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Dances With Chicks



Coyote Ugly (PG-13)
Touchstone Pictures

This is Monday evening. I saw Coyote Ugly last Friday. That's what? Three days ago? A scant 72 hours? So why is it that I can barely remember a thing?

That's a little hyperbole, but only a little. I can remember John Goodman playing the father of Violet (Piper Perabo) a music business wanna-be who moves to New York from the wilds of New Jersey to become a songwriter. Desperate for a job, Violet gets a gig as a bartender at a watering hole named Coyote Ugly, where the gorgeous bartenders double as dancers, high stepping it in some kind of clogging mismatch between Oklahoma! (keep your clothes on, do American regional dances), and Flashdance (get sweaty and low-down, have a dance double do the numbers for the stars). In order to accomplish all of her dreams, Violet has to overcome bad stage fright and sing her songs onstage. She also has to get the guy, a cute little Australian (Adam Garcia) who wants to help her make it to the big time.

By the looks of the audience last Friday afternoon, it appeared that most of the viewers expected a buddy film -- the kind of film you'd take your buddy to see like you'd take him to a topless joint. (Ogling seems to be a group affair, and thus, much better in pairs than alone.) But even the rowdy guys sitting in front of me, ready to be turned on by filmy lavender lingerie, soon settled down since there wasn't much ogling to be had. There were some of the very silliest I-want-to-be-sexy scenes, where the girls got verrrry close with one another, or had water poured all over their tight leather pants, but nothing other than extremely conventional Playboy poses guaranteed to please only heterosexual boys between the ages of 8 and 13.

That was it.

But, if you still want to take a buddy, I'd recommend an anthropologist specializing in gender. The film was most interesting in its incredibly clear depictions of the contradictions and pitfalls of modern gender and sexuality. It was all there: the difference between the dangers for men and women when they work to titillate; the distinctions between "naughty" and "nice" girls; the reactions of fathers and boyfriends to "their" girls displaying themselves for other men; the genuine hazards for women attempting to reclaim sexual power.

I didn't find Coyote Ugly very entertaining, but it could be used as a great Women's Studies 101 text. Perhaps the video could be issued with this notice: "Not to be used for entertainment. Didactic uses only." Then it could be an interesting flick.

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