Three-quarters of the way through our video choice last night, "McLintock!" a 1963 western/comedy/romance, I burst out with, "This is a runaway train."
Image found here.
The movie had been rollicking before, but at that point Maureen O'Hara had been stripped down to her bloomers by various means as she ran through town trying to evade her enraged husband, John Wayne.
It all culminated in O'Hara falling in a horse-watering trough and the Duke taking her over his knee and spanking her with a fireplace ash shovel.
In the background of the shot, little girls licking rainbow-colored lollipops enjoyed every minute.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning.
Last night we were having a lovely evening with frequent commenter and friend Iulia when the subject of Maureen O'Hara came up.
I professed not to remember who she was.
Iulia was shocked. How could I not remember "How Green Was My Valley" and "The Parent Trap"?
Oh, I remembered "The Parent Trap." I even blogged about its goofy sexual politics and high level of estrogen-laced cat fighting.
That was back in 2009.
"Then I'm going to give you your next blog post," said Iulia. "We have to watch 'McLintock!'"
"The Parent Trap" and "McLintock!" have in common only O'Hara, as far as I can see. In both movies, she plays a headstrong, aggressive woman who has it out for the man in her life. In "The Parent Trap," she slugs Brian Keith, her ex-husband, in the eye. In "McLintock!" she takes it up a notch and wades into an all-male brawl, poking guys in the butt with the business end of her parasol.
Also, she play-acts that she is mad at John Wayne, her long-suffering, estranged, super-rich but benevolent rancher husband, when in fact she is just waiting for him to raise his hand against her and show her who's boss.
One more thing: there's a daughter (played by Stephanie Powers, the spitting image of a teenaged Sarah Silverman) who also gets an ash-shovel spanking, this one from her future fiancée, Patrick Wayne (the real-life son of John). It appears she learned her man skills at the knee of her mother.
The message: uppity women are fun, but they need to get their tails whipped in the end. It's the proper thing for a real man to do, and besides, it's funny.
It all brought up that early-sixties-rampant-sexism thing that "Mad Men" has now put front and center. Lara Lillibridge, in a recent Huffington Post blog has reported, for example, that "Mad Men" taught her why her mother was such an angry feminist.
My own feminist mother recently told us she tried to watch "Mad Men" to see what the fuss was about, but couldn't, because it contained too many triggers.
This is the same woman who, back in the seventies, reacted to the old Wisk detergent "Ring Around the Collar" commercials by angrily yelling "Why don't you wash your neck, creep!" at the husband with the dirty shirt.
In a way, watching "McLintock!" was akin to seeing a minstrel show that gleefully reinforced racial stereotypes. There sure was a lot of glee.
And yet, there's a weird environmentalist vibe to it-- Wayne, the super-rich rancher, wants to donate his land to the federal government for a park-- and there's a pro-Native American subplot as well.
It's kind of a mess.
All of which signals to me that the sixties were getting truly underway in 1963, but there was still a loooooong way to go for women.
But here's the real kicker for all you true-blue BWP fans out there: remember that blog post from 2009 about "The Parent Trap"? Turns out that at the time, Iulia encouraged me in a comment to see "McLintock!", and I said I would check it out.
It only took six years and two reminders. But thanks, Iulia. It was an evening well spent.