This post includes spoilers. I also talk about two sensitive topics: rape and suicide.
Have you seen Saturday Night Fever? This film is mostly known by its iconic dancing scenes or a young John Travolta walking down the street. However, this film is more than that. This film will move you and disgust you.
I remember watching this film as child. My memory of it was jolly: A film about disco dancing. I remember recreating the choreography with a friend. When, I re-watched it a couple of years ago, it fucked me up. Really. How did my parents let me watch this film at such a young age? How did I miss the story? How did I not process that scene? And the other one? And this line?
[Tony is in Stephanie’s apartment]
Stephanie: It’s the first time I’ve ever let a known rapist in my apartment.
Wow, the dialogue doesn’t hold back.
It is in fact a film that talks about big issues very relevant today: suicide, depression, sexual consent, (gang) rape and generational differences. However, very little is said about its depth. For example, IMDB gives the following description:
A Brooklyn teenager feels his only chance to succeed is as the king of the disco floor. His carefree youth and weekend dancing help him to forget the reality of his bleak life.
I’ve talked to a few friends who have watched it as adults, all of them were as shocked as me. Saturday Night Fever made them think. It’s a shame that it doesn’t get the credit it deserves for talking about women’s sexuality and how it is perceived. Here are two dialogues to illustrate:
Tony Manero: Are you a nice girl or are you a cunt?
Annette: Can’t I be both?
Tony Manero: No. It’s a decision a girl’s gotta make early in life, if she’s gonna be a nice girl or a cunt.
[Annette just had rough sex with both Joey and Double J and is now regretting it]
Tony Manero: Is THIS what you wanted? You proud of yourself? Now you’re a CUNT!
[Annette runs out of the car crying]
The fact that what IMDB describes as rough sex is what I would call rape, makes it clear that this is an issue today. No is no. The lack of answer and a petrified look does not equal consent. The moment Annette realised that his crush (Tony Manero) doesn’t stop his friend advances and even slut shames her is devastating. It hurts. You can feel her heart break. What is worse. You can see her accepting that she is, indeed, a cunt.
This made me think about all the girls I knew growing up who were labelled as easy or sluts. Did they end up in a similar situation? Did the abuses of some boys made them think that they deserved it? And just accepted this persona and went with it? How did I contribute to these labels? What could I have done to help them out? More importantly, what values can I teach my son to avoid my mistakes? How can I teach him to respect woman’s bodies and minds? I guess it starts now, in infancy trough play. As he grows I’ll give him books written by women and we will watch together films like this. Films that move us and that open a dialogue, that show him that Tony Manero could have stopped his friends. That he should have. Not just this time but the many others.
As I mentioned before, this film also deals with the topic of depression and suicide very much as Dead Poets Society. Just when you think that all is over, after the rape scene, Bobby C jumps off the bridge. This scene is so hard.
Hard and deep as the film. I really encourage you to watch it if you haven’t. If you have teens, do watch it with them, have a conversation over it, listen to them and help them grow.
Best of luck!