Perverts ruin everything.
No, not people who like to tie up a consenting partner, or pretend to be Batman and Catwoman, or who are Quentin Tarantino. I’m talking about perverts. Pedophiles, rapists, and serial killers.
Okay, and maybe Tarantino a little bit.
A couple of weeks ago, me and several friends went to see John Carter, accounting for I think about half of the box office receipts. The theater was located inside a mall and by the time the movie was over, half the mall was closed and security herded us out of a set of doors on the opposite side of the building where I was parked. Now, I’m not a tough guy by any stretch. I’ve never won a fight in my life. I’m wracked with phobias and anxieties. Yet I blithely walked through the dark to my car completely alone. I never thought I was in any danger, because despite everything else, I am six feet tall and one hundred eighty five pounds. As Hank Hill would say, I have a lot of untapped bulk.
That said, I would never, ever hitchhike. I can barely stand taxis. Some of this is due to a simple lesson drilled into me as a youngster: cars are deathtraps. If you get into a car, the best case scenario is a painless death, your body used as some kind of sex prop for Brazilian organ harvesters. Worst case, and you’re wandering into a police station telling them about the box you were kept in for ten years. And why do we have this rule? Perverts. Fucking perverts. Ruining a perfectly good thing for the rest of us.
Even if I hadn’t known what this week’s episode, 1983’s “Did You Hear What Happened to Andrea?”, was about going in, the first mention of hitchhiking would have made my skin crawl off my body and hide under the bed. Ever hang out with someone with a drastically different upbringing who doesn’t think twice about doing something you were taught never, ever to do? Like someone who takes their freshly circumcised penis swimming with sharks? Someone who throws babies at other babies? Someone who picks dropped food up off the ground and eats it? I had that same atavistic dread in the beginning of this episode when Andrea and her boyfriend decide to hitch a ride home. Were they fucking insane?
Nope, just happily clueless. Serial killers are like everyone else: lazy. They’re going to do the absolute minimum amount possible to wear your intestines like a feather boa. Which means they like to hunt people who willingly get into cars with complete strangers. These days that means prostitutes. Back in the day, this meant basically everyone AND prostitutes. I mean, if you take “Andrea” as an example, it was impossible to drive anywhere without hordes of people descending on your car like shiftless zombies that never heard of a goddamn bus.
David and the titular Andrea are in the throes of a summer romance when David suddenly realizes he is late to work. This translates to needing to get home, presumably to change for his job, but it’s never explained, so I’m going to assume he’s the San Diego Chicken. Anyway, David is dropped off first, which really should have been a red flag. I mean, even a guy who’s probably suffered a lot of head trauma from intense mascotting should know this is a terrible idea. He doesn’t, leaving Andrea alone with the driver. The music turns ominous instantly as the driver ignores Andrea’s directions and utters one of the most chilling lines I’ve heard outside of a Cronenberg film: “Sit back and relax. We’re going for a little ride.”
Andrea initially keeps the attack to herself, instead acting weird and distant, getting snippy when pressed. She comes clean to a friend when the girl decides that hitchhiking is the best way to get to the mall. Jesus! What the fuck is up with these people? I’m surprised no one was like, “Hey, you know what’s a fast way to travel? Inside a bear’s large colon! Let’s rub ourselves in barbecue sauce and run through the woods!” Ugh. Anyway, the friend does the right thing and convinces Andrea to go to the cops.
The major theme of the episode is that no one knows how to react to the rape. Not Andrea, not her parents, not her little brother (who only has like half the story), and not David. There is a scale of wrong and no one is more wrong than Andrea’s mom. Most of the characters want to make it okay in some way, mostly by catching or punishing the rapist. Mom would much rather everything just went away. She is a form of Mary Tyler Moore’s character from Ordinary People, the uberWASP whose feelings are locked up behind an airtight sphincter. Because of the mom’s reactions, I was convinced that the special would feature a third act scene where mom admitted to being raped and she and Andrea would have some serious catharsis. Nope. Mom’s just kind of a bitch.
She’s a little weird from the beginning. In her first scene, she and dad discuss Andrea’s relationship with David. Both of them think that Andrea is spending a bit too much time with the young man (mascotting, after all, is not a respectable way to earn a living) and are comforted by the fact that they will break up when David goes off to college in the fall. Mom says “it’s not good for a girl to be dating just one boy.” Wait, what? I knew AIDS changed a lot of things, but was this really the prevailing opinion back then? Was the whole world just those calm little moments between nonstop fuckfests? After mom’s odd assertion, she mostly just wants Andrea to shut up about this whole rape business.
Because this is exactly the right response to someone who has just been dehumanized in such a violent manner. Granted, the men are wrong. We tend to go all caveman, wanting to hurt the man who did this in some way. (Dad makes sullen and angry threats; David stakes out the corner where the rapist picked them up, leading to the pervert’s eventual arrest.) Of course, even feelings motivated by a sincere desire to protect deny the woman her agency, something that Andrea points out. Then again, none of this would be a problem if she wasn’t a woman driver, am I right?
Michele Greene plays Andrea, and if you remember her it is probably because of that episode of L.A. Law where she kissed Amanda Donohoe from Lair of the White Worm (yes, I’m a horror nerd). I bring it up for two reasons. One, I’m a straight guy, and attractive women making out is awesome. Two, this is the first of the lesbian kiss episodes, which makes it important or something. Also, girls kissing. Ahem. All right. I recognized Andrea’s dad instantly, but my brain would not give up his name no matter how many electrodes I attached to its reluctant testicles. The detective, played by the improbably named Robert DoQui, was just as maddeningly distinct. Eventually, I gave up and checked the IMDB. Dad played the Secretary of Defense in Buckaroo Banzai, and DoQui was fucking Robocop’s sergeant. When Andrea’s little brother comes whining to her wanting to play Crazy Eights, I jotted down in my notes that he looks like a young Kirk Cameron. Turns out he looks exactly like a young Kirk Cameron because that’s who he was.
So what did we learn? Two things: never hitchhike, and just because someone did hitchhike, that doesn’t mean they deserved to be raped, or murdered, or enslaved into some weird surgical sideshow. While the episode is undeniably cheesy, moments are genuinely effective, particularly the aforementioned line. I wish the message was something of a bygone time, but sadly we still live in a place where the definition of a feminist is someone who thinks women are people. We have a guy running for president who thinks women should be forced to bear the children of their rapist. So clearly we’re not in a time and place where we’re done blaming the victim.
But on the upside, no one hitchhikes anymore.
Next up: “The Dog Days of Arthur Cane” which I am choosing to believe is about teenage lycanthropy.