Scoring with the drunk chick

Yet another reason to be disturbed by that controversial sex scene in "Observe and Report."

Published April 13, 2009 5:08PM (EDT)

Much has been made of late of the controversial sex scene in "Observe and Report," wherein Seth Rogen’s smitten security guard has his way with a profoundly shitfaced Anna Faris. But what disturbs me as much as the scene itself is how it’s just another in a long and dubious line of drunken cinematic seductions.

 Let’s rattle off just a few, shall we?

In "What Happens in Vegas," Cameron Diaz is an uptight, control freaky lawyer until a wild, well-lubricated night leads to waking up with a stranger (though, virtuously, she has married him first). Renee Zellweger in "New in Town" and Kirsten Dunst in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" both charm their leading men with their liquored-up, vulnerable behavior. Martha MacIsaac in "Superbad" is just a sweet shy virgin, so she can be excused for taking a few nauseating shots of Goldschlager before attempting to deflower Michael Cera. In "Made of Honor," Patrick Dempsey fends off the inebriated advances of a surly ex. In "The 40-Year Old Virgin," our leading man fends off the inebriated advances of a bar floozy, who yells at him and pukes in his car. In "27 Dresses," Katherine Heigl is a stick-up-the-butt goody-goody until a few drinks lead to a raucous, jump-on-the-bar version of "Benny and the Jets" and some hot car sex. And speaking of Katherine Heigl, the entire premise of "Knocked Up" hinges on a good girl having a few too many celebratory cocktails and foregoing birth control -- as well as her usual standards -- to bed an unemployed, pot smoking schlub.

It's not a pretty picture, ladies.

Perhaps the image of a sober, sexually confident woman isn't quite as hilarious as that of a stumbling, slurring, fumbling-with-her-bra type. Maybe a leading lady who gets laid without the aid of her pals Jose Cuervo or Johnnie Walker is a gag-free one. Taken in small doses, we could write off the drunk chick as a reliable if overplayed comic convention, part of a noble lineage that includes Holly Golightly and Bridget Jones. And as someone whose own youthful sexual history owes a debt to the inventor of the Long Island iced tea, I recognize more than a shot of truth in the stereotype. But collectively, the motif becomes a depressing commentary on the state of women and sex in popular entertainment.

The drunk girl is a tantalizing prize. On the one hand, she may be another otherwise prim character getting her freak on without actually being a freak. She's still basically a nice girl, a respectable girl. Alcohol lets her revert to her normal self in the morning, the consequences of her actions chalked up to the contents of a bottle instead of the urges of her own id (but with the implication that she's got a rip-your-pants-off side that can be magically activated with a well-timed Schnapps).

Or, if the character is in a supporting role, her drunkenness is a way of communicating that she's a voracious sex monster, a puke-stained source of terror and disgust. She's alluring, she's gross, she's available, she's too available.

Alcohol changes the playing field, one in which women are assumed to be the constant gatekeepers of sex, the deciders, with men at the ready, waiting for the green light. In that version of the world, the surest way into the fortress of pussy is to liquor up the sentries of the brain. There must be something satisfying in the idea of such an imagined power shift, one in which the helpless hero gets to either succumb to or decline the attentions of a hot libidinous chick. But there's also an undercurrent of deep anger to the whole funny business, a vicious glee in watching that unattainable babe reduced to a senseless, vomity wreck.

We get it already. Girls are more fun when they've had a few. Hot girls. Pretty girls. Girls you would otherwise never in a million years have a shot with. They get horny and want to do stuff, even with a big fat dork like you. Just try not to get directly in the path of the puke. Because a woman who is sexually available without a few margaritas in her would have to be a big slut. Or worse -- just not that into you.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth Williams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------