So you know I'd rather pour lemon juice in a papercut than speak ill of Jonathan Brandis (God rest his soul). However, I have a hangnail and peeled an orange. Having endured that, I feel the need to share with you some terrible revelations I had about one of my favorite movies of the '90s: Ladybugs. For those of you who weren't 12 and in love with Jonathan Brandis when this movie came out, allow me to educate you. Ladybugs is about a guy who finds himself coaching an abysmal girls' soccer team with Jackee Harry. *shudder* When he realizes that Matthew, his girlfriend's son, is an excellent soccer player, he dresses Matthew up in drag so that the team will make it to the finals. Wackiness ensues.
Or not. Holy shit. Okay, I know that I was a tween at the time, and that my bedroom walls were plastered with Brandis's face thanks to rags like BOP and Tiger Beat, but Jesus. This movie is vile. And no, I'm not just talking about poor production quality or writing. I don't know what made me think of it, but I was in the shower and I realized just how terrible bits of this movie were. Let's start with the obvious:
While yes, Dangerfield was the go-to guy for awkward and shitty humor in the late 80s/early 90s, I think the casting directors might have been high when they came up with this one.
"I got it...let's pick the most famous actor in Hollywood who can't deliver a one-liner without mugging at the camera for a laugh. Wait, Fozzie Bear isn't available? That's okay. He should also look like the biggest pedophile this side of Neverland Ranch. I GOT IT! DANGERFIELD!"
Now that that is out of my system, let's get to the nitty gritty.
Hey, Creeper. So we've established that it's already bad enough that we've cast everyone's Weird Uncle in the lead role of a man who's in charge of 11 young girls. Now, let's have him conspire with his girlfriend's son to dress as a girl. Keep it secret, too, because that leads to the terrible moment in the 3rd act when she finds out. (Spoilers!) This scheme in and of itself is ridiculous at best and absolutely fucking scary at worst. But, let's just give the writers the benefit of the doubt that there isn't some creepy pedo action going on here....
Let's just watch the trailer... I'm sure it's fine...
Wait... back at the 59 second mark...what was that? Oh yeah, it's an insinuation that Dangerfield is in the dressing room with a girl raping her. While the lady out front has a well-deserved conniption, the audience just laughs it off. Ha ha ha, she's being duped.
Meanwhile, we're laughing at sexual assault. And in the movie no one does anything. That lady just stays quiet and takes her kid off into the store, looking the other way. There's a sinister scene playing out and no one does anything.
Interesting bit of conditioning that.
The rest of the trailer isn't exactly helping the sexual predator aspect of this movie when Dangerfield constantly makes jokes about having balls and hoping for 10 women beneath him.
Speaking of misogyny...
First off, these girls can't play soccer to save their short lives. That's clearly boy's work. So let's not waste the time teaching them--why would we? They're girls! No, we'll just bring in a boy to do it. Oh, don't worry, the girls won't figure it out because they're dumber than boxes of hair.
Furthermore, their skills at soccer come second to beauty. The second best player on the team (or the best with two x chromosomes) barely speaks in the film. She barely handles a soccer ball. She is there to be Matthew's awkward love interest. She's a hot girl in a bathing suit or shorts. That's it. Another girl's super soccer powers manifest when she lets her hair down and proclaims herself pretty for the coach (see: Creeper!!).
And what the fuck? They've got a female coach, but all she does is sit around doing Sassy Black Lady Neck Rolls and showing off her nail job.
Surely we'll be saved by some woman in this film who sees this whole clusterfuck for what it is. I know! Matthew's mom--Dangerfield's girlfriend. She'll find out and lay the righteous smack down, right? WRONG! When she finds out about the ethically ambiguous (and all sorts of wrong) scheme her boyfriend has concocted, she storms off. But! At the very end, when the soccer team is winning, she shows up to support her man. The team won the big game without "Martha" and it's all okay. Aren't we better people?
What the fuck is wrong with this movie? Okay, I've just laid it out, let me rephrase. What the fuck is right with this movie? Part of me says, "Yo, Jamie, just back off. It was a shitty film from the 90s and people were still doing coke back then. Move on." However... what really pisses me off...
this was spoonfed to tweenage girls.
This was part of my--our--conditioning as a kid. I must have watched this movie 18 bazillion times (because Jonathan Brandis, dammit) in my early teens and I ate it up. The rest was just background noise, really, but I'm beginning to wonder if my heartthrob wasn't the spoonful of sugar ensuring that I'd take my medicine. I didn't think about the feminism of it. The dressing room scene made me just as uncomfortable as the onlooking mom in the movie, but like her, I just let it go by. None of this shit hit me until tonight in the shower when I thought, "Wow, that's actually kinda fucked up." In some madcap light-hearted flick of the 90s we have a time capsule that shows some sick and twisted shit about how our culture feels about young girls.
"Ladies, you're dumb and that's okay. Be pretty. Chase butterflies and day dream. Forget about sports. Just stand there and let me look at you. Oh, and fight your battles for you. And be creepy and make generally sexual comments that show I will objectify you when you're older (if I'm not already). Oh, and when I do something that you find morally reprehensible and use your child to meet my corporate ladder needs, it's okay. I was just kidding. Come on back. As long as I win, it was worth it, right? Now, let your hair down, put on that dress and let me kiss you."
Ladies... even at 12 you get no respect.