Friday, July 26, 2013

Femme-spiration Friday: Sherilyn Fenn in Just One of the Guys (1985)

"Look. What a fox. Dresses like Elvis Costello, looks like the Karate Kid...I'm gonna get him."

So Sandy (Sherilyn Fenn) vows upon first glimpsing Terri, the new kid in school, in the 1985 classic Just One of the Guys. There's just one catch; Terri Griffith is actually a frustrated aspiring female journalist, dressing in drag in order to prove that she was denied an internship at a local paper because her teacher is a misogynist douche canoe. For what it's worth, she's right.

Sandy is really into Terri's dapper drag makeover. But, while dodging Sandy's rather aggressive advances (there's a scene where she's touched that Terri felt like he needed to put a sock in his pants to impress her), Terri is busy falling in love with new best bro, Rick. It's a feminocentric revision of Tootsie (1982), with a plot at least as old as Shakespeare's As You Like It (1600), where Phebe falls in love with Rosalind-as-Ganymede while Rosalind is totally digging Orlando.

Despite containing a recuperative "reveal" and an attendant heterosexual union that attempts to stabilize the queer chaos of the narrative, this movie is pretty fucking perfect. K. first introduced me to these delicious 100 minutes of fine 80s film-making when we started dating five years ago. Unsurprisingly, it had been a favorite of his since high school, long before he had ever come out as trans. Perhaps even more unsurprisingly, it became an instant favorite for me, too. The gender bending and heavily homoerotic undertones folded into a campy comedy plot would have been enough. But when you add young Sherilyn Fenn into the mix and a truly swoon-worthy protagonist with some swagger, a slammin' skinny tie, and some Ray-Bans, I'm literally in femme heaven.

SWOOOOOON. amirite?

Fuchsia already paid homage to Sherilyn Fenn on Femmepirical Evidence, in an amazing post dedicated to the inimitable Audrey Horne of Twin Peaks. But Fenn is such a babe that I think a second love letter on this blog is more than warranted. Plus, Sandy's predilection for loud, bold prints and fantastically oversized head adornments offers an interesting contrast to the muted tones of Audrey Horne's early 90s/Pacific Northwest palette. I can't get enough of her leopard print/red bow combo in this scene where she finally convinces Terri to meet her at the cave for a picnic that night (read: beer & makeouts).

For her nighttime look, Sandy moves the print to her headscarf, opting for solid black in the outfit and adding some dangly earrings. Voila! The ideal ensemble for discovering what your desired partner might be packing in his jeans on a given evening.

Even in the face of continual rejection, Sandy's hair always remains gigantic & triumphant.

Sandy is also a master of pattern mixing, as this colorful ensemble demonstrates. Who else could pair this red and white striped vinyl/pleather mini skirt with a loud, cut-up graphic tee featuring creepy little cupid cherubs and make it look this flawless? In the abstract, it seems implausible. But here, it is clearly the perfect outfit for eye-fucking the crap out of that hot butch/transmasculine man of mystery in your life.

But, in my humble opinion, the real pièce de résistance of this film is the look Sandy dons for her final and most aggressive attempt to seduce Terri. Her voluminous locks pulled up high & her bangs as teased and mighty as ever, a sexy lumberjack Sandy shows up at Terri's house with a gift: some "kissing fish" in an appropriately bow-adorned bowl. Oh, and this:

Yep. Just sliiiightly upstages the kissing fish.

Of course, a panicked Terri gives Sandy the slip, trying to push her off on her sex-crazed little brother, while she slips out of drag to go on a date with the douchebag fratboy boyfriend she will soon ditch in favor of Rick's loving embraces. And so Sandy's bold, unapologetic desire for Terri is never satiated—the single greatest tragedy of 80s teen film, and perhaps of all time, if you ask me.

At least there is this. Terri & Rick finally express themselves--at prom.

But even though Sandy never "gets" the Elvis Costello butch of her dreams, this film will forever remain a distinct site of pleasure and celebration for me, and, I imagine, countless others. Within a mainstream culture where representations of the identities, aesthetics, and relationships that I find most tantalizing still remain scarce, the fleeting moments of sexual tension between Sandy and Terri are much more than the opportunity for a cheap laugh.

They are tender, valuable, erotic, and, in some small way, sustaining. Even if I'm left forever fantasizing about an alternate ending—one where Sandy's discovery of that ill-fated sock crammed into Terri's skinny jeans is just the beginning.



  1. I wrote this whole long comment that was even sort of freaking thoughtful and then the sign-in system stole my words away, so all I can remember is: I love your writing-- all highly entertaining and provocative-- and I really need to use the phrase douche canoe more often.

  2. Looking for the Ultimate Dating Site? Join to find your perfect date.