EVERY TIME I DIE frontman KEITH BUCKLEY waxes cinematic on the more important films of our time—sort of.
THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (1985)
STARS: Helen Slater, Christian Slater, Lisa Simpson’s voice
THE PLOT: Hey, 1980s! Remember that movie about that hot babe who shaved her head and went on the lam? Hey 1990’s! Did you ever see that movie I was just talking to the ’80s about? No, she wasn’t a lesbian! Well, yes, she did wear a denim vest. Oh, yeah—she did hate men. Goddamit ’90s! You always do that!
Granted, this movie is as legendary as its name. We all know the soundtrack by Pat Benetar. We all know that Billie Jean (Helen Slater) becomes the Joan of Arc to the disenchanted youth of the ’80s. But do any of us remember why? I’ll tell you. After fending off a would-be rapist, Billie Jean watches her brother Binx (Christian Slater) accidentally shoot the man in the arm, neither killing him nor seriously injuring him. Deciding they cannot yet turn themselves in, they hit the road as outlaws and fend off would-be captors by kneeing them in the balls. Billie Jean (simply a witness to a shooting, mind you) becomes a martyr after shaving off all her hair and donning a punk rock attitude, refusing to return home until the man admits his wrongs. Pretty soon all of Texas has caught Billy Jean fever, and they gather on a beach to see her arrive and confront the evil doer at a predetermined time. After a swift knee to the balls and a fire set to his shop full of knick knacks, Billie Jean and Binx are “freed” and safely travel to Vermont. Or to the lesbian karaoke bar down the street from me.
THE POINT: Though references to Joan of Arc are not scant throughout this epic historical satyr, I would be remiss to simply let them end at a physical resemblance. Yes, Billie Jean shaved her head just as Joan of Arc was known to dress as a page, but the parallels go further. This brilliant tactic of muting her own sexuality to emphasize masculine traits says one thing and one thing only: Men are superior. The world thanks you, Billie Jean, for conveying the complicated so very simply: “To be anyone, you simply must be. But to be someone, you must be a man.”