In the commentary track on the Anchor Bay release of Times Square, Robin Johnson laments that the film is one of the few “where you have two female characters being the leads, and coming out in any way, shape, or form… there are all these male buddy movies… [and almost] nothing with women, especially young women, which is too bad.”
You said it, sister! Mainstream Hollywood largely spews forth a cesspool of misogyny. In terms of more independent film, however, here are some examples that were clearly inspired by Times Square:
* In Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (dir. David Markey, 1984), it’s all about the music! And murdering your parents when required;
* In Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (dir. Lou Adler, 1982), it’s all about the music! Until it’s all about the fame! And the highlight is Corinne (Diane Lane)’s immortal line, “I’m perfect, but nobody in this shithole gets me, ’cause I don’t put out!” (For more on “Female Rockers,” check out Feminéma’s posts on Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, and Times Square);
* In Foxfire (dir. Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996), we have a more fulsome Times Square tribute, complete with a Pier 56-like squat, group tattoos instead of blood-sharing, and a quasi- Nicky and Pammy relationship between leads Legs (Angelina Jolie) and Maddy (Hedy Burress).
But my favourite, by far, is Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999). Like Times Square, Matthew Bright’s film is a version of the fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” (and a loose sequel to his 1996 film, Freeway, which was based on “Little Red Riding Hood.”) Natasha Lyonne stars as White Girl (court name Crystal Van Meter, named after her mother’s favourite drug). After being sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, she meets Cyclona (America’s Most Wanted name Angela Garcia), played by the magnificent María Celedonio, in the prison van while being transported to a psychiatric facility to treat White Girl’s bulimia, and Cyclona’s… well, there’s so very much. Much like Pammy’s attraction to Nicky is obvious at their first meeting (Nicky having a better capacity to play it cool), we know from the outset that Cyclona is intensely attracted to White Girl; with bored fascination she watches White Girl purging in their cell toilet throughout the entire opening credits. (Another giveaway occurs soon after, when she masturbates in her prison bunk while whisper-moaning the words, “I love you, Sporty Spice!”) The institution is not big enough to contain White Girl and Cyclona; like Nicky and Pammy, they take their glorious show on the road.
In an excellent review of the film, House of Self-Indulgence writes “Natasha Lyonne is a deranged angel in thigh-high hooker boots sent forth from some sort of magic kingdom of sleaziness to quell the aching souls of reprobates the world over.” (The House of Self-Indulgence review of Times Square has one of my all-time favourite descriptions of Nicky Marotta: “Nicky had an unsubtle air about her that practically screamed box fondler.” I love that description! As I’ve suggested, I think Pammy also screams box-fondlee… but I’ll leave that to a later post.) Like Nicky Marotta, White Girl is a divine mix of cool, insouciance, an explosive temper, and the capacity to pick up the hottest chicks. Clearly, she was also a star pupil at the Nicky Marotta School of Enunciation. Compare the intonation; we truly are listening to Brooklyn’s Finest!:
WARNING: RANT AHEAD###################################
As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted… Of Cyclona, House of Self-Indulgence writes, “Attacking the film’s raunchy and slightly inappropriate dialogue with an elegant ease, María Celedonio’s Mink Stole-esque performance is a deranged work of art.” In much the same way that Trini Alvarado overcomes the flat Pamela Pearl of the Times Square script to make the filmic character multi-faceted and likable, Celedonio manages to make the psychotic serial killer Cyclona an appealing and “believable” character. When she disguises herself as a boy to evade capture, she tells White Girl to dress “more girly… The more you look like a girl, the more I feel like a boy.” (When White Girl returns to her tricking of the title, Cyclona also makes the best-looking pimp since Nicky.)
Like Times Square, Freeway II ultimately enacts an idiosyncratic form of feminist empowerment, in which Cyclona and White Girl do for Tijuana what Pammy and Nicky did for New York City. I don’t want to force a comparison here; there are, of course, many differences between Times Square and Freeway II. Times Square does not contain mass murder, cannibalism, huffing, or synchronized bulimic purging. (I previously noted that we do not see Nicky and Pammy eat in Times Square; in Freeway II, we see White Girl eat all that food they left over, but as she insists, she’s “just getting started.”) It does not contain a sex scene, let alone the best sex scene I have ever witnessed. (Yes, the sex scene in Freeway II is even better than the tender puppet-sex scene between Chucky and Tiffany in Bride of Chucky, dir. Ronny Yu, 1998; high praise, indeed!)
But Freeway II does share much with Times Square: each features two young women, misfits who have had crappy lives, who have been deemed more-or-less mentally ill by the State; young women who rebel against and literally escape from that definition, who fight for their lives, fall in love, and form a family of two.
This one goes out to my two favourite women in the House, Bev and Ay, to whom I insist: Freeway II really is a beautiful, tender love story! Either that, or I have spent too much time with White Girl and Cyclona.