Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dottie Gets Spanked (1993): Six Year Olds Have Fetishes Too

Anyone who has nursed a childhood obsession with a television program (and who hasn't devoutly wished at one time to escape childhood growing pains by diving through the tube into a magical realm?) should find a haunting resonance in Todd Haynes's ( director of Velvet Goldmine, Sonic Youth's Goo music video, I'm not there, etc.) half-hour film, Dottie Gets Spanked.

Dottie Gets Spanked observes the world through the eyes of a shy 6-year-old boy  in 1960's suburban New York. Steven has a fixation on a Lucy Ball-like television star named Dottie Frank. His fervor is so all-consuming that his parents are beginning to worry.
Sitting inches from the television set, Steven scrawls scenarios starring his idol in a drawing book. 


At night, Dottie's zany misadventures become entangled with his own dreams. Even after Steven wins a contest to visit the New York studio where the program is shot and discovers that the actress playing Dottie is a tough professional cookie who is not like her character, he persists in his obsession.


During the episode under way in the studio, Dottie is given a comic spanking. And the image becomes confused in his own mind with his stern father's tacit threats of corporal punishment. It all comes together in a dream sequence in which spanking assumes a mythical import, and shame and desire become intermingled. 
 One could say it's an excellent depiction of a young boy's Oedipal phantasies and desires over his father.

A similar sense of an oppressive, regimented society cruelly bearing down on a sensitive individual infused Haynes's films Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story and Poison. The most daring sections of the film are its dream sequences, in which the director tries to go beyond surrealistic symbolism and evoke actual dreams.

The film recalls Haynes’ interest in sexuality as well the theme of repression in the family home that would come in later films like Safe and Far from Heaven.

Swallow the pill:

Dose 1
Dose 2
Dose 3
Dose 4

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