Psychedelic Film Criticism for the Already Deranged

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hail Hail Heather Graham


I just go back from Heather Graham's 41st birthday bash (1) and what better time to celebrate her unnerving sexuality? She's 41!? You'd never guess it.

I remember well Graham's big crash into A-list films in the late-90's: firstly as the sweet girl who saves future IRON MAN-director Jon Favreau from chickless despair in SWINGERS (1996)--her presence a reminder that even the most self-defeating hep cats were occasionally rewarded with a nice, cool. up-front, doesn't-know-she's-hot kind of gal; secondly, as the shockingly uninhibited porn star Rollergirl in BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997); thirdly, as the lass who beats out Natasha Gregson Wagner for the dubious prize of Robert Downey Jr. in TWO GIRLS AND A GUY (1997). By the time she staggered into AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (1999), as a spy who climbs into bed Mike Meyers' disgusting chicken grease-over-latex fat-suited Scotsman badguy, 'Fat Bastard.', Graham's warm-hearted, 'sexually uninhibited like she lived in Europe for a year' kind of nerd fantasy girl persona was locked in to every chakra of every red-blooded blue-haired white dude the world over. It was like doesn't this poor nymphomaniac persona ever get to--like--shag someone other than nerds, dsisgustoing doofuses? (Doofi?), and future-IRON MAN directors then playing a type best described as 'angry proto-Seth Rogan.

 I saw SHAGGED in the theater during the hot summer of 1999, when my AC was out, and my gratitude for the coolness of the 86th and 3rd Loew's was offset by the disturbing sight of Graham's gorgeous body in bed with Meyers' Bastard, his fat fingers and bloated hair prosthetic chest greasy from chowing on a whole roast chicken while she cuddled up to him in a slim silk negligee. Some things you never forget, and the sight of sweet doe-eyed hottie Graham going to such lengths for her job made me shudder in sympathy for young actresses everywhere. Since then she's been a sex worker of one gold-hearted sort or another in everything from THE GURU (2002) to HBO's CALIFORNICATION.

From her golden late-90s A-list crash she got a gig hosting SNL, where she played--what else?-- a sexually free-and-easy babysitter who becomes uncomfortably sidelined in a bitter post-menage a trois argument with the parents --which made it seem like all Chris Parnell wanted to do was imply he'd slept with Heather Graham, so no matter how emasculating the conversation with the wife, he at least had that. It's gross but I don't blame him --the Heather impact by then was undeniable: those wide eyes, that horrifically voluptuous body, that golden hair; she was almost too sexy in her ability to be unconscious of being too sexy for us to handle. Other sketches all hinted at thwarted or desired Rollergirl-iesqu menages, the kind of thing the geek male writers could think up when the girl guest was too hot for them to not fall apart over. It was if the guileless voluptuousness of Marilyn Monroe was wedded to a smart, concerned, awake, lonesome heart-of-gold sex therapist.


Hers is the kind of allure that perfectly embodies Lacan's objet petit a: men fantasize about her kind of 'availability' only to run from it when it suddenly makes itself so immediately, alarmingly tangible. I can imagine her (2) coming onto me at a party and me stammering some lame excuse and running away... watching in shame as she goes home with some other guy more foul-mouthed and aggressive, who doesn't stammer when she consents but dives right in (i.e. is on coke). She proves 95% of men are all bark.

Pornography is probably the most clear example of the kind of image-based delusion her sexiness destroys: in it, all the enjoyment is enacted onscreen for the viewer, who presumably fantasizes themselves into the action, but does he (or she) really? Heather Graham reminds us that the reason we turn to this vicarious pleasure is more than our shyness, laziness, ugliness, reticence, cheapness, all keeping us from living life like an orgy; our whole identity is split between the imaginary and the real -- we fantasize via the screen and when our fantasy comes true, sans screen, we run back to the shelter of the image. As we age she moves from fantasy babysitter to fantasy conquest to fantasy mistress to fantasy daughter/kid sister/ward. They don't necessarily overlap or anything, usually, and violate no laws or conventions --something about those eyes, both blank and open, make her someone to lust after and want to protect from lust at the same time. If we follow her into the orgy, we'll emerge damaged and disillusioned --she'll be the same sweet innocent girl who went in. So we don't want to go in with her -- we'll keep our versions fantasy/real, objectification/identification, lust/protective all separate.

With Heather Graham, we better run fast, as she moves like a serpent zipper.

Lacan writes about the impossibility of desire, and Heather Graham is its fullest expression. She makes us weep with longing and trepidation, with paternal worry and sullen virgin teen resentment. Her career needs to continue long time to flourish now that she's in her 40s! Take that sexuality and finesse it, Heather Graham! You are the sunshine of '69's one stray ray stretching this far to the future. Free love still blazes in your saucer eyes. More's the pity for the world, not you, if all they can do is run from the golden blessings you bestow, or worse just soil themselves like frightened puppies.

(more cool photos and celebration at Neil Fulwood's Agitation of the Mind here)


(1): I never said she was there... or even knew about it.
(2): meaning her 'persona'--the cumulative 'role' she plays, not necessarily the actress herself
(3): Our whole persona longs to be off the chain sinking our fangs into some throat or other, we bark and howl and moan, but off of it we suddenly have to put up or shut up, lunge for the kill or whimper and run away. Now instead of just wishing we were off the chain, certain the damage we could do, we never thought we might lose the fight and wind up bled and torn, chewed up, the equivalent of her suddenly busting out the 'I have a boyfriend' card and running back to her girlfriends to snicker about your pathetic seduction attempt. In that missed connection, that failure to make the kill, we can feel the bleeding and rip, the blush of shame like blood, the pale dizzy despair coming on us like an inescapable wave. But if we're on the chain (she's just an image onsceen) we're free. She can't step off the screen and say put up or shut up. 

9 comments:

  1. You just reminded me how much in love I used to be with her. She always stood out. Great blog.

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  2. Thanks for the link, Erich.

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  3. I dunno... she kinda gives me the creeps. Her forehead's huge and her eyes look like they're gonna roll right out of their sockets. But, hey: whatever turns you on.

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  4. Hey, FH, that's what I mean! She's creepy sexy... and Neil, you're welcome

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  5. Weird, I just re-watched Boogie Nights last weekend, loved that scene where shes like "are you my mom?" as hse snorts a couple of lines of cocaine. Some great acting right there.

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  6. jervaise brooke hamster04 August, 2013

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  7. willy jerk-off04 August, 2013

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  8. teddy crescendo04 August, 2013

    ALL the Austin Powers movies are totally unwatchable garbage.

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