Sales figures do not include tickets for other movies bought by year-old boys who then snuck into BI screenings. The latter helped form the early '90s "bisexual chic" trend, to the vast annoyance of bisexual chicks everywhere. Its enduring legacy remains, you know, That Scene. Maybe I'm being too generous in my reading. I'm on Team Starship Troopers and generally give Verhoeven the benefit of the doubt when it comes to questions of satire.
I would fall on the side of "too generous," mostly because I saw it a couple of years after it came out in theaters, and I vividly remember the wildly enthusiastic dudely reaction to it. Which is not to say that it isn't a satire, but if it was, then Verhoeven was really off his game.
But watching all the men gulp and sweat during the underwear-less interrogation, I really wanted to believe that I was being asked to laugh at these guys and their boners.
Couple that with all the incredibly over-the-top talk about how Nick has had his "brain fried by pussy," and I feel like I have enough evidence to make the case. But like you said, to do that requires overlooking the film's treatment of Catherine and her lover. You might be laughing, but the original audience very definitely was not. Rewatching it for the first time in two decades is fascinating, not least because I've realized how much of the movie is real estate porn of the highest degree.
San Francisco was made to be the backdrop for movies. Shame nobody films there anymore. But yes, you are free to make that argument, and Eszterhas has made it easier for you than anyone else might have.
It also gets into some interesting questions about satire and people not getting the joke. However, when nobody gets it, it ain't a functional satire. That shot of Nick standing in the driveway of her beach house is as much about ogling the house as it is about peeping on Catherine while she moves about the space in the nude.
Nick's partner Gus helps bolster my satire argument, I think, especially the way he's suddenly connected to the Western and becomes a gross parody of a Cowboy, one of the ultimate signifiers of American masculinity. Gus also has the most ridiculous dialogue in the film, I think. Of course, maybe my argument is ultimately a kind of fool's effort, since so many people seem to have watched it "straight," so to speak.
Although, isn't that an imperfect critical science? Twitter provided ample evidence that Zero Dark Thirty was watched by people who walked away wanting to "torture terrorists. This also applies to Breaking Bad, and the "bad fans" who cheered on Walt until the end. Maybe it's about art that allows for misreading, since it seems to be that if an art object were so clear in its instructions to the viewer about how it should be watched, that it would be flimsy propaganda, a kind of totalitarianism.
And don't forget that Lotus! The whole movie is about desirable objects, some of whom just happen to be women. I think a large part of the straight ha ha appeal of BI is that it so explicitly references Hitchcock in a non-parodic and obviously reverent way.
I need to think about this more, though. I'm afraid that by arguing for a way to laugh at the film for all its straight maleness, I'm blinding myself to what the misogynistic horndog is also blind to. Like, the way the film paints bisexuality and homosexuality as crazy, and women as essentially murderous. If to read the film as a satire, blindness to those failures is necessary, it's not worth reading it as satire, then, is it?
Of course, Camille Paglia seemed to have appreciated the movie. Not sure what I do with that fact. Is there anything to salvage from BI that go beyond its "snapshot of male fear in the s" time-capsule qualities?
Nice things that could be said about BI: Not too many movies manage to avoid being dated in either regard 22 years out. It looks like a Hitchcock movie, especially all those overhead shots.
I'm not going to say that it does so in either a mature or an adult way, but that hasn't happened for about a decade and a half now. I don't think that you're trying to come up with a justification for enjoying BI; if you like parts of it, just own 'em. And it really does play nowadays like a comment on something, even though I still think those elements are just bad or titillating rather than intentional commentary at the time. That isn't sympathizing with misogynistic horndogs so much as it is responding to the extremely overt message of the film.
And it is a really handy snapshot of male insecurity in the early '90s. To the list of nice things I would add: Also, the weird kinks of syntax in the line—"pussy on her" and "done fried up"—really sell it as a kind of object of ridicule. It's so unnatural, the line just sits there, leaden and radioactive. Cheers to all of us who have taken up this pursuit. And I would elaborate on three, saying: It's macho hubris turned up to 11, turned up so high that my brain sparked and short circuited while I watched it.
How could this not be a big joke, I wondered, as the ice pick appears in the final shot and the credits roll. But I can't disagree that the movie is such a mess that it's hard to really define the something at the movie's center. I'll take my something as "points and laugh at sweaty older hetero men with boners" and own that. And your point about four is an important one.
The last time I watched graphic sex in a theater was Blue Is the Warmest Color, a movie that had its problems but one I like a lot all the same. But this was in New York, with a typical art-house crowd though maybe one that skewed slightly younger, which is cool , and the movie didn't gross anywhere near a bajillion. I still can't decide if Sharon Stone is one of them.
It switches up the whole point of the movie: By telling us that he's 1 an idiot and 2 we know what's up, the icepick confirms the superiority of the audience. By the way, that was totally Sharon Stone's magna cum laude pussy you saw.