‘Don’t Ruin the Fantasy, Okay?: Teenage Masculinity and Fantasies of Womanhood in Weird Science’ (1985)

Chard, H. (Presenter)

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation

Description

Written and directed by John Hughes, Weird Science is a science-fiction fantasy which fuses elements of the Frankenstein story with a fairly conventional coming-of-age narrative. Two geeky teenage boys, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell Smith), use a computer to create their perfect woman, Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). Described by the Los Angeles Times’ film critic, Sheila Benson, as “every oppressed, overheated 15-year-old boy’s dream”, Weird Science seems, at first glance, to be a run-of-the-mill teen sex comedy. In fact, the film simultaneously appeals to and questions dominant masculine fantasies. The representation of Lisa and the role that she plays in the narrative, I argue, is central to this tension.

Lisa is an exaggerated vision of female sexuality; her pin-up body is literally the product of numerous glossy magazine images of women. As I will discuss, the femininity she performs is excessive and implausible, signalling the fantastic and unreal nature of a prevalent gender ideal. In fact, although she arouses lust in the teenage boys, she also creates fear and anxiety. Crucially, rather than performing the role of permissive sexual playmate, Lisa uses her magical powers and superior intellect to teach the boys how to perform hegemonic masculinity. She indulges the boys’ fantasies and creates dream-like scenarios in order to teach them skills that will allow them to succeed in their everyday, suburban lives. She accomplishes her mission when Gary and Wyatt form relationships with real-life teenage girls and gain the respect of their peers, primarily through displays of aggression and dominance. Thus, I argue, Weird Science is able to exploit excessive heterosexual male fantasies, for the enjoyment of its target audience, while promoting a more modest fantasy of suburban courtship.
Period4 Jul 2018
Event titleScreening the Unreal
Event typeConference
LocationBrighton, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionLocal

Keywords

  • Film
  • Film criticism
  • Cinema
  • Gender