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Tag: Fails Bechdel test

The Lost Boys

  • YEAR: 1987
  • DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher
  • KEY ACTORS: Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman
  • IMDB SCORE: 7.3

SEX SCORE: 2.5/5

❌ For the first time in a while, this is a film that fails the Bechdel Test. The female characters don’t even share a scene, let alone speak!
✔️ And it is definitely rewatchable. Reportedly the ‘most Eighties film ever made,’ it is hugely entertaining and easy to watch again and again!
✔️ The cast are also definitely fuckable. Yes, again, very 80s, but also – hot.
❓I’m going to give it half a mark for inspiring fantasies. This movie didn’t inspire fantasies for me, but it is the source of inspiration for another vampire that did inspire a lot of fantasies!
❌ But it’s not sex positive. Instead, sex is a metaphor for danger and risk-taking, which isn’t so great…

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: Amazon Prime (rent £3.49), YouTube (from £3.49). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

The poster for The Lost Boys

Being a teenager is simultaneously the most exhilarating and most terrifying time of most of our lives. We feel everything more intensely, with greater highs and deeper lows, and consequently the bonds and relationships we form are also more intense and more volatile. Obviously, this is hardly a new insight but it does offer the chance for some pretty incredible storytelling when done right. To misquote another classic 1980s coming of age film starring Corey Feldman, do any of us have friends later on like the ones we make when we were younger?

Which brings us on to The Lost Boys, a classic 1980s coming of age film starring Corey Feldman, that changed how we thought of vampires forever. The Lost Boys is really only nominally a vampire story – it is much more a story about being a teenager. Michael (Patric) and Sam (Haim) move to Santa Carla, the self-proclaimed murder capital of the world, when their mother gets divorced and they immediately fall in with the locals. After following a beautiful girl on the boardwalk, Michael is taunted by David (Sutherland) the leader of a teenage gang who persuade him to join them, drinking and smoking and jumping off bridges. You know, normal teenage stuff. Sam, the younger brother, makes friends with Edgar (Feldman) and Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander) who are self-styled Rambo-esque vampire hunters and warn him that Michael’s friends are not exactly human. Having unknowingly drunk blood, Michael starts turning into a vampire but the transformation isn’t permanent until he makes his first kill, and so Sam teams up with the Frog brothers to destroy the head vampire and return Michael back to normal.

When I wrote about vampires and Dracula last year, I mentioned how I have never doubted that vampires were hot because I had a serious crush on Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was 16. (I don’t know why I’m using the past tense – we’re re-watching the series at the moment and I am just as in love with that problematic platinum blonde guy as I ever was!) But what I hadn’t realised until rewatching The Lost Boys is how much my vampire crushes owe to this movie. Joss Whedon has said that Spike was supposed to look ‘little Billy Idol, a little Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys, and every guy in a black coat’ and I feel like he stole a whole lot more than just the blonde hair and long black coat. Much of what makes Spike sexy is his arrogance and fuck you attitude, and the vampires in The Lost Boys have that in spades!

Because while vampires may have always been seductive and sexual, although perhaps often more ‘blood-sucking butler-types,’ The Lost Boys made them fucking cool! The Lost Boys really made them sexy and desirable and fucking hot.

All of the sexy and very, very 80s Lost Boys

It’s an intoxicating combination. I know that Kiefer Sutherland has many fans but I’ve never really got it – he may have a seductively deep and smooth voice but there’s always something too self-righteous and smug about him – except that, damn, he makes a sexy vampire. The 1980s styling is definitely too much and nearly ruins in but all of the vampires have such a self-confident swagger that I can almost forgive the mullets and single dangly earrings and crop tops and strange fabric choices. Mike Scott on the Dana Buckler Show described it as ‘1987 as hell’ and he’s right – it’s essentially a period movie and objectively they look ridiculous through 2020 eyes, but it is still easy to get drawn in. And Jason Patric is just hot, regardless of the decade. With his rough voice, chiselled jaw and sunglasses, he is timeless.

Michael and Sky looking moody

I was interested to read that the original script for The Lost Boys, before the change to the current ‘sex’n’goth’ version, was much more family friendly and more like The Goonies – a true update of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan with teenage vampires as another way of remaining forever young. In an interview reported in the Irish Times, James Jeremias, who co-wrote the original script, said that they had purposefully chosen younger children – aged 12 and 8 – because they ‘wanted it before sex rears its ugly little head.’ And I think that could have been a very interesting movie, but I doubt it would have had the same lasting power that The Lost Boys has. It needed the ‘hormonal frisson’ of being a teenager to make sense.

Following the lead set by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles to make the vamps rock stars of their day, Schumacher’s vampires are kind of living the life that all teenagers want, if you ignore all the murder and death. The movie’s tagline is ‘Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire’ and, honestly, it does sound kind of fun! I can understand why Michael follows them and why he is led by their games. Without the supernatural vampire element, their ‘seduction’ of Michael feels worryingly familiar and reminiscent of some of my own teenage friendships. Don’t worry, I’ve not nearly done anything as extreme as Michael but I have knowingly put myself in relatively dangerous situations so that I might be included. Drunk more alcohol than I was really comfortable with, said that I was happy to join in when I’d really rather have just gone home or done something else. Being a teenager is hard, and I think Joel Schumacher captured that kind of perfectly.

The Lost Boys on motorcycles

Because the peer-pressure that Michael faces when he meets the vampire gang is relatively universal, even if our own experiences aren’t quite as intense. It’s the same cliched plea of harassed parents – if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do the same? And we only need to substitute ‘cliff’ for ‘bridge’ and we get Michael’s answer. He does hang under a bridge as a train goes overhead with no idea what is hiding in the fog beneath just because the people he is trying to impress do the same. He literally does ride his motorbike towards a cliff edge so as not to look scared. Patric also made a decision to play Michael’s transformation to vampirism as if he had a drug addiction and the ‘blood in his veins was this intoxicating substance that was changing his life dependencies.’ If Coppola’s vampirism was a blood-borne disease, Schumacher’s was heroin.

Vampirism is also toxic masculinity. Michael is only so keen to impress David and his gang because he has a crush on the one girl on screen and doesn’t want to look weak in front of her. Cool cool cool. (By the way, I loved Ebert’s cutting aside in his original review that in The Lost Boys ‘there is a lost girl, too, but why mention her?’ The only women on screen are a helpless mother and a sex symbol who needs rescuing. This is not a great feminist movie…)

David and Sky

Is that the moral message of this movie? That giving into peer-pressure will cause disaster? It’s certainly the message that is hammered home by the bloodbath at the end! Or is it another movie that highlights how traumatic puberty and coming of age can be, with extreme ‘physical transformation, sexual awakening, and experimentation?

But I think there is another, more interesting message that was also stolen by Joss Whedon in BtVS – the idea of vampires ‘looking like monsters and then looking like people’ so that they could fool you, and this mistaken safety is a key feature of the whole film. It looks for the seedy and dangerous underside of normality, asking us ‘how we can separate the seriously strange from the harmless, garden-variety wackos.’ Are David and his gang just angry rebels or truly dangerous? As with so many tropes, I don’t know if the idea of a seedy beachfront arcade was a thing before The Lost Boys but there is now definitely something eerie and potentially creepy about the neon lights and cheap prizes of a carnival.

David looking full vampire from The Lost Boys

And don’t forget the more mundane but much more relatable deception that Lucy, Sam and Michael’s mother, has to go through. She is happily dating the nice man at work who seems so kind and great and gentle, but it doesn’t take long for his real intentions to be revealed. He doesn’t want her specifically at all – he’s just looking for someone to be his wife and take care of him, and to be a mother to his troop of vampire babies. Sigh. Isn’t it always the way? Also, as someone who loved the Gilmore Girls long before I saw The Lost Boys, how traumatic is it to see Mr Gilmore (Edward Herrmann) as an evil vampire?!

Mr Gilmore, as he was in The Lost Boys

Finally, The Lost Boys is also important because this is where the two Coreys first met and worked together. I was too young in the 80s to really be aware of the Coreys and I honestly only discovered who Haim was because I was curious about who The Thrills were singing about in their song ‘Whatever Happened to Corey Haim.’ But their story is one of really quite incredible tragedy, and tragedy that feels like it should have been avoidable. Drug addiction, abuse, and just so much missed potential. As Hadley Freeman wrote earlier this year, ‘at 14, Feldman and Haim were two of the biggest young stars in the business. By 19, they were washed up, their addictions rendering them unemployable. Few falls have been faster or crueller.

Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and the other Frog brother

It feels like their story is too much part of the legacy of The Lost Boys to ignore. For the characters, the truth behind that incredibly intoxicating vision of sex and rock and roll is revealed to be dark and bloody and horrific, and it nearly kills them to escape. It doesn’t take too much of a squint to see analogies with the future of the two Coreys in that interpretation. Especially as, according to the Irish Times, Haim first tried cannabis and Feldman first tried cocaine while filming The Lost Boys. Reading more about the atmosphere on set, I’m not that surprised that these young boys had access to drugs – speaking to the Telegraph, Alex Winter described working on The Lost Boys as like a rave: ‘I’d seen a lot of shit by the time I did Lost Boys, but I’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t Joel. It was all off-set. Joel runs a really tight ship…. but oh my god.’ 

Which, accidentally, is a perfect metaphor for The Lost Boys and the sexy vampires, and perhaps the whole of the excess of the 80s. It looks like so much fun on the surface – sexy, intense, fast, high, and yet is wildly, wildly out of control. And dangerous, as the Coreys learned to their cost. There’s darkness beneath this initial hedonistic impression, and tragedy too. To bring it back to the movie, it’s easy to forget that it’s a story about dead teenagers and dead children. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review, ‘if you really stop to think about it, a bunch of vampire teenagers would be a terrible shame, a tragedy, a heartbreaking loss of innocence for them, let alone their victims.’ 

Coming of age requires a loss of innocence – that’s the whole point – and while it has rarely looked as good as it does in The Lost Boys, I also rarely feel the poignancy of that loss as strongly. Which makes it an unexpectedly powerful movie!

NEXT WEEK… The Babadook

Copyright All stills and photos are sourced from MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial, and are the courtesy of their respective production studios and/or distribution companies. Images are intended for educational or editorial use only.


YEAR: 2013
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
KEY ACTORS: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson

❌ Sadly, this film fails the Bechdel Test. Even without asking if the OS have a gender, none of the named female presenting characters talk about anything but men.
✔️ It did inspire fantasies of what our sexual future could be and how technology could influence the sexual relationships we might have. Also fantasies of super hot phone sex!
✔️ And I do think it is sex positive. The science fiction setting allows stigma, personhood, sexual agency and consent to be examined and it does a pretty good job of it. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good!
✔️ It raises so many questions in my mind that I do think it is rewatchable.
✔️ And I would fuck the cast. Not Joaquin Phoenix so much but I’d love to have phone sex with Samantha. Scarlett Johansson has such a deeply sexy voice after all!

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The Graduate

YEAR: 1967
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
KEY ACTORS: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Rose

❌ It fails the Bechdel Test – the two named women (and there are only two!) share two lines of dialogue at the very end of the movie, but they are about Ben so it fails!
✔️ But it is rewatchable. Whatever you might think of the sexual politics and disaffection, it is a beautiful, funny and interesting movie.
✔️ It did inspire fantasies. Not so much about the age difference or the seduction by a older, more experienced person but for the late night assignations at hotels, meeting and fucking and not speaking except to arrange the next meeting. Hot. So hot.
❌ I don’t want to fuck the cast though. Mrs Robinson is glamorous and beautiful and can really wear a pair of stockings but I’d rather be her than fuck her, and Benjamin is just too annoying to contemplate.
❌ This can’t be a sex positive film when so much sexually predatory behaviour is considered sources of comedy!

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YEAR: 2005
DIRECTOR: Andy Tennant
KEY ACTORS: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta

✔️ This is rewatchable. It shouldn’t be. It should have aged very badly and be too annoying to watch now…but it’s still pretty enjoyable!
✔️ I’d definitely fuck the cast! Will Smith may not be at his Independence Day era peak but he’s still looking great and Eva Mendes is stunning. STUNNING!
✔️ And it did inspire fantasies but they’re ones that make me a bit sad now – I would simply fantasise about someone liking me enough to make that much effort like the men in the film. Oh dear…
❌ But it definitely fails the Bechdel Test. I don’t think there are any conversations at all in the film that aren’t about dating!
❌ And I can’t give it a mark for being sex positive. It may be relationship positive and encouraging of sex within a relationship, but casual sex is less acceptable. It’s something desperate woman and sleazy men do, not something good people do. Yeah, not great…

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Up in the Air

YEAR: 2009
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
KEY ACTORS: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

✔️ Rewatchable – it’s soft and gentle and sweet and funny and thought provoking and easy watching, and I could watch it every week!
✔️ And yes, I do want to fuck the cast. I’d even argue that this film is George Clooney’s hotness peak!
✔️ Hotel sex with a handsome stranger was certainly a fantasy before this film, but it added the idea of luxury and exclusivity to this fantasy; a frisson of transience and possibility on expensive sheets.
✔️ Although it is another movie that has a possible cheating plot, I do think it’s sex positive as the main focus is on being OK with who you are. Whether you’re frequent flier Ryan or his home girl sister, it’s OK to have the life (and the love and sex) that you want and in the absence of significant sex negative themes, I’m going to give it the mark.
❌ But does it pass the Bechdel test? Can it be only the second 5/5 movie?? In the end, this comes down to accepting nuance in a binary question. There is one conversation between two named female characters that isn’t about men or dating – Natalie fires Karen Barnes, the women who later takes their own life. It’s an important plot point, but it is only one conversation and the women’s name is only revealed later. She is also not listed in the credits. Is that enough to scrape over this lowest of bars? I don’t think it is…

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Zack and Miri make a porno

YEAR: 2008
DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith
KEY ACTORS: Elizabeth Banks, Seth Rogen

❌ I struggled with this film and didn’t find it very funny. I don’t think I can watch it again!
❌ I don’t want to fuck the cast. I don’t really like any of them!
❌ Being watched is a kink of mine and I love the idea of being filmed…but somehow this film presented the idea of porn in a way that I didn’t want. Simply, none of my fantasies of being filmed are funny!
❌ This film definitely fails the Bechdel test.
❌ As usual, the sex positive question is a tough one. My immediate instinct is no – it’s porn and sex worker negative, it’s crude, it’s not funny, it’s misogynist…yeah, I can’t give it the point even though there are some redeeming features!

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Basic Instinct

YEAR: 1992
DIRECTOR: Paul Verhoeven
KEY ACTORS: Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas, Jeanne Tripplehorn

Fails the Bechdel test – none of the female characters speak to each other – and it generally portrays women very poorly…
✔️ I’ve not seen this for years but it definitely stands up to a rewatch and I’d be happy to watch it again so, yes, rewatchable!
✔️ I do think the cast are fuckable but this point comes with a caveat. The sex is hot and Sharon Stone is HOT but I really don’t rate Michael Douglas – as an actor or as an attractive lead. I don’t know why but he does nothing for me. And yet…
✔️ It did inspire fantasies – luckily for my husband, not fantasies of murder or manipulation but of sex that hot and of being a women who was in control her own pleasure. Who wouldn’t want that?
❌ But is it sex positive? Yes, it’s hot and explicit and kinky and mainstream and all about female pleasure but it’s kind of homophobic and the women are awful and sex is used as a weapon or threat and there’s the infamous story about Stone not consenting to the upskirting and I just can’t give it the mark…

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The Thomas Crown Affair

YEAR: 1999
DIRECTOR: John McTiernan
KEY ACTORS: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo
IMDB SCORE: 6.8/10

✔️ Fuckable cast – Brosnan is at his hottest and Russo is literally on fire
✔️ Sex positive themes – borderline case as Denis Leary’s sex negative ‘And you don’t care what that makes you?’ cop isn’t shouted down as much as I’d like, but they relish sex and pleasure so much that it has to pass
✔️ Definitely a source of fantasy material – I even wanted to fuck on marble stairs because of this film
✔️ Endlessly rewatchable
Fails the Bechdel test – the only two named female characters don’t say a word to each other, despite sharing scenes. Shame.

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