Tuesday, February 20, 2024

WILD THINGS (1998): High School Girls and Guidance Counselor's Throuple

On the “90s Lolitas Volume 3: Wild Things [...] (Erotic 90’s, Part 19)” episode of the You Must Remember This podcast (October 9, 2023), Karina Longworth recapped Wild Things (1998), which we’ll partially relate with some added comments. 

Longworth narrated:

Columbia Pictures, a legacy Hollywood studio, released a movie about high school students having sex with an adult staff member at their school.  Released in March 1998 [...] Wild Things was a minor hit, grossing $30 million domestically on a $20 million budget. [Per the film’s Wikipedia page, the film made over $30 million internationally too.]

The adult staff member Longworth referenced was Mr. Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), the guidance counselor and sailing coach at Florida’s Blue Bay High School, who was having sexual affairs with Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards) and Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell) - two nubile 18-year-old school girls. 

Longworth narrated:

The action of the film starts when sultry rich girl Kelly Van Ryan, played by Denise  Richards, tells [...] that the guidance counselor Sam raped her. Shortly thereafter Neve Campbell’s Susie, a goth burnout with a bad dye job who lives in a trailer, tells the cops [...]  that she was raped by the guidance counselor, too. Both girls recall  that their older assailant couldn’t finish the sex act, and negged them with a strange comment, the same but for one word. 

In terms of the neg, Suzie shared with the police that Mr. Lombardo said, “No little bitch can ever make me cum.” And Kelly told the police, “He said, ‘[...] no little girl can ever make me cum.’” 

Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards)

However, later in the film, while having (consensual) sex Mr. Lombardo, Kelly requested, “Say you love me.” Mr. Lombardo replied and demanded, “I love you. Now give me the line.” Kelly said, “No little girl can ever make me cum,” which turned out to not be true, because Kelly kindly reminded Mr. Lombardo that she was able to make him have an orgasm at the glades. 

And speaking of age-gap love, Suzie related that Kelly was “in love” with Mr. Lombardo and that he had been her “fantasy”.”

In a plot twist à la Priscilla Cummings’ What Mr. Mattero Did (Penguin Young Readers Group), Susie confessed that she and Kelly lied about being raped by Mr. Lombardo. Longworth narrated:

The case goes to trial [...] On cross examination, Susie’s story falls apart, and she admits that she and Kelly made up their accusations of rape. Kelly’s mom is then forced to pay Sam a hefty settlement, by liquidating a trust fund that her daughter was due to receive on the mom’s death. 

In What Mr. Mattero Did, three seventh-graders, Jenna, Suzanne and Claire, falsely informed their middle school principal that Mr. Mattero, the music teacher, had molested them. But why did Susie and Kelly falsely accuse Mr. Lombardo of rape? Longworth narrated:

Why would these teenagers make this up? The first “twist” of Wild Things comes after  this settlement, when Sam, Kelly and Susie meet in a motel room and reveal that they  were all in on it together, and they’re all expecting to share the $8.5 million payout Sam  received from Kelly’s mom. 

Before splitting the $8.5 million three ways, the age-gap throuple had a three-way. Interestingly, Kelly arrived at the rendezvous dressed like a nubile nymphet in a pleated school girl (mini) skirt, a white cotton top, and a pair of bobby socks under her Mary Janes. Why did John McNaughton, the director, and the costume designer decide to dress Denise Richards’ character that way? Per Longworth, the intention behind putting Kelly in “clothing and accessories associated with childhood” was to make Kelly look like Lolita. 

The trio celebrate with sex, and though the ensuing threesome scene [...] there are a couple of images in it that seem worth noting. Kelly wears a  pleated skirt, mary janes and bobby socks à la Lolita to this threesome, and McNaughton includes a seemingly straight-faced shot of her panties being removed from under the skirt while the socks and shoes stay on. We know by this point that the character is 18 [...] in costuming  the character as a schoolgirl the filmmakers seem to want you to imagine that she’s  younger. In that sense they got what they wanted. 

It is legally permissible for adults to have or imagine having sex with people who are over the age of 18, but when the sexualisation of those of-age women is comprised of clothing and accessories associated with childhood, does it really matter that the women are months beyond their 18th birthday? 

Connectedly, Longworth referenced “Schoolgirls Make Alligators Look Like Ingenues” (March 20, 1998) - Janet Maslin’s New York Times review of the film where Maslin wrote that Blue Bay High School had a “well-developed Lolita squad” with Kelly as the high school’s “vixenish” “nymphet extraordinaire”. 

Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards) and Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell) 

As typical for a  film with an age-gap theme or motif, Wild Things had Kelly and Suzie participate in multiple girl-on-girl scenes. For example, during the three-way in the motel room with Mr. Sam Lombardo, Kelly and Suzie kissed, and later in the film the school girls kissed and undressed - in a swimming pool. Longworth narrated: 

The porniest shot in the scene features a still-clothed Campbell pouring champagne on Richards’s naked breasts, in an image that feels very Showgirls-esque.

Another sex  scene, between Richards and Campbell, recalls Showgirls again–in its girl-on-girl  coupling, its over-the-top emotion and violence, and its setting in a swimming pool.

Interestingly, Longworth related that Roger Ebert, in his three-stars out of five review of the film, wrote that Denise Richards’ sex scene was: “[...] either gratuitous or indispensable [i.e., absolutely necessary] depending on your point of view.”  

Speaking of gratuitous (off camera) sex scenes, Kelly said that Mr. Lombardo fingered her - anally. She said, “[…] his hands were in my shorts. You know? From behind. His fingers. His fingers. They were in me. Both places. You know?” And while admiring a photograph that she had of Mr. Lombardo and Kelly having sex, Suzie said to Mr. Lombardo, “I can’t decide what came out better. That little straw up Kelly’s nose or that dildo shoved up her ass.”

Not to be outdone, Neve Campbell’s character was lauded too. Danielle Gibson wrote in her Glamour piece “Hear Me Out: Wild Things Is Surprisingly Feminist” (March 19, 2016) that: 

“Spoiled Floridian princess Kelly (Denise Richards) and drug-addled swamp priestess Suzie (Neve Campbell) are two of the most well-rounded, fascinating, and exciting characters to ever grace the screen.” Ever?

I won’t share the rest of the film’s shocking spoilers, but I will share Longworth’s shocking assertion that: “[...] few actual teenagers have the adult bodies of a Denise Richards or Sarah Michelle Gellar, let alone the self-possession and sexual maturity of the characters they played on screen.” Longworth narrated:

What was potentially dangerous about depicting teens having wild sex lives in these  movies [...] was that they sold the idea that 16-year-olds are essentially adults, when there is in fact a wide range of rates of development, and few actual teenagers have the adult bodies of a Denise Richards or Sarah Michelle Gellar, let alone the self-possession and sexual maturity of the characters they played on screen.  

I would imagine that Longworth read Less Than Zero, but maybe she opined that that’s fiction with an unreliable narrator. Or maybe Longworth hasn’t read Restless Virgins: Love, Sex, and Survival in Prep School or Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of [Teen] Raunch Culture or even American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. But Longworth must have known about Sami Sheen, Denise Richards’s daughter, who started an OnlyFans account when she was 18-years-old. In June of 2022, the self-described sex worker posted the announcement on her Instagram account, which prompted Page Six to post: "Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen's daughter Sami, 18, joins OnlyFans".

However, Maslin wrote more accurately in her New York Times piece that Wild Things, a film that  Longworth narrated “[...] was successful enough in concept alone to spawn three direct-to video sequels [...]”, showed that: “[...] high school students are capable of grown-up chicanery [...]” [Emphasis added]

The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family)

Although, IRL and in fiction, most school based age-gap affairs occur between students and teachers; however, it's not uncommon for a counselor to be the object of a school girl's attention. For example, on the pilot of The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family), Adrian shared with a classmate that she had to decline a party invitation, because her mother was out of town and, consequently, she was going to take advantage of the opportunity to "drink beer and have [teen] sex".

The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family)

Subsequently, Adrian attempted to (indirectly) seduce Mr. Marc Molina, the new Grant High School guidance counselor, by (indirectly) informing him that she was sexually active. Adrian asked, "Are condoms still available in your office?" And it turned out that Grant High did provide condoms to nymphets, but no word on if the condoms were "mint-flavored condoms with no spermicide, [and] labeled ''ONLY for oral sex'' like at Hunter - a top high school on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Unsurprisingly, Adrian wasn't the only nymphet who was attracted to Mr. Molina. For instance, Madison and Lauren were enthralled by Mr. Molina too. Madison shared with Amy that Mr. Molina was new, single and delicious. And Amy shared with Madison and Lauren that she had sex - on the second day of band camp.

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