By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
As things stand, The Corner could only have been made in the unbeholden realm of noncommercial premium cable — the money you pay to watch HBO or Showtime indemnifies the network against your possible outrage. (A public broadcasting system less subject to the bluster of partisan windbags might have produced something like this, but we don’t have one of those here.) MTV, which runs ads, pitches itself to kids and comes gratis with most cable subscriptions, doesn’t operate with quite that freedom, but its advertisers are far less likely than the family-car and baby-powder manufacturers of America to object to unconventional content — indeed, they’re paying to share in the network’s aura of jiggy-with-it youthcult edginess — and as a result things over there sometimes can get a little out of hand. Freedom has its downside.
All that MTV hath wrought in terms of audio-visual overexcitement and adolescent mind control has been applied to its second made-for-TV movie, Jailbait!, in which a dimwitted 18-year-old high school jock senior (Kevin Mundy) is put on trial for having sex, lots of sex, with a not significantly brighter 15-year-old trailer-trash sophomore (Alycia Purrott). Though described as a satire, it is essentially a Britney Spears video stretched to feature length, to similar soft-porn effect; directed by Allan Moyle (Empire Records, Pump Up the Volume) to reflect the house style, it’s allfancy camera angles, goofy lenses and a big-rock soundtrack — Blink-182, Sugar Ray, Bush and their like — to be issued on CD, naturally, in yet another display of the fearful synergy that increasingly deforms the content of our media. That MTV is also airing a video promoting a song from that compilation (“All My Fault” by the band Fenix TX) featuring Purrott and clips from the film should not surprise you. (Kurt Cobain is so very dead.)
Satire, says my dictionary, means “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly,” but setting aside the film’s near-total lack of trenchant or any other sort of wit and its failure to marshal more than a handful of tired stereotypes and straw villains — even the network’s own related Web page admits the unlikeliness of the courtroom scenario — it’s never really clear what if anything is being satirized (apart from the media, again). If it means to question age-of-consent laws, it does a good job of undermining its case: These are poster children for chastity belts, for castration. Occasionally, as in a zany trying-to-induce-abortion sequence (the girl gets pregnant, twice), the picture seems to me frankly irresponsible, and more especially so in light of the proficiency with which it has been shot and edited. As with a wink it pats its hump-mad leads on the head and sends them off into a happy ending, the picture ultimately reads as a defense of MTV itself, its sexualized aesthetic, and its audience, which no doubt includes more than a few deflowered 15-year-olds, and many many more who’d like to be. “Who hasn’t screwed a sophomore?” someone rhetorically asks.
Oh shut up, I rhetorically reply.
THE CORNER | HBO | Premieres Sunday, April 16, 10 p.m.
JAILBAIT | MTV | Premieres Sunday, April 16, 9 p.m.
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