Fear Boners And Hyborian B-Movie Hell: Sexual And Gubernatorial Awakenings In The Trailer For “Red Sonja”

Fear Boners And Hyborian B-Movie Hell: Sexual And Gubernatorial Awakenings In The Trailer For “Red Sonja”

In which Lauren Traetto of Vouched Books and FANZINE and Casey Childers of WRITE CLUB San Francisco review the trailer for Red Sonja.

LAUREN

I love it when a trailer includes mention of “the world’s greatest evil”—it’s like the ‘80s movie version of Buzzfeed’s clickbait titles. Judging from this clip, the world’s greatest evil is a second-string dominatrix out of a George Michael video, inexplicably ruling over a bunch of soldiers from Tang Dynasty China.

How did they get there? And how did the love interest from Conan the Barbarian end up as the stereotypical “evil lesbian villain” in a Conan spin-off? Is that what happens when Arnold Schwarzenegger tires of you? You’re banished to Hyborian B-movie hell, wearing torture-porn masks and trying to put the moves on Brigitte Nielsen.

More importantly, when Arnold says to Red Sonja: “I never take a woman unless she can beat me in a fair fight,” does he mean “take” in the biblical sense?

Is Arnold Schwarzenegger the original Pick-Up Artist (hereafter known as PUA)? Was that a neg? Is he . . . Schwarzenegging her?

Next thing you know, he’s sidling up to Red Sonja in a patterned fedora, all “Hey Red, walking the line between bangs and a mullet is a bold choice. But you know babygirl, it works on you. Now lemme show you how to hold that sword.”

And actually, I would have to agree with him on that last point, which is my right as a feminist. She looks like an asthmatic ten-year-old fumbling with a Wiffle ball bat. The least the producers could have done was spring for a stunt coach–they’re making us look bad. And by us, I mean people with bangs that are almost mullets.

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Anyway, this is probably a pretty good analogy for what Arnold did in our great state of California, Casey, even though I know next to nothing about California politics and lived in Atlanta while he was Governator. My point is, Arnold didn’t even learn how to pronounce the state’s name. Total PUA move. He Schwarzenegged us, and now we have this drought.

CASEY

Agreed, L (it’s cool if I call you L, right?). Here’s proto-gubernatorial Arnie gallivanting through this water-rich world like it’ll always rain exactly this much and there’ll never be a shortage of dull silver, horseflesh, acceptable Asian stereotypes, lame mechanical krakens, exploding stone towers, or heritage redwood banquet tables.

Apples on trees as far as the eye can see to delight the mouths of the land’s most muscled.

It’s an apt analogy of his policies.

You can see him, laid out on a pile of De Laurentiis-grade horse blankets in a copse of Celanese trees, slicked with sweat and one-sided sex, ignoring the ceaseless calls of a pre-skeletal Maria Shriver on his rider-required Motorola bag phone, looking up at the semi-mulleted ingenue with the charm of a hammerhead shark and saying, “Bet Sly doesn’t fuck you like that,” through his incomprehensible speech impediment.

And maybe she smiles. Maybe she wonders if she’ll ever tire of men who smell like sausages and baby oil. “Show me how to hold a sword,” she says.

What happens next is ostensibly why she holds a sword like a shake-weight.

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Times were different, though.

Look at The Warriors. Not one member of the Baseball Furies seems to know how to hold a baseball bat, let alone wield it as a weapon. Their entire thing is being able to beat people up with baseball bats.

Maybe the fight choreographers had been fished to near extinction by then. Maybe it was left to a handful of dedicated biologists to dress up like Bruce Lee and arouse the last remaining pair in captivity to copulate until enough had been born to reintroduce them into their native habitat of West Hollywood studio apartments.

Conservation has never been a conservative strong suit. If not for those noble graduate students, we might be living in a world where The Matrix and The Bourne Identity were just long shots of some veiny dude flailing around at random while extras dressed as spice trade caricatures collapsed like leaves around him.

LAUREN

Yeah, it would’ve been a shame if those movies had been about flailing, typecast, leather-clad dudes and aggressively boring stereotypes . . .

Listen, C (read like the Cyrillic C), I’m glad you brought up The Warriors. One Halloween, a youth I worked with in Athens, GA dressed up as a Baseball Fury, makeup and everything, and went around bashing car side-view mirrors. He smashed in every window of an awful fraternity in my neighborhood; he banged down a couple street signs; he cracked his bat in half on the pavement. When the fuzz caught up with him later that night, he got off scot-free: the witness couldn’t positively identify the only guy in town wearing a full baseball uniform and KISS-meets-Clockwork-Orange makeup, holding half of a splintered bat.

But I digress. We were talking about conservation. Though if we all had that kid’s balls, none of us would be beholden to the shitty policies of any actor-turned-conservative-politician. They would listen to us, by god. They would plant one stunt coach for every coach they tear down. They could never ration our horseflesh. We would have all the water we need, and then some. Our world would look like an objectively boring Kevin Costner film, and we would all grow gills and sparse mullets.

Which brings me to my next point: they say that horror movies are a mirror held up to a society’s fears. But I submit that the Sword and Sorcery genre is a mirror to our fears that we also want to bang.

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Sexy fears, like testosterone-frenzied Republican actors and the Communist Party of China. Fears like fire (The one scene with all the candles? Sexy and very hazardous!). Fears like fractious Amazons wearing nylon masks and hitting on other women. Did you know that a subplot of this film has Queen Gedren pissed at Red Sonja for rejecting her advances? Her sexual advances.

And I can’t really blame Gedren. I often say that Jeff Goldblum’s role in Jurassic Park marked the beginning of my sexual awakening, but it probably actually began when I saw Red Sonja’s coppery, muscled shoulders on the USA Network, gleaming with sweat or baby oil as she fought off PUA Arnie’s toothy advances. The mild terror that arose along with my velvety pre-teen stirrings was to become a hallmark of my sex life well into adulthood. I still get a little tingly when I see a redhead who’s all business in the front, party in the back, you know what I mean?

I guess all I’m trying to say is that Flavor Flav is a lucky guy.

How about you, CC? When did your sexual awakening begin?

CASEY

Like most people my age, it was upon seeing the classic film Mannequin and, to a lesser degree, that one scene in The Woman in Red where if you paused the VCR and got the tracking just right you could eyeball Kelly LeBrock’s ladybiz for maybe one or two minutes before the playback would cut off and the screen went blue.

But yeah, mostly Mannequin.

I can almost hear some younger Casey singing Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in a prepubescent falsetto while he walks the dog in the rain and fantasizes about some distant life of scooter driving and a love forged through art.

“Let the world around us just fall apart. Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart.”

This was before I understood the dog eat dog world of boner sciences, but the die was cast.

So what I couldn’t run a lap in gym. I could read books, maybe do some math, pursue my creative passions in a small, closed off box, far removed from the troubles of day to day life and general hygiene, and if I did it well enough,

if I was true to my one resounding note,

the universe would deliver some quirky, gorgeous spectacle of a Penthouse Forum letter and we could ride off into the glow of the gathering dawn together on my scooter or in the backseat of my mom’s car.

Awkwardity dispelled by the third act.

Because for every PUArnold picture in that decade there were two Can’t Buy Me Loves — so much so that old Mr. Eating’s Not Cheating had to put on some horn rims and knee shorts to play DeVito’s sensitive twin — because the ’80s saw the shifting tides.

Yes. Women would always be objectified, but why should it be left exclusively to rippling meatpiles like Weird Science‘s Bill Pullman when a young Anthony Michael Hall could do it just as well with none of the baseline entitlement?

You know, L-Boogie, this used to be a state of miners, lumberjacks, gunslingers and barrel-chested sailors.

Now look around.

Not one member of the cast of Commando is left standing in a position of power, but socially awkward millionaires abound, unable to carry conversations and fully certain of the handjob entitlements ensured by deconstructed lobster rolls and artisanal digestifs.

Maybe the real drought old Kalidor never saw coming was that of his own kind, and maybe the real question is whether we prefer the devil we know or the one that takes his place.

Illustration by Joe Karg.

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