When they return, they return of a different mood: Getting out of "Baywatch"


I'm not quite sure if it is accurate to say that Baywatch was created to titillate men. That is, I'm not sure when they developed the fitness regimes for the women in the film, if what they specified mostly was for a physique that would sexually excite men. For the women in the film are at least as much fit as they are sexy, and when you look at women who look as if they've been training hard for months without incursion of a break, I'm not sure if the first thing that comes to a guy's mind is "eye-candy" but rather more, iron discipline... something almost repellent in its grownup-accomplishment, its intimidation factor. None of these women is put in a compromised position in the film where for a moment we become voyeurs imagining them being physically exploited. None of them is forced to pretend they're prostitutes or the like, where they have to wince and take a sexist comment or two for the cause, in order to infiltrate a boat of the rich and the powerful. When two of them are singled out for an extended visual examination, it's no more accosting to them than if they were stealth bombers being admired and gazed upon. Being compromised, can only come to the person doing the viewing -- as happens in both cases here. In one, the one doing the viewing is implicated -- quite plausibly, given that he'd already been identified as suffering from the sort of emotional disorders that would have him drink to excess right before competing in an Olympic final -- as secretly suffering from a voyeurism perversion; in the other, the boy-man doing the viewing finds himself visited by the perfect specimen he'd been viewing, finding himself dumbstruck before her, and then swallowing a carrot he'd been eating and finding himself having to be rescued by her imposing the heimlich manoeuvre on him, which effectively has her violently grinding her pelvis into his ass, one surprisingly hard, uplifting thrust after another. He sports an generous erection afterwards, and you're left wondering if this is his own or if it's still actually somehow hers, protruding deep outside his penetrated, his perpetrated, mangina. 

This fucked/raped boy-man, granted the illusion of possessing a grand phallus for being fucked by someone grand, is, by the way, allowed entrance into the Baywatch team; and though it makes no sense given he's the opposite of athletic, it actually seems "poetically" right because he individually brings to the group the reserve of fat that made the previous Baywatch team fit but also bonafide sexy. He provides the comforting illusion that we haven't just switched from the supple and curvaceous to android-exacting trim and severe, from the welcoming to the taut and tense -- even though it's actually what we have done between these two Baywatch enterprises. In the new Baywatch there's no time to explore the women as sex-objects because they're all "Jason Bournes" who'll have you down on the ground with your jaw broken before your synapsis's have had the time to complete their circuit from sexist-thought stimulus to memory-held remembrance, of having imagined her bared before you and at your physical mercy.

These women are in the film mostly as potential... the potential to conclusively frustrate and humiliate men, and it gets tempted only rarely, and like requisite visits of obligeance to power. One of the men makes a pass at one of them, and she responds by aseptically identifying his ultimate intention as "putting a baby into her," and admonishing him to do exactly that -- put a penis in her, right now, so she can grow a biological specimen. Later, when she gets ID'd as a marine biologist, one gets the sense that fucking her would be like grinding into a research table, letting one take in various chemical stimulants that let's one float in ecstasy, while you're mostly studied and researched by a team of more head-possessed others -- not exactly a draw. Another views one of the men in a shower, approaches and gazes him up and down, and gloats that in this co-ed shower, everyone actually wears trunks rather than walk around bare naked. This isn't traditional exploitation of women, but I doubt this females-as-phallus-adorned castrators is feminism either. What this portrayal of women mostly does is bracket them off. You're gorgeous and magnificent, each one of you -- and no chance would we want to involve ourselves at any length with you.

In a film where women are subject to a perpetrating gaze, we can be invited to identify with them, not just be sadistic lookers-on over their humiliation and rendered powerlessness. And if we find ourselves "inside" them, experiencing their reality, even while they're humiliation-hampered, this would mean making them the primary actors of the film. That is, there's a way you can do Baywatch the old-fashioned way, where women are overtly sex-objects, are more overtly encouraging of the empowered male gaze, and actually make it way more overtly feminist than this film is. We do this only with the men here -- get inside them -- and so this film is, while featuring men who are always having to adapt to finding themselves in highly humiliating situations, almost entirely effectively circumvented of women. Men may find themselves ultimately only compromised, but heroic response is available to them... the man caught-out naked in the shower, or the one with his penis and balls caught in a deck-chair, or the one caught fondling a penis of a dead man, or the one who used to be a lieutenant but is now ineptly selling cellphone services, might not only embarrass himself but redeem himself -- as actually happens a bit here, in at least one of these cases, in that the acted-on individual does manage to withstand a wave of shame and carry on. 

Matt Efron's Matt Brody, the two-time Olympic swimmer, is a breed apart in this film -- and not for his being accomplished, but for his reminding us of our own vulnerable selves. He can isolate himself, do overtly showy things that call attention to his neediness, drink to excess, helplessly repeat sins, be an overt pawn of others, feel hopeless. There's some meaningful development that can happen with this guy because his faults are recognized while everyone else is effectively impervious themselves or adjusts of the impervious. When he ends up leading the team of lifeguards into effective action rather than rendering them denatured of all their policing instincts, one gets a lift from seeing him succeed beyond expectations -- for a moment, he becomes conspicuous for being brainy at a level beyond anything we'd be lead to expect delving within this film universe but which seems plausibly still his own, as he succinctly anticipates all the villain's next steps and initiates counters. He gets the injection of "brain" that's not from any spiky fish toxin, but out of reserves of his own. 

Maybe for this it's apt that at the finish of the film he is shown being tripped up while trying to run alongside all his mates. It's the fat geek who does so, who trips him up, and takes his place in the same exuberant way Trump recently did at a NATO meeting with the prime minister of Montenegro. By tradition, this shouldn't be the case -- the fatty nudging aside the fittest as the chief member of an athletic association, with everyone giving the okay. But the fat geek seems the entire film to be running on the fumes of being fucked in the ass by the female, blonde, buoyant phallic Nazi, so really he's a tether or extension of her indisputable grandness rather than a horse-mouthed, blubber-wasted, out-of place, awkward pretender, so it's apt that he so confidently shoves aside the only truly odd member of the Baywatch amalgamate. 


He hastily tries to re-join them, by which he again exposes his neediness and vulnerability. He was the only one who was a guaranteed in as a new recruit, and yet we have a chance to see him sweat it out in a way much more bearing of insecurity, of finding oneself lost and out, than we ever did with the fat geek who'd had to try three or four times to get in. There's being commendable, and there's being stupid... and we begin to think, as he comes close to catching up, that it's stupid of him not to recognize that he's never going to make more of this bunch than he already has, so where he's at is actually more an apt place to justify calling it quits. He was an outsider, he got accepted, and then rendered once again an outsider: no regrets, but still, full circle and out -- portion of one's life-story completed. At some point, there's no way to narrativize around the fact that if you're the only one meaningfully mentally alive, choosing, deciding, risking, and growing, "groups" are just spreads of stinging jellyfishes waiting to "Steve Irwin" you for not recognizing you any longer as a denizen they understand.  

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