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Apr 8 '14

Russ Myers - Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! (1965 trailer)

Feminism and Male Inadequacy in the Films of Russ Meyer


A dual biopic exploring the friendship between Roger Ebert and Russ Meyer is apparently in the works. Simpsons/SNL writer Christopher Cluess penned the script, which focuses on Meyer and Ebert’s formative collaboration on Fox’s big-budget fiasco Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). Though it will be fun to see young Ebert in his humble side-burned glory, the most interesting character in this story is Russ Meyer.

An ongoing fascination of mine, Russ Meyer is one of the most misunderstood figures in film history. To fans of sleaze and camp, he’s a deity. He invented the sexploitation genre as we know it withThe Immoral Mr. Teas (1959), a hallucinatory exploration of compulsive voyeurism. According to John Waters, the iconic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) is “beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future.” To other, more genteel audiences however, Meyer is often thought of as a seedy proto-pornographer whose films trade in adolescent prurience, irredeemable violence, and general bad taste.

Meyer himself subscribed to the latter characterization, rejecting intellectual interpretations of his work and insisting that he only made movies for two reasons: “lust and profit.” But as any true student of his films can attest, Meyer’s bizarre career encompassed much more than that. To appreciate the thought-provoking complexities inherent in Meyer’s work, one must first confront its most frustrating contradiction: that his films are simultaneously misogynist and feminist.


Meyer’s career unfolded concomitantly with second-wave feminism, but it’s primarily third-wave (or so-called “sex-positive”) feminists that appreciate his aesthetic. B. Ruby Rich famously labeled Meyer “the first feminist American director,² praising his progressive sense of female empowerment in Faster, Pussycat! and his bold rejection of hetero-normativity in Vixen! (1968). Similarly, quasi-feminist cultural critic Camille Paglia laments, “his women had an exuberance and vitality you rarely see in film anymore.” Roger Ebert has always been Meyer’s most high-profile apologist on this point, encouraging critics to appreciate “the quintessential Russ Meyer image: a towering woman with enormous breasts, who dominates all the men around her, demands sexual satisfaction, and casts off men in the same way that, in mainstream sexual fantasies, men cast aside women.” Indeed, Meyer himself credited much of his success to the fact that many women enjoyed his movies just as much as men.

But things get tricky once you contrast these progressive interpretations with some of the director’s own words. He described his ideal target audience as “some guy…in the theater with semen seeping out of his dick.” When asked whether his films exploit women, Meyer responded plainly, “I’m prone to say, yes, I do exploit women. I exploit them with zeal and gusto.” On feminist thought itself, Meyer was pretty vile: “I don’t care to comment about what might be inside a lady’s head. Hopefully it’s my dick.”

There’s really no question that Meyer was at all times primarily concerned with delivering male sexual gratification, not promoting feminist ideology. But he was the first American filmmaker to consistently depict and celebrate women who were in charge of their own sexuality. So what, then, was the connection?


Whatever is incidentally pro-feminist in Meyer’s work was likely an accidental, albeit fascinating, side effect of his idiosyncratic sexual appetite. The theoretical disconnect in his treatment of gender may be explained by the extent to which Meyer’s films are exceedingly personal, one might say solipsistic, expressive vehicles for exploring his own masturbatory fantasies. Describing his creative process, he once said, “each film must begin with me.I am the idea. I’ve got to have the hard-on.”

The relationship between his sexual personality and the feminist overtones of his work gets clearer once one acknowledges that Meyer’s obsession with female dominance was always complemented by another, perhaps even more continual thematic hallmark of his narratives: male inadequacy.

Themes of sexual impotence permeate his entire career. In Lorna(1964), the title character’s husband is a sexually inept wimp that bores her into infidelity and recklessness. In Common Law Cabin(1967), a female character cuckolds and basically murders her husband as ostensible punishment for being, essentially, a pussy. Meyer’s failed attempt at First Amendment proselytizing, The Seven Minutes (1971), features a rape defendant vindicated at trial by the stunning revelation that the crime was physically impossible for him to commit. Charles Napier’s utterly despicable villain in Supervixens(1975) brutally murders a woman after she taunts his inability to perform. Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) is a preposterous and anarchic profile of a hopeless idiot who can’t bring himself to have anything but anal sex.


What’s more is that his focus on male inadequacy was no doubt a highly personal topic. In addition to his reputation for being decidedly wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am in the sack (corroborated by multiple former lovers), one particular episode of performance anxiety is instructive. Just as his filmmaking career was getting started, Meyer’s obsession with busty burlesque icon Tempest Storm caused him to abandon his first wife and nearly ruin his own life. But when it came time to go to bed with Ms. Storm, Meyer’s manhood was nowhere to be found. He described it thus:

“When I first met Tempest Storm I was so in awe of her great big cans that thoughts like performing badly or ejaculating prematurely ran through my mind –all connected to the dick bone. So when I made my move to hump the buxotic after the last show in her Figueroa Street scatter, I felt inadequate, plain and simple. Fuck, what can I say?”

Tempest Storm happens to be the star of Meyer’s first short film (now lost), The French Peep Show (1954), and her breasts make a cameo in his first feature-length film, The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959). To a significant extent, she was the sex symbol that launched his whole career. So quite literally, feelings of sexual inadequacy were at the very root of his development as an artist.


Meyer’s brand of transgressive femininity may be thought of as the natural result of his own self-loathing, which subliminally translated into deep skepticism for contemporary masculinity at large. It’s likely he viewed female sexuality as something hopelessly out of his personal control, and ultimately out of society’s control as well. That’s why his work exhibits what UC Irvine film professor Kristen Hatch called “an ambivalence toward the traditional authority figures that classical Hollywood had helped to reinforce, showing masculine social authority to be in a state of disarray.” Characters like Varla and Vixen don’t just transgress rules associated with physical gender norms like strength and sex drive; they represent the rejection of all rules that paternalistic society is stupid enough to rely on.

At its best, Meyer’s work subverts traditional sexual power dynamics and celebrates the disorienting sexual chaos that results. Female liberation in Meyer’s universe is not the product of paternalistic sympathy or cliché moral epiphany. Rather, he depicts female sexuality as being by its very nature violently irrepressible and self-actualizing. Socio-masculine anxiety about this threat to male sexual hegemony is the principal component of Meyer’s continuing subversive appeal. But as Ebert once put it, that’s only apparent to viewers “if they can see past the heaving bosoms.” Not likely.


Mar 27 '14
Mar 24 '14

Madonna by Steven Meisel
Sex Book, 1992


Madonna by Steven Meisel

Sex Book, 1992

(via adult-mag)
Mar 24 '14

My Book Curation For The TED2014 Conference.


As well as being invited to give a TEDTalk Lecture/Performance last week in Vancouber, I was also asked to help curate their book store for the event. Below are my book selections along with a link & a little info about each choice. Enjoy !

Formalized Music: Thought & Mathematics in Composition (Harmonologia Series, No 6) by Iannis Xenakis.

Fleeing from World War II torn Greece to become an illegal immigrant in Paris. Xanakis got a job as an engineer & architect. From there his interest in music sprung and he applied the same techniques in regards to architecture to his music compositions. With breakthrough scores shattering any pre conceived notion about music and it’s links to math.

This book is a prime collection of theories & techniques from one of the greatest avant-garde composers to have ever been.

Read More

Mar 13 '14

Cult Czech filmmaker Věra Chytilová dies

The 85-year-old director of the anarchic masterpiece Daisies and pioneer of Czech New Wave has passed away

Mar 13 '14

News not Boobs #nomorepage3 Campaign 

Becky Coley - Director of this ad explains why she made the film.

I am a walking contradiction. I work in the film industry. I am a voyeur of the worst kind as a filmmaker; an image maker. I want to tell stories that are about love and life and sometimes that includes sex and violence. SO why do I have a problem with page 3 and why do I feel so compelled to actually make a video about it?

I love breasts. I think the female body is beautiful. I love to see nudity in art, fashion, films, where its relevant to a story or even just sometimes purely for aesthetic purposes.

My next film is a documentary in a steam room and half the people are naked.

SO am I not a hypocrite?

Why would I want to make a video for the No More Page 3 campaign? What’s wrong with these beautiful young girls bearing their breats for all the world to see? Why is it so strange to me to have that image next to stories about politics, war, pedophilia, rape, abuse and murder? 

CONTEXT. That’s all. It’s about context. This is a national newspaper. It is a newspaper that is read widely and is very much part of our culture. It is a newspaper that is seen by children and had a big effect on me as a young girl growing up, even though no one in my house read it. It would still be found lying around many places we visited in our daily lives.

I am a filmmaker, but I am also a humanitarian. I believe in equality and justice in the world. 

So what is it all about? For me the issue is not about nakedness…

As I already mentioned, my next film is a documentary in a steam room where there is lots of nudity and it is celebrated.  We all have bodies and that should be celebrated, whatever they look like. We are here for a short time and these bodies are the places where we live and so it is nice to feel good inside them. That is why I wanted to make this film. I am fed up of the beauty myth having power over women: For all the young girls who don’t feel good inside their bodies because of this kind of daily bombardment of what a woman should look like. 

I was debating whether or not to make this film and how to make it for quite a while before I did. I am a feminist. I believe feminism is just about equality. I am first a humanitarian and I wish feminism didn’t need to exist anymore.  I believe in changing the culture for the girls and the boys of the future. 

My mind was made up about two weeks before I made the film. I had a day off and I left my house to go for a run around a nearby park. It was cold. I was covered up (not that it should matter much). I got catcalled twice by men. You might think that at the ripe age of 34 I might think myself lucky to be getting male attention.. well I didn’t. I turned around and one young man was staring at me quite aggressively with his hands down the front of his trackie bottoms. My ego did not feel boosted. I honestly thought if I was a younger girl or a younger me, I would have felt quite scared. Why does he think that kind of behaviour is OK? Where do men get the idea that sexually objectifying women is OK? I really felt that - thinking back since I was a teenager - now half my life has passed of putting up with this kind of behaviour - that its not fair on the next generation who have three or four generations before them who think this behaviour is OK.

I have literally had countless times where men have acted inappropriately towards me in public places, travelling the world. In the UK I have sat on the train and had a man who’s been looking at page 3 then look directly at my breasts. I’m not a sexual object - do not look at me like that! There are many more instances and women just used to accept it, but I don’t think we should have to.

I love men and I know not all of them have this kind of attitude. I spoke to lots of men before I made the film and I was pleasantly surprised by their reactions - most of them consider page 3 embarrassing and out of date. They say it does nothing for them and there is no shortage of places to go if they want to find these kind of images - it doesn’t need to be in a national newspaper. 

The rates of sexual harassment, abuse and rape are very high in this country. I say to all the men who think Page 3 is harmless fun to think a bit more on it - you haven’t been on the receiving end of the results of it. The messages it gives to young people and visitors to our country are out of date. There are lots of other places to look at boobs - newspapers are not the place. 

I know this is only one small point about what’s wrong with our society and the media today, but we have to start somewhere and this is one small step in the right direction. We can change our culture. We have the power. 

So the point I am making and the way I have chosen to make it is just to try to show the effect page 3 has on a young girl over one day. It really does affect women and their body image issues amongst other things, so why don’t we all start caring a small bit about each other? Caring about your sisters, mothers, daughters and sons isn’t that more important? This is 2014 after all… 

Sign the petition here:

Mar 13 '14
(via saltmagazine)
Mar 11 '14
Louise Bourgeois - What do you have to offer ? - on Sigmund Freud

Louise Bourgeois - What do you have to offer ? - on Sigmund Freud

Mar 11 '14
Mar 7 '14

Saturday 8th at WOW festival, cunt today founder Phoebe Collings-James speaks on a panel discussing Mixed race identity.