfruit Jungle Party Massacre

Back in my early university days when I was toying with the idea of teaching English for a living, I became fascinated with post-Summer of Love literature, i.e., the novels and stories written by authors who were either involved with or influenced by the social movements of the late sixties and early seventies. A friend of a friend, who was a professor of Feminist Literature, suggested I read a few books by Rita Mae Brown, specifically Rubyfruit Jungle, a breakthrough feminist and lesbian novel of the 1970s, and Southern Discomfort, a novel published in the early 1980s, but written in the late 70s, and set across two generations in the American South.

Ms. Brown was deeply involved with many social movements of the 1960s and 70s, writing essays and novels, and participating in marches and social demonstrations. As an outspoken advocate, Ms. Brown was a woman's woman, exposing and arguing against many stereotypes and archetypes women of previous generations had been forced to comply with. She took an unpopular stance in the early 1970s at the height of the ERA era when she admonished the National Organization of Women (NOW) when NOW publically backed away from supporting lesbian causes. She later became infamous for a statement she made in a TIME magazine interview when she said, "I don't believe in straight or gay. I really don't. I think we're all degrees of bisexual. There may be a few people on the extreme if it's a bell curve who really truly are gay or really truly are straight. Because nobody had ever said these things and used their real name, I suddenly became [in the late 1970s] the only lesbian in America."

Recently, as I rearranged some bookcases, I looked back at a lot of the novels I read during that time period, and thought it was about time I put Southern Discomfort higher up on my ReRead list. I had purposely quit following Brown when she began writing mysteries - little cozies she claims are co-written with her pussy cat Sneaky Pie Brown (I'll let my Cheesy Readers figure out the double-entendre of that name). But because I had quit following her career at that point, I thought I'd hit Wikipedia first and figure out what she'd been up to lately.

As I was reading along, looking at her list of published credits, I was surprised to seen Screenwriter among those credits, then even more surprises to see...

Slumber Party Massacre


THE Slumber Party Massacre? The cult classic slasher movie of the 1980s? The movie filled with gratuitous shots of college-age girls in sheer underwear being chased by a serial killer with a giant phallic symbol drill? A film that any feminist would decry as everything that is wrong with female exploitation films of Western culture?

No! That has to be a mistake. Wikipedia can be said to be only 90% accurate on average. Surely some goofball playing a practical joke put that in there to see if anyone would notice.

A quick trip to IMDB confirmed - nope, not a joke. Rita Mae Brown, the bastion of the lesbian and feminist movement of the early 1970s, the woman who fought for equal rights for all people, be they man, woman, transgender, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, or non-gender, was the screenwriter.


Was she desperate for money? Emotionally lost? Did she write it while on a three-day acid trip?

None of the above.

She wrote it as parody. She was poking fun at the popular slasher films of the time. The problem was, the director and the rest of the production crew didn't know how to film it as a parody, so they shot it as a straight slasher film, and it was so bad, it was good. It became a cult classic, an icon, a symbol of 80s horror movies that many teenage boys stayed up late watching over and over again. Essentially, it became (in the words of your beloved blog author)...Cheese.

Who woulda thunk it?

See how fun this kind of thing can be? Maybe next time I'll tell you about the degrees of separation between Slumber Party Massacre and Fannie Flagg (yes, the author of Fried Green Tomatoes and regular guest star icon on Match Game that you can catch in reruns on the Game Show Channel!).

Until Next Time...
Feminally Yours,

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