Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Holiday Hide-out: Your CHARLIE'S ANGELS WTF Reader.

Is my credibility as an haughty film studies intellectual harpooned by my open-air breeching love for Charlie's Angels? And Kristen Stewart? Readers of the blog know I love them both, so ain't it passing strange I carry instant disdain for this apparently misguided 'reboot'. Is that maturity or just wisdom? Nothing dampens my love for the original show, not even itself, which can be often lazy, slow and self-imitating (especially after the first 10 episodes of any given season - though lets not forget back then the average season length was 22 episodes). But to see how great it is, one need only compare it to the 'McG' remakes, on whose shoulders the new remake-- rather than going for the more laid-back 70s procedural warmth of the original ABC seasons--seems to stand. Just the commercials are enough to dissuade me from this new reboot, regardless that a woman (Banks!) directed it. Based on the ads, mind you, if anything it's more like a mix of any number of Hong Kong girl spy unit movies and the female assassin wing of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Man, I remember loving that first 'McG' Charlie's Angels movie, but now it just seems dumb and loud, like a big commercial for itself as evinced by the endless pop songs with the word "Angel" in their titles - oh how on brand, and soundtrack compilation CD ready!". The sequel was even dumber and louder. And each made the critical mistake of giving them boyfriends. Dude! 

In the Aaron Spelling playbook, the Angels never keep a beau beyond the episode he shows up in - he either dies or turns out to be a crook. It's the rules that allow male viewers to not feel threatened. No one wants to see a girl they crush on turn out to be happily with some idiot, And besides, for those who know how to dig for it, the clear pair bond of the show is between Sabrina and Kelly. Taken on that level, the lack of sex is a clear indicator of the closeted era, when gay people just seemed uninterested in sex altogether. The new reboot looks very gay (there's more than one giant closet!! It's a mix of weaponry, disguises, but mainly I'm sure expensive dresses, shoes and handbags) and racially harmonized (which is good, provided the non-white characters avoid the kind of pasteurized blandness that comes when stereotype traits are excised but nothing is added in their place). But none of the girls look like they can throw a punch, so it's more being impressed by Zoe Bell and her hair-in-the-face body double girl squad, and--hopefully--the green screen team, than any actual law-of-gravity-obeying action.

So convincing

It's barely even the same thing once they can defy gravity with super kicks. Now the Angels have  kind of super spy action hero level of vapidity disguised as Bondian fluency, the type where they can squeeze off three shots while doing a slow-mo somersault backflip to catch a passing helicopter rope in order to swing up right into a drop kick on some rooftop sniper. The original may not have had that level of PG carnage, it was real. If a car blew up or crashed, it really did, and was a highlight of the show. It meant something. You could feel the trauma emanating from the experience throughout the rest of the episode. The effect of the climactic and occasional violence and trauma was something the Angels felt and relied on each other to salve with their strong sisterly nurturing. Everything hurt, and violence was only the last resort. Luckily, once you had a gun in your hand and shouted "freeze!" the perps generally gave up, and meekly rolled along with the credits. But in the McG reboot, cartoon action is ramped up to the impossible levels demanded by viewers' numbness. We're all big budget action addicts for which every new movie must top all that came before it, until only CGI can even begin to capture it.

Meanwhile, I have stayed in contact with the original series, and it looks better than ever over the dusty muskrat musk of time. Aaron Spelling wisely kept them all single, in a kind of perpetual celibate sisterhood of the Charlie - handmaidens to the absent father; the dead father come alive

If you turn to your Moses and Monotheism, you'll see where Freud writes about the social order dawning when the jealous sons kill the primal father so they can have access to his harem. With the killing of the evil father comes the guilt, with the result that the men each take one woman for their wives, and stick to monogamy, sex without libidinal excess, symbolizing the renouncement of the odious arrangement still present in packs of apes, lions, and sea lions. BUT once killed, the murdered father is expunged of his odium and now venerated as a kind of symbolic holy icon, the ultimate signifier. In his absence he becomes a holy guiding light. Our guilt absolves him. His name, henceforth, shall be Charlie.

We earn our spot on the team by renouncing sex, the drive which caused us to murder him and drive him from our sight. For an spooked prepubescent child of the swinging 70s, a bit weirded out by the magnetic gravitas of adult sexuality, such a collective renouncement comes as a sigh of relief. These Angels stay the babysitters that would rather hang out with you playing the Star Wars board game on the living room floor than leave you alone while the go make out with their boyfriend or spend all night on the phone (they stay the Jamie Lee Curtis rather than the Nancy Loomis and PJ Soles, if you get my meaning). We can swoon free of worry.

This our Charlie is, the heavenly platonic pimp of angels, in a sense, provides. Speaking to them from beyond the grave, he spares them the sight of his conspicuous enjoyment up in his (presumably Beverly Hills) heaven, ever attended by smiling bimbos we get but a glimpse of (they are, clearly, ensured to be cute but never as beautiful as the Angels themselves). Thus he continues his obscene enjoyment, but it matters not for his image. We never see his face, nor do we see the women for long. Nonetheless it's these brief moments that people equate the show with, irregardless of the fact that 99.5% of it is the three Angels solving crimes, and they are seldom in bathing suits unless at the beach or on vacation or in disguise.

It matters little, the bawdy glimpses of Charlie's bilious private life are what the naysayers base their views on. Maybe The very fact it is three women solving crimes is threatening enough to the status quo that it gets reviled as "jiggle TV".  In critiquing a Taylor Swift video, my blood rite goddess Camille Paglia wrote:
" A warmer model of female friendship was embodied in Aaron Spelling's blockbuster Charlie's Angels TV show, which was denounced by feminists as a "tits-and-ass" parade but was in fact an effervescent action-adventure showing smart, bold women working side by side in fruitful collaboration." (Full)
I'm glad Kristen Stewart went for it, ca$h-wise, and that a woman is the director, but Kristen is too good an actress to be this kind of McG-ish super agent sexual manipulator. It would have been great to see a stripped-down analog return to form. Mind you, I'm only going by the commercials, which show a female Charlie (visible?), a female Bosley (?) and a horde of Angels of all races, shapes, orientations, gender identitites, and sizes, all around the needy world.

Meanwhile, available on DVD, streaming and--if you get METV on your cable--5 PM Eastern Time in daily rerun, the original series beckons. If you're hiding out from the world for the holidays, choosing to hibernate and lay around snug in your electric blankets, crying, sniffling, laughing in deranged happiness, or just unwinding with easily unnerved relatives after the kids are in bed, here are my capsule reviews/ratings of the first three seasons, episode--by-episode, to ensure a seemingly endless stream of mellowness and familiar guest stars (Dean Martin! Jamie Lee Curtis! Tiffany Bolling!) They got me through my last relapse, and they got me through my last recovery. They're there for you. Will you be there for them? They won't even notice you watching, so don't feel shy.

(August 2006)
(August 2006)
A Tale of Two Sammies
(March 2009)

Happy Birthday Cheryl Ladd
(July 12, 2012) 

(July 2/2009)

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