Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome Stacia Yeapanis as our latest guest with her post, â€œMy Feminism is 80s Teen Movie Favoredâ€. Stacia is a Chicago based interdisciplinary artist who’s first monograph was recently published as part of The Museum of Contemporary Photographyâ€™s Midwest Photographers Publication Project this past spring.
My Feminism is 80s Teen Movie Flavored
Not many people remember the teen movie The Legend of Billie Jean. Expected to be a box office hit in the summer of 1985, it disappointed producers, earning a measly $3.5 million, and has yet to be released on DVD. This movie is why I still own a VCR.
The plot is simple: Billie Jean Davy is a teenage girl from a trailer park, who becomes an outlaw after being involved in an accidental shooting. She goes on the run with her friends and cuts her hair and becomes a celebrity hero seeking justice. The tagline, according to IMDB, is â€œWhen you’re seventeen, people think they can do anything to you. Billie Jean is about to prove them wrong.â€
I was 7, not 17, when it was first released. I canâ€™t remember exactly when or where I watched it for the first time. I remember that I believed the main conflict was between kids and adults. Thereâ€™s no doubt the movie was marketed to the MTV generation. The theme song, Invincible by Pat Benatar, had already made it to #10 before the movie was released. I probably related to the movie because I was a kid and because life constantly feels unfair when youâ€™re a kid.
But when I re-watched The Legend of Billie Jean at age 31, it was obvious to me that this overlooked teen movie is about more than a rebellious teenâ€™s sense that her parents arenâ€™t fair because they make her clean her room or get off the phone and do her homework. For me, itâ€™s one of my earliest feminist texts (and a scathing critique of capitalism, but thatâ€™s another post). Watching it was like having myself and my experience of the world mirrored back to me. I donâ€™t mean that Iâ€™ve ever cut my hair short or been an outlaw or slept at an abandoned mini golf course. I just mean that I must have learned something watching this movie over and over again. And itâ€™s something I value. Read more