Friday, August 08, 2014

I hear you gots operational lady parts

Matt DeCapua as the
Space Cowboy from
JULIA & BUDDY
photo by Linda Jaquez
You never know what the audience is going to laugh at when you write a play. If you write a romantic comedy, you have to hope you can predict when at least some lines get a laugh.

In my JULIA & BUDDY this never failed to get a laugh:

    BUDDY
Hey, do you want to play dress-up? I could be the cowboy and you could be the Indian girl.
 
    JULIA
And then what, you give me smallpox and steal my land?

No matter how quiet the audience was, this exchange, at least, would make them laugh.

And the best part is, it is 100% politically correct.

However, another politically correct line that I thought would get a laugh: "If you ruled out every Great Man in history on the basis of misogyny, you wouldn't have any left" only got one really solid laugh during our 5-show run.

Sometimes the actors will make a line funny. In the second half of the play, Julia has a panic attack, by herself, while she's on a boat. A little later Buddy joins her and observes that the weather and water are so beautiful nobody could have a panic attack in such an environment. To which Julia replies: "almost nobody." For several performances that got a good laugh, and I had never expected it, and mostly actor Claire Warden gets the credit for it.

And Matt DeCapua's Schopenhauer got sterner with each performance and so naturally became funnier, until by the last performance, one of the biggest laughs we got was this:
     JULIA
And he has a good sense of humor and sometimes he is so sweet and kind. But then again... he has brain damage. Mild brain damage. But still... 
 
    SCHOPENHAUER
A brain-damaged actor. If you are serious about philosophy you will dispense with him immediately. 
 
     JULIA
But I was so lonely before he came into my life.  
 
     SCHOPENHAUER
I recommend you get a poodle. 
 
     JULIA
Is that all there is to life? Poodles? 
 
     SCHOPENHAUER
Life is misery…
That's where the laugh was - after Schopenhauer says "life is misery." There's actually quite a bit of monologue after that, but Matt began to take longer pauses after "misery" for each performance, until by the last one it got a good hearty sustained laugh, which was immensely gratifying and still quite surprising, considering what he's actually saying.

I was disappointed that the Space Cowboy scene didn't get more laughs - the dialog is just so absurd I thought, surely... but after talking to my brother-in-law, who came with my sister to see the show, I think the reason it doesn't get a laugh is because the audience is perplexed as to what is going on. It is explained in the next scene why we see Buddy playing a Space Cowboy, but there is no exposition prior to the scene. So the audience was probably too confused to laugh.

Well I laughed every time he said "operational lady parts." Although it might be because I know the provenance of the phrase.



Long-time readers of this blog (all three of you) know how much I despise crappy director and world-class misogynist Andrew Bellware - I won't go into details here but if you click on the link you can read all about it.

I knew who Bellware was because I worked with some of the same actors he works with. Except for when they worked for me, they got fair to good reviews and most important of all, they were paid. And yet these actors gave me horrific disrespect while working for me on my JANE EYRE (and later invited friends of theirs who never met me to join in with personal attacks and defamation), and they treat Bellware like a best buddy, happily performing in his famously shitty movies for no money.

I think that misogyny has to be a factor here - there seems to be no other explanation for the difference in their attitudes towards myself and Bellware. The off-off Broadway world, of which Bellware is also a part when he isn't grinding out cinematic excrement, is a tiny club, and dominated by men - although they have a Ladies Auxiliary who cheerfully serve them. In fact, like all boys clubs, the Independent Theater boys club couldn't exist without a group of compliant women who don't look too deep at the misogynist assumptions of the men they so loyally support. And of course many of them have their own internalized misogyny.

Which brings me to operational lady parts.

The Space Cowboy scene in JULIA & BUDDY was inspired by Andrew Bellware's Angry Planet, (AKA "Solar Vengeance"). Fun fact - one of the actors in J&B is Facebook friends with one of the actors (not one that I have worked with, though) who appears in Angry Planet. You can see the original inspirational "Space Cowboy" in a photo on Bellware's blog here.

Bellware has also helpfully provided the script for the movie online. The script is written by Mac Rogers, who is something of a darling of off-off Broadway. His speciality seems to be writing sci-fi stories for the theater, which appears to be in perfect harmony with the NY theater world's ongoing project to make theater safe for heterosexual males - by turning theater into the movies.

Now I'm sure that Rogers would deny to his last breath that he is misogynist, if for no other reason than it's not at all fashionable these days. And Bellware appears to have had quite an influence on the script, which would naturally up the misogynist quotient. But still, if you reflect on the scenario of the sexy ladybot, there are some disturbing notions.

Here is how the character "Athena" is introduced:
The beautiful woman, clad in a kind of skin-tight EXOSKELETON battle-armor, steps elegantly out of the opening, not at all traumatized by the hard landing. 
But she's really an android:
   STAHL
Of course she's a Corvette Class android. Anybody can see that. What's the matter, your mommy scare you with stories of the big, bad, Corvette 'droids? Taking over battle cruisers single-handedly, wiping out whole planets?
...
 
Corvette Class androids have a built in fail-safe mechanism. They can not operate projectile weapons. The fail-safe's built into them...
First off, I found it hysterical that she's a "Corvette Class" android, and included that in my J&B script. Because of course sports cars are the coolest things ever, so you're going to make your hot ladybot a Corvette. Well, I should say that sports cars are the second coolest thing ever. Clearly this "fail-safe mechanism" is there so the ladybot can wield a light saber. Because light sabers are the coolest things ever.

In spite of being hobbled by this Fourth Law of Robotics, the ladybot manages to use her light saber to dominate the space marshals who are heavily armed with space blasters:
Athena’s EYES watch his movement. She calculates the velocity and trajectory of the weapon.
And her instincts are instantaneous.
A LIGHT SABER falls gently from her armor into her waiting hand. And then a bunch of things happen very quickly:
She ignites the light saber as Dak’s weapon discharges,
BAM!
She deflects the bullet with her saber and in the same stroke deftly removes Dak's ARM.
BAM!
His weapon goes off again, but it shoots harmlessly into the sky while it falls to the ground with his arm attached.
Trapper is next, but she removes his HEAD before he can fire with the back-swing of her light saber. She steps closer to Stahl.
She ignites a SECOND LIGHT SABER and removes Deputy Marshall JOANNA BLAKE'S HAND just as Drigs fires and the BOLT of energy from his weapon is deflected.
Now Athena is inside the group of Marshals.
In spite of the fact that she is a killing machine, and in spite of the fact that there are women on the planet of anger, the character Cub, the basis of my Space Cowboy, wants to have sex with the android:
   CUB
I gotta tell ya, ‘droid or not, she sure is purty.
 
Drigs, overhearing, laughs at Cub. Blake chimes in. 
   BLAKE
Well, Cub, maybe you should ask her on a date!
 
   STONE
You saw what she did to Blake, she might just get more intimate with you, Cub.
Now the entire point of the character of Cub is to be stupid so that the other characters can be even more surly and abusive than usual. I was once a friend of the actor who played the role, and until we had a falling out it annoyed me no end that he would play such a degraded character. After we had a falling out I thought it was fairly amusing.

Although in spite of the character's idiocy, he actually solves the movie's big mystery as I discuss here.

And the irony - although I don't think it was intentional irony - is that the android does end up having sex with a human, so once again the degraded stupid character is right. In the end Cub gets eaten by hideously deformed mutant children (who are never mentioned in the script until that point) for his sins.*

But back to the android. I find this section of the script fascinating. The space marshal named Blake is a woman:
   BLAKE
Fuck-off tin cunt bitch.
 
Stahl unholsters his weapon. He points it, however, at Blake. 
   STAHL
Blake. I will shoot you myself if you do not cease your hostility to the inherently unstable Corvette-class combat android. 
So Rogers has a female character call the combat android a "tin cunt bitch." But what, exactly would a combat android's cunt be made out of? And why would you give a combat android a cunt in the first place? For that matter, why would you make a combat android look like a beautiful woman?

Now perhaps you are thinking that I think too much. When I ran NYCPlaywrights as a weekly reading group, I was often told, when I found logical inconsistencies in the plot that I "thought too much." The reverse was never considered a problem though. But really - why would you make a combat android look like a beautiful woman?

Well we know why the script writer did it - so that a space marshal could have sex with her.

And not just to comply with the space marshal's desires out of, perhaps, some Fifth Law of Robotics. Oh no, this tin cunt bitch wants it so bad she gets West drunk:
Athena crouches over the sleeping Luther. She has a NEEDLE.

She injects Luther.
 
   ATHENA
He will sleep for hours.
 
West rolls over and opens his eyes. They look at each other. 
   WEST
Did you join up with Stahl's Marshals?
 
   ATHENA
The man Cub will sleep too.

She presses a BUTTON on her wrist. Her armor dissolves. With an android’s utter confidence she is naked, her flesh illuminated by the flickering lamp-light. She picks up a BOTTLE.
 
   ATHENA
You have not had anything to drink tonight.
 
   WEST
No. I didn’t feel like it.

   ATHENA
It’s always easier to have you when you are drunk.
Kneeling over him like the White Rock nymph, she pours some liquor into his mouth.

   WEST
Are we on?
 
   ATHENA
Don’t talk right now.
 
   WEST
Are we on with Cub?
 
   ATHENA
I entered the exact sequence you showed me on his pharma-patch. May we continue?
 
She kisses West, hard, and pushes away his bedclothes. He is already naked...
I submit to you that "Athena" is the sci-fi nerd's concept of the ideal woman. 

So we have a "battle android" who looks like a beautiful woman, who can have sex, and who really wants to have sex, so much that she date-rapes a guy.

So how did this extremely improbable creature come into being? Well why do you care? There's space blasters and light sabers and torture devices and mutants and all kinds of kewl shit on this angry planet. And you want to waste precious script time explaining why we have to have a hot bitch whose clothing instantaneously disappears so she can screw you? What are you, a goddam woman, with your pathetic needs for reasons for all the sexy sexy sex???

And besides, the script tells you why, in a flashback:
   WEST
If you’re a Corvette, why’d they give you a gun? 
She comes out of it. 
   ATHENA 
Because I only went sentient an hour ago. Now concentrate and fire when I give the order!
So there you go. She went sentient. Why did she go sentient? How is it possible for an android to suddenly go "sentient." You don't need to know, you girly girl.

And besides, what are you whining about? The android didn't just rape him for a good time, she raped him because she's in love with him - and unrequited love at that.
Really this is the perfect woman.
EXT -- DESERT -- NIGHT 97
On the ridge, Athena stands watch with West.
    
    ATHENA 
I am in love with you, Jonas. 
    WEST 
Wow. You're seriously malfunctioned, aren’t you?
    
    ATHENA 
Very seriously. 
    WEST 
You picked the wrong man, Athena. This is what I am now.
   ATHENA 
And after you’re done here, then what? 
    WEST 
Forget about me. 
    ATHENA 
Forget? 
    WEST 
If you can. 
    ATHENA 
That is, of course, impossible. 
   WEST 
That’s what you’re missing out on, you know? Humans can forget. 
   ATHENA 
Then why can’t you forget? 
This ticks West off. But there’s nothing he can say really. 
   WEST 
I guess that means I’m not human. 
Athena detects something. 
    ATHENA 
The Terran Patrol boat is almost at the drop zone.
Well that was a close call. They were starting to talk about relationship shit. Perfect time to bring on some more action.

And really? It took a declaration of love for the West character to consider Athena "seriously malfunctioned"? Not the part where she uses alcohol to rape you?

    WEST 
You better get on it then. 
Athena just stares at West. It's hard to tell exactly what she feels with that stony android expression. Sadness, regret? 
    ATHENA 
I will go. 
She leaves.
This quote was attributed to David Lee Roth, but based on this script, I believe that the audience for this movie is in perfect agreement:
The perfect woman has an IQ of 150, wants to make love until 4 in the morning, and then turns into a pizza.
Although the last part might be amended to "turns back into a killing machine."

I suspect that Rogers didn't give much thought to the configuration of the android's cunt. He enjoyed the idea of a sexy horny ladybot who also happened to be a killing machine and so voila!

And does a blow-up doll have a real female genitalia? Of course not - it has a hole in which to insert the penis. The point of a blow-up doll, or a sexy android, is not its sexual satisfaction - although it does help your sexual satisfaction immensely if the ladybot wants you so much it will force itself on you. Wow, how sexy are you?

But there is really no point in giving a combat android operational lady parts. Even if the android is put into secondary use as a sex toy. Even if it "becomes sentient" enough to fall in love with you. Androids are created to serve men - and service sci-fi nerds in their dearest fantasies. Which don't include the needs of real women and all that interpersonal drama.

And that's why I find "operational lady parts" so funny. Because of course the concept of "operational" female genitalia is totally alien to the world of Angry Planet. In the sci-fi nerd fantasy world, lady parts are just tin cunt receptacles.

I guess that is a bit too much of an inside joke (pun intended) for others to get. But I enjoyed it. And I like to think of it as a small first step in the resistance against the takeover of the theatre by sci-fi nerds with misogynist attitudes.
*although it turns out in the end that there were never any mutants, the perceptions were caused by a mind-control chip, so I assume he was just murdered and eaten by regular, albeit very hungry yet nevertheless strong children. But of course I always think too much.

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