Earlier, we noted (and praised) the 80's cross-dressing comedy, which was infused with undercurrents of empowerment and gender-questioning. Now director Lisa Gottlieb tells us she did it all on purpose.
Anyone who caught Just One Of The Guys on heavy cable rotation might have mistaken it for just another 80s teen comedy (with Billy Zabka as the bully, of course.) But when we caught up with its director, Lisa Gottlieb, recently, the theory that this was actually a totally subversive movie about gender (at least by Hollywood standards) was, quite amazingly, borne out.
In addition to directing, Gottlieb did several rewrites on the script. She wrote many of the scenes that involve Terry objecting to discrimination. And while a male colleague took over the scenes involving Terry's horny brother Buddy, in the scene where Buddy teaches Terry how to be a man, she added the line about how men take up a lot of space.
But it wasn't just feminist subtext per se.
"I added in the boobage," she says proudly. "I went to Joyce [Hyser, who played Terry], and I said, 'I keep rewriting these scenes.'" At the pivotal moment, Terry is trying to convince her crush that she's not a gay man — she's a woman in disguise. "I said, 'Honestly, I think you gotta show 'em,'" to infuse the scene with the proper drama.
"At the time, one of Joyce's best friends was Rosanna Arquette. Rosanna said, 'I would say you shouldn't do it because no one will ever look into your eyes again as long as you'll live. On the other hand, people will look at you and see those breasts forever, even when you're an old lady.' And I said, 'Wow, I'll strip myself after hearing that reason.'"
Gottlieb says that the producers were so pleased, they tried to get Sherylin Fenn to take her shirt off too, in the scene in which she's waiting in Buddy's room. But Gottlieb refused to ask Fenn to do it, because she said it didn't make sense in the story. She also says she was responsible for Fenn's character never being punished for her assertive sexuality, as so many 80s teen characters were.
"I wanted sex to be nonjudgmental and routine and accepted," Gottlieb says. "Like kids that age at that particular time. Honey, they were busy. They were way fucking busy."
Gottlieb's agent convinced her to move to LA shortly after her short film, Murder In The Mist, caused a sensation. She arrived around the same time as Amy Heckerling and Martha Coolidge, and they all ended up directing teen movies. In part it was because that's what was available to them, Gottlieb says: "It seemed like a genre that was on a kind of a B movie track, so not the big important films. These movies were actually getting a very strong female audience, and it if was sexy enough the boys would go too. Hence the boobage."
She says she also benefited from a gender discrimination lawsuit that was pending against Columbia Pictures for never having produced a feature directed by a woman.
After Just One Of The Guys, "I was often offered these awful, horrible, slasher, female-hating movies to do. And when I would say, 'Why you would give this to me? I really like women. I don't want to chop them up. Besides, no one says anything funny or intelligent.' And they'd say, 'Oh, if a woman directs it, it will have a feminist edge."
Was the idea also that if a woman directed the movie, no one could call it misogynistic? "Oh yeah. It's that stupid and dipshit," Gottlieb says.
Gottlieb now teaches at the University of Miami, and Just One Of The Guys remains on heavy television rotation. In fact, she recently was consulted on a deal to show the movie on NBC and NBC Universal's various cable channels.
"I think of my role as joke patrol... but I give up before going in," she says, referring to the raunchier scenes in the movie.
She wasn't at all surprised when low-level in-house censors wanted to cut the scenes in Buddy's bedroom (his walls are papered with Playboy centerfolds) or the scene where Buddy shows Terry how to scratch her imaginary balls.
It was, however, a shock when a "honcho" at NBC said, according to Gottlieb, "Wait, where's the ball-scratching scene? Wait, where's the horny brother? This is the reason we love this movie."
"It's going to be balls in primetime," says Gottlieb gleefully, "and not just balls, but the scratching of them. Now I think that's subversive. I really do.
"You can be subversive in the mainstream," she says. "If you take some kind of comforting approach like genre, something a woman could direct and make a lot of money but not be serious, but then you do really profound and challenging stuff within it, you have a commercial film that tricks people into following you down a very scene-driven, subtext-driven path."
And that's exactly why we all loved it so much.