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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Brothers in Arms: Exploring the Sibling Relationship in Just One of the Guys (or, We Need to Talk About Buddy)


I woke up Monday morning feeling a tad on the ill side, so I called into work and announced that I would be taking a sick day, as one with regular employment is required to do.  I didn’t know who to blame for my sudden state of headachey-nausea-cum-sore-throat (Was it the fault of all the toddlers I was forced to be around the prior afternoon?  Perhaps I was suffering from a Spam hangover, as I had consumed way too much fried Spam at the aforementioned gathering of toddlers.  Maybe, as my wife suggested, it was the fault of Mother Nature herself, considering her wanton disrespect for the citizens of North Carolina as of late.), but I knew exactly how to heal myself: epic amounts of hot tea consumption, video game playing, and Netflix watching.  So, after dropping my daughter off at daycare, hastily eating a Bojangles Cajun Chicken Biscuit Combo (Which oddly made me more nauseous.  Who knew inhaling a spicy hunk of fried chicken pressed between two luscious, buttery halves of greasy biscuit, could make a combination stomach/headache/general nauseous feeling even worse?  I was, and still am, dumbfounded.), and a quick round of Arkham City for the PS3 (Oh, yeah, I beat it.  No biggie.), I stretched out on the couch to watch 1985’s Just One of the Guys.
You might be asking, “How have you never seen Just One of the Guys?  Didn’t you have Comedy Central in the 90’s?”  To the latter, I say, of course I had Comedy Central in the 90’s, the Lawsons weren’t some sort of caveman family.  How dare you question whether or not my parents provided basic cable for me and my sister.  To the former, I say, I just haven’t, OK?  I remember coming home after school and turning on Comedy Central and seeing it on, but I never felt compelled to watch it longer than the millisecond it took me to think, “This thing again?” and flip the channel.  I had nothing against Just One of the Guys, per se, I just didn’t know what it was.  And I don’t really like watching movies that have been edited for television, and it’s all the fault of the Goonies. 
You see, back in the olden days, networks used to show movies on Saturday or Sunday nights, and as movie fans, my family would dutifully tape said movies to add to our collection, which means we had some pretty great films at our fingertips (Gremlins, the aforementioned Goonies) as well as some “it’s-on-TV-so-I-guess-it-might-be-good-question-mark” (The Hard Way—remember that one?).  Anyway, once taped, these movies were watched over and over and over and over again.  So, anyway, the first time I’m at school talking about The Goonies with some friends, they start talking about all these scenes they love, and I’m not familiar with ANY OF THEM. Why?  Because they were cut out of the version I had at home.  “Chunk breaks off a statue’s penis?  Aw.  I wanna see that.”  That is why I don’t watch/enjoy movies on TV. 


Why did I watch Just One of the Guys on my sick day?  Well, first, I was sick.  I didn’t want anything deep or meaningful or foreign.  Quite frankly, I wanted to be able to close my eyes if I wanted to and still (mostly) following the action.  Second, a comedy felt like the right choice, but I didn’t want it to be too funny, like, I didn’t want to do a bunch of LOL-ing (Laugh Out Louding-ing), and Just One of the Guys didn’t seem like the kind of flick that was capable of  literally "busting" one’s "gut." (I don’t know what I based that on.)  Third, the hosts of my favorite podcast of 2013, The Flop House, bring up Just One of the Guys all the time, and they’ve yet to steer me wrong. 
For those of you who don’t know, Just One of the Guys is about a high school girl named Terry who wants to be a reporter when she grows up.  She writes an article for a contest being held by a local newspaper, but her media writing teacher doesn’t choose her story as one of the finalists, in fact, he chooses articles by male students only.  Terry believes that sexism is afoot and decides to go undercover as a boy at another area high school and write about her experiences.  Everything you expect to happen, happens: she runs afoul of a bully, played by go-to 80’s jerk-off William Zabke; she is pursued by a sex-hungry co-ed, played by go-to 90’s sexpot Sherilyn Fenn; she befriends and falls in love with a cool loner she’s made it her mission to help find a date for the prom.  Basic 80’s shenanigans. 
I found myself charmed by Just One of the Guys, despite its casual sexism (which I understand is kind of the point), its unnecessary and, frankly, unappealing background characters (the two super nerds who won’t stop pretending they are visitors from another planet; the guy with reptiles in his pocket), and its ridiculous premise (I am willing to accept the whole “high school girl goes undercover as a boy to win a newspaper contest” thing, but the fact that all of this happens during a two week period in which her parents are out of town is asinine).  It’s a fun movie and it’s got a great scene where Terry, as Terry, rips open her prom tuxedo to expose her boobs to the young man she’s fallen head-over-heels in love with to prove that she's a lady and not simply a gay dude barking up the wrong tree.
Did I mention Terry has a brother named Buddy?  I didn’t?  Well, she does.  Hm.  Look, we need to talk about Buddy, but where to start…


I think it’s safe to assume that all of us, at one time or another, have been a 15-year-old boy.  It’s a weird position to be in.  Your hormones are raging, but you can’t drive or buy cigarettes or vote in the general election.  There’s no outlet for your sexual frustration, except maybe tube socks.  Well, socks are less an outlet then a receptacle, but you get what I’m trying to say.  I thought about the sex I wasn’t having and didn’t have access to when I was a young man, it’s natural, but I don’t recall being as all-consumed by horniness as Buddy seems to be.  I found alternative activities to pass the time.  And when the aforementioned horniness became too much to bear, I turned to the comforts of that aforementioned sock. 
Buddy, quite frankly, is disturbing.
I have no interest in being crass, but Buddy grows up to be a sex offender, probably a serial rapist, right?  He’s a total Law & Order: SVU Creep-of-the-Week in training.  Like, I can imagine him squaring off against Detective Benson in the interrogation room and saying some really heinous stuff about women, pushing his luck until Tutuola is forced to kick the chair out from under him. That’s what happens to Buddy.  He ends up toothless on an interrogation room floor at the feet of Ice-T.
I found myself torn during the scenes between Terry and Buddy in Just One of the Guys.  On the one hand, I enjoyed their relationship.  They got along in a way most onscreen brothers and sisters do not.  Sure, Buddy was a little obsessed with threatening to give away his sister’s secret—like when he visits her at her new school or happily takes her college boyfriend to the prom to find her—but for the most part, they work as a team.  Everything else about Buddy is chilling.
Just One of the Guys is a comedy, sure, but here’s a short list of just a few of the things Buddy does over the film’s 90 minute running time that is not only inappropriate and weird, but gross.
1.) Buddy decorates his bedroom walls with Playboy centerfolds:  In an attempt to alleviate his sexual frustration, Buddy surrounds himself with porn.  Now, I’m not one of those people who believe porn leads to sex crimes leads to murder leads to Dahmertown, I just think it’s a little weird to be so open about your enjoyment of pornography.  That isn’t a turn on for the ladies, Buddy.  All of the women I’ve had meaningful relationships with have not been anti-porn, but I’m pretty sure they all would’ve been pretty skeeved out if I invited them over and they found centerfolds framed and set out on the mantle like weird family vacation shots.  If you are a straight male, you most likely enjoy naked women—everybody knows this—so, maybe lay off with the Playboy wallpaper.
It should be noted that when Sherilyn Fenn’s character shows up at Terry’s house unannounced with a bowl full of fish and “sexy” 80’s lingerie on, Terry claims Buddy’s room as her own, and Fenn is in no way creeped out by the porn everywhere, and there is A LOT of it.  Oh, and, spoiler alert, Fenn ends up in bed with Buddy at the end, so, you know, ew.
2.) Buddy plots to get his study buddy wasted: Buddy invites a girl from his math class over to study, but makes it no secret that he has designs on getting her drunk on red wine and taking advantage of her.  And he tries all this, IN FRONT OF TERRY’S BOYFRIEND!  Now Buddy needs an audience?  This guy gets sicker and sicker with every frame.
To be fair, Math Class Girl does reject Buddy’s advances, but it’s for pretty shallow reasons.  As she turns to leave, Buddy asks, “Would it help if I told you I was hung like a bear?” to which she responds, “Maybe.  Are you?”  Buddy confesses that he is not, and the girl promptly exits the movie forever.
3.) Buddy and Denise: Terry’s best friend in the movie is a girl named Denise.  Not only does Buddy spend the bulk of the movie hitting on Denise, but he is constantly pawing at her like a kitten.  A horny kitten.  In a sleeveless flannel shirt.  Does Denise ever report this to the authorities or ask Terry to reprimand Buddy about his endless sexual harassment?  Of course not!  She just removes his hand from her inner thigh (HER INNER THIGH!!!) and rolls her eyes.
Quick note on Denise: She ends up with a thirty-year-old guitarist from the band playing the prom.  Gross.  Weird.


Buddy never redeems himself, in fact, his antics are rewarded.  Not only does he get to have sex with Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne herself!!!), but in the final scene, he leaps on the back of a passing cougar’s motorcycle, and drives off into the distance with her, presumably for even more sexually explicit misadventures.
In summation, Just One of the Guys is a charming 80’s trifle with more good than bad, but Buddy Griffith is perhaps one of the most disturbing, sociopathic characters in film history. 


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