Bette Gordon’s Variety is a film that addresses the censorship of pornography with respect to women. It’s a movie that opens the door for a genre that attempts to explore women’s sexuality. Gordon was a pioneer for this and is very well known. I enjoyed this picture more than Daisies because for one there was more dialogue. The characters in the film felt real and productive. I fell in love with Jose who epitomized this outgoing really funny hard-working guy who is protective of main character. An aspect of the movie that I found to be really interesting was the role reversal of conventional noir movies. The central character is this movie is female who takes on the role of an investigator. She’s also voyeuristically following this gentleman who is a regular customer at the adult movie theater where she works. Ultimately, she ends up calling him to set up a meeting at a specified location. In that climatic scene, the two characters never meet. Instead we see a camera shot of an empty street corner at night. In the Q&A after the film, Gordon touched on this a little bit saying that she thoroughly enjoys the way in which her audience takes that scene and projects their interpretive scenarios onto that cliffhanger scene. She also spoke about her experience shooting Variety in New York at a time when this great city was more fascinating than it is now. I learned a lot from her passion for collaborative work as she described it. I love how close she is with people she works with.
Variety is a unique film starring Sandy McLeod as Christine, a beautiful woman who is looking for a job and ends up working at a movie booth selling tickets to customers who wants to watch a pornography film. Often, Christine would take a sneak peak at the pornography movies that are being played during her break. When she is with her boyfriend, Mark, she would describe the scenes of the pornography movies that are played. One night Christine meets a guy name Louie and is fascinated by him; to the extent that she thinks Louie is a suspicious. Christine follows Louie around learning quite a few things by about him.
This film is special in the way that it exploits and embraces the common stereotypes of man and woman at that time and turns them upside down. By the brief summary from the film note, it is clear that this film embraces how woman are perceived by men; an object of pleasure and just something to look at. With all the glowing lights for nude women and posters of nude women scattered throughout the film, it is obvious that Gordon is trying to send out a message of women being degraded by men. Besides Christine, for the most part, the film is greatly populated by men, and men reading porn magazines and watching porn, degradation of women is expressed in an abundant in this film and that women are an object of pleasure.
In the very beginning of Variety, it starts out with the camera zooming onto a slim, boney woman swimming in the pool. The beginning of the film suggests the direction that Gordon was going towards. In one of the scenes in Variety, Christine is at the bar with her friends and her friend tells her of how she went to jail because she got caught by undercover polices for prostitution. Even now, prostitution is arguably one of the top actions that cause people to be looked down upon. There is just scene after scene of the degradation of women, either by nude posters, nude magazines or even pornography, women are clearly the victim in this movie.
By embracing this degradation of women in this film, it sets up the perfect way for Gordon to exploit it, and thus the heroine of the film Christine. Christine, instead of being like the other female characters in the film, is more like a male character. She plays pool, lift weights and exercises, she watches the porn films, read the magazines and follows Louie around doing detective work rather than being stalked. The attitude that is shown through Christine proves that women aren’t just mere objects to be gazed upon; they are strong capable human beings too. Christine walks into a porn store and she is the only female there yet none of the guys notices that she is a girl, almost as if she were just another guy. What strikes me the most was the last two scenes before the end of the film. The second to the last scene was a group of girls at a bar talking about the things they would do to and for a guy. Then the scene right afterwards was of Christine talking to Louie and with the tone of her voice sounding almost like she is blackmailing him. Variety is definitely an interesting film to watch.
In Bette Gordon’s Variety the most significant element to be noted is Gordon’s reversal of ‘the gaze’ and the subject and object of the film. In the beginning of the film, we are shown the male scum of New York through Christine’s job at the pornographic movie theatre, as well as through dialogue where supporting female characters describe their work as exotic dancers or having recently been propositioned and objectified by male employers or patrons of their place of employment. Immediately, the structure of our patriarchal society, where men are the subjects and women are the objects, is portrayed. Gordon cleverly plays off the main theme of voyeurism through pornography and men as subjects by having the main female character, consistently objectified while working at the theatre, begin to follow one of the male patrons, thus reversing institutionalized patriarchy and misogyny within the film as the female character becomes the subject and the male character becomes the object.
Where the reversal may fall short is in the lack of interaction between the female subject and the male object. In the patriarchal object/subject relationship set up in the beginning of the film, there is a very physical and close and intense presence of the objectification, while the latter experience is much more distant and the object is never made aware (until perhaps the final unresolved scene) that he was being objectified. How could Christine’s objectification through voyeurism gone further to reverse the patriarchal system of objectification and done so in a way that made the male character objectified, but also objectified while being aware of this objectification?Written by U of M Student Denise Johnson
I loved this film! I liked the exploration of how a woman tries on the idea of sexuality via porn. The grittiness and shockingly not ‘nice girl’ portrayal within this film was a rebellious refresher when compared to some of the other films that seemed to almost stifle women’s sexuality. After seeing all the films this one definitely felt like while sexuality was still being explored, it was absolutely more acceptable. The debate on porn and for-women or not-for-women seems also to be coming to the forefront. So maybe it seemed a little weird that she was stalking her maybe sort of boyfriend/acquaintance/date/customer? I still loved it.