American Idiot - The SSL Review (Theater Edition)
A few weeks back, Barnaby, another of the directors of this here movie the blog is about, got some tickets to American Idiot playing at the Phoenix Theater, which is actually a pretty cool long-running Indianapolis contemporary theater company. They only produce things that haven't been produced in this city yet, and often, they're producing world premiere shows. American Idiot, if you don't know, is a rock opera (at least that's what I would call it) by the band Green Day. They created a concept album of the same name before the the musical was created.
I'm telling you about this because, to my surprise, I found that the musical is eligible for SSL Review, and it's not because there was discussion of female orgasm or masturbation. It's because there was an actual depiction - which I truly didn't expect in a play, but was happy to see because, by golly, you know I love doing an SSL Review.
Here's what happened to the best of my memory - cause I didn't expect to need my note-taking supplies, so no notes were taken. Johnny, the main character, finds a love that is billed Whatsername, and the two of them have sex in a bed in the middle of the stage. It's not the only thing happening onstage - which is common in this play. It follows 3 young guys from the suburbs. One stays in the hometown to be with his pregnant girlfriend. Johnny and the other guy head off to the city, but the other guy eventually goes off to the army. Often we are seeing their stories simultaneously. So, there is a song happening during the sex. It goes how sex tends to go in the media. They "make-out" lay down in bed and do the intercourse till they both orgasm and go to sleep. Obviously, genitals are down under the blankets, so I'm just going by the body movements to assess if the stimulation that's being mimicked warrants her orgasm.
At the beginning Johnny's on top, and he's clearly banging her, and then Whatsername gets on top towards the end, and that's when she has her orgasm. It's a sexy and pretty rough sex scene. The banging is truly banging - there's clearly an aggressive, in and out situation that's happening. This is true in both positions. When he's on top, he's banging her, and when she's on top she's banging him. There's definitely no hands down in her clit vulva area at all the whole time, and no vibrators were whipped out, so the only possible means for clitoral stimulation during this sex is if she is able to stimulate her clit against his body while they're doing it. However, that very clearly was not the case. When she came, she was basically sitting upright, cowgirl style on him, bouncing, nay slamming, straight up and down. She was not pitched forward so that her vulva might touch him. The only stimulation happening was his penis stimulating the inside of her vagina - ain't nothin' was touchin' that clit.
Now, since there has never, ever been a recorded instance of a woman orgasming from stimulation to the inside of her vagina, I have to say that this was a highly unrealistic depiction of how a woman might orgasm. That said though, it is also the most common way that women are depicted to orgasm...ya know, from some ol' bangin'. So, it makes perfect sense that this would be how it was staged. I guess I mean to say that this depiction is only unrealistic when considering what is actually known about female orgasm. However, put in the context of a sexual culture that is riddled with a deep misunderstanding of the lady-gasm, it's just normal. I also should point out that there was a Green Day song happening while these two were getting it on, and they were actually working in rhythm with it most of the time, so the pretty heavy slamming onto that dick she was doing in the end was also kinda to create that synchronicity with the music.
This, unfortunately, is not going to get a good SSL Review because, frankly, there was a depiction of a terribly unrealistic orgasm. It really didn't do any more harm to our cultural conversation about how women orgasm, but it definitely reinforced the status quo, and if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
However, as you know, an SSL Review doesn't have anything to do with the actual quality of the show. One could be good, the other bad and vice versa, so I'd like to point out that The Phoenix put together a great show, and the actress who played Whatsername was, for me, actually the highlight. Her voice, her body movement and dancing, her acting - she was the whole package and she stood out. I mean, even with the lack of realism, the sex scene was good, and it was interesting to see a sex depiction live. It actually got me thinking a little more about depictions of female orgasm in the media. It's just a woman up there. I know this, of course, but it puts it in a different perspective when you see it in a play where that woman is just feet from you.
The things women need to do to actually orgasm are just a little dirtier and weirder. We see men and women banging against each other all the time in R-rated movies and TV, but when they grind pelvis to pelvis in a way that would get that clit some action, it seems a little nastier. A woman reaching down to her vulva and getting herself off is, well actually pretty unheard of in movies, but if it did happen, it would be some dirty, shocking, weird shit. It becomes more than a simple sex scene - it makes a statement. We're just not used to seeing that kind of thing. It's exotic, and it's really putting yourself out there to perform a sex act in that way. An actress, and the people around her (including the people in charge) would all have to be open and on the same page about that, and I think that's probably rare. My point is, I guess I just had a moment of realizing that changing the way lady-gasms are depicted in our media will take a lot more courage and outspokenness from actresses and directors than I usually think about.
So, American Idiot only gets a 1 vulva rating, but the depicting lady gave a fantastic performance even with the unrealistic orgasm. My hope is that maybe some future actress will read this, and someday when she plays the part, she gets all revolutionary and aggressively reaches down and rubs out her clit hardcore style in rhythm to some Green Day - all while riding ol' Johnny cowgirl style....and hopefully her director will let her do it.