Hey folks! Some of you may remember my critique of Robert Rimmer's review of Stiff Competition a little while back, where I took Rimmer to task for misguidedly presuming the film to be misogynistic, based on his own (and by extension, society's) attitudes toward sexuality, physicality, and gender. Rimmer is a curious fellow. His reviews are an invaluable resource, but he frequently baffles me with his assertions that "women will love this one" or "women will be repulsed by the tone of this sexvid." Peoples' expectations of male and female porn consumption is a little bee in my bonnet, but more broadly something that fascinates me. In my experience, people seem to think that women want no close ups of genitalia, and no "nasty" content, while men of course desire exactly these very things. Men and women aren't so simple though y'all, and I do enjoy going into a film Rimmer has promised me I, as a woman, will love or hate, just to see who he thinks I am, and to ponder what this says about cultural attitudes toward gendered sexual desires.
Rimmer remarks of Garage Girls, "The humor in this one, which is almost continuous, is not the kind that will inspire female laughter. Rather, it is male barroom or fraternity humor. Thus in 1982 not all adult filmmakers agreed with Chuck Vincent." Hmm. I love Chuck Vincent, but I love Robert McCallum too...and what in the hell is "barroom humor"? Fraternity humor sounds really unfunny, so I'm already on the fence about this pic. Don't get me wrong -- even though assumptions about gendered behavior/interests irritate me, certainly there are some themes and forms of humor that are misogynistic, and could be regarded as something women (and like-minded men) might not want to watch. There's a homosocial form of bonding that can often be extremely alienating to women (necessarily so, in fact), most obviously in jokes that are at the expense of women, sexualizing them in dehumanizing ways for the cackling benefit of groups of men, and generally mocking them as a way of securing a hysterically insecure masculine heterosexuality. Clearly, if Rimmer were referring to this form of humor, I would likely give him a hearty Amen! But alas, as with Stiff Competition, I found myself watching Garage Girls in disbelief -- what on earth was Rimmer referring to?
First of all, lets break down the plot: a group of four women have just graduated from a mechanics school, have purchased a little shop, and are starting a business together -- their "dream come true" -- but face problems in the form of sexist expectations of women mechanics. As Lisa DeLeeuw tells the gals, "Men are gonna give us a rough time, customers and competition." But they're in it for more than just money -- they want to prove they're independent. The gals set to work fixing cars, and indulge some of their own sexual desires with customers along the way, including a sweet budding relationship between Lisa DeLeeuw and Duke (John Leslie), a supportive cop who is helping the girls out with security. There's more though, as you shall see...
From the get go, it's clear that the female protagonists are interested in independence, both economic and sexual. It's not uncommon for a film to preach feminism but fail to deliver via sleazy and one-sided sex scenes, but Garage Girls really seems to make an effort to depict female autonomy and sexual pleasure. When Duke offers his help to Lisa in the wake of an attempt at sabotage ("Somebody just doesn't like girls being mechanics!"), he clarifies that his protection would be solely as a civil servant, and it's Lisa who entices him into the shower room (why they have a fancy shower room in the back of the shop is anyone's guess, but I like it). The sex that ensues is egalitarian, and when the other girls get a look at Duke, they're cheekily imploring him to whip his cock out so they can see. Clearly, these women are interested in sex, and for the most part set the boundaries. In a genre where cunnilingus and attention to female orgasm is so routinely neglected, Garage Girls features plenty of oral loving for the ladies, and verbal articulations that they're climaxing. In addition, the women have subtly defined sexual characters ranging from monogamous (Lisa) to totally and casually obsessed with sex (Dorothy) that render each of them unique, thereby avoiding simply depicting them all as liberated sluts.
Later, still battling saboteurs, the girls have to contend with Bonnie and Clyde, who are on the run from the cops and attempting to stick up the garage. Luckily, Dorothy LeMay is a "karate expert", and a pretty kick ass scene where the women handle their business ensues. I wasn't expecting this kind of silliness, but it was certainly welcome, and a refreshing change that the women kicked ass without the assistance of their cop buddy. Once Duke does show up, he simply takes Bonnie and Clyde downtown, and the gals get back to work.
One of the more interesting scenes happens toward the end, where Lisa is called by Georgina Spelvin, Youth Corps leader, to fix a flat tire on their bus. Lisa not only fixes the tire (jacking it up with all the "kids" inside, no less), but keeps Georgina busy so the horny teens can fool around for a while. Finally, Georgina literally falls in on the action, and discovers her own awakening, crying out "Praise the Lord!" It's a curious Mary Poppins-esque scene, with Lisa serving as a kind of sexual assistant who also changes their tire on the side, and cruises off with a smile. It's just all so goddamn good-natured.
When the saboteur, now dressed as a gorilla, takes things too far by trying to blow up the garage, the second car chase of the film takes place and the whole caboodle ends up with a weird showdown on the beach between Duke and Lisa on one side, and the gorilla/saboteur on the other. "Me and my buddies don't want the competition," the gorilla explains, "And we don't like women's lib!" Why should they share their mechanics' business with women? he reasons. And here comes the ickiest part for me... When the gorilla tells Duke that "us guys have to stick together," Duke protests, "You gotta have women!" Lisa concurs, adding, "unless you're a homo!"
Yikes. That old homophobic chestnut. A shame that they had to throw that in there, as though the reason men should support women's rights is because if they don't, they must be gay, which by extension implies that supporting women is equivalent to wanting to/being able to fuck them. Oh well, maybe Rimmer was dead on regarding this little exchange. That doesn't discount the whole film though, in my opinion, unless we are to go back over everything and read it simply as feminism = cock hungry sluts. I don't believe that's what the film suggests at all though. In fact, I found the film to be a refreshing antidote to the anti-sex stereotype of feminism without resorting to the insulting converse stereotype that feminism is great because it means all women want sex all the time and can no longer be raped. I can see how one of the scenes (the first scene in the bar) could be read in this latter way, however.
Of course, everyone lives happily ever after (including the gorilla!) -- Duke and Lisa remain an item, the other gals are sexually satisfied, and the film ends with a toast: "Here's to the Garage Girls! They're off to a great start!"
Rimmer concludes his review by saying, "Men between 18 and 40 may laugh their heads off, but most women won't." I didn't just laugh, I applauded! Maybe I'm not most women? Maybe Rimmer was watching a different movie? Maybe times have changed? Who knows, but I find it honestly baffling that such a blatantly pro-women, pro-women's lib film, with all its frivolity and sexy silliness, could be marked off by anyone as a prime example of porn that would turn off a woman, unless it is presumed that women openly enjoying sex is insulting. Maybe it's the dungarees with no bra? I recommend this flick to women *and* men who like fun and sexy XXX which doesn't dehumanize its subjects. Just be aware of that groan-inducing homophobic snafu.