Amber Waves: Female Sexuality and “Boogie Nights” (1997)

Modern black magic is understanding human nature. In a world of unreality where people are unconscious to the invisible currents that guide them, having the ability to identify these forces can allow you to tell a tremendous amount about someone from a few scant details. Street hustlers and psychics have exploited this idea for years, because it works; we are not unique snow-flakes, we are predictable animals.

Take a family where the mother is much prettier than her daughters- what does that tell you? The mother traded her beauty to marry a genetically-inferior beta-male with money and ended up with snaggled halfie daughters. The woman does not respect her husband-she resents him- and this unhappiness manifests itself in perpetual anger and passive-aggression where she subtly attempts to destroy all those around her.

Beta-dad entered the relationship with the best intentions, unconscious to the fact that he was defeated from the outset. After years of his confidence being eroded through his demon-wife’s poison drip of emasculation, he fluctuates between anger and shame, and thinking that maybe giving more, listening more, and being more empathetic may turn it all around and fix the relationship… All while his wife longs for the memory of the last big-dicked real man who made her tingle.

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I wasn’t ready for the hard wave of reality that hit when Amber mentions the pottery class she wants to take. I had to stop the movie and spend some time coping with this terrible idea. Amber tries to drown the unbearable dread of her own choices- the terrifying effect end of cause– with cocaine in order to deaden her sadness while displacing her anxiety.

A good coke high centers the user squarely in the euphoric present. When Roller Girl suggests that they don’t leave the safety of her bedroom, the smile on Amber’s face feels infectious- resonating with anyone who’s experienced the slightest bit of drug use.

You don’t want that moment to end; you don’t want to leave the room. You want to take permanent residence in that moment and coast… but Amber, the aging starlet, is too experienced in the drug game to get lost in this fantasy- and that’s when she mentions the godamn pottery class.

I needed a few minutes to nervously pace my kitchen and compose myself.

To quell the impending reality of a nasty return to sobriety- after the requisite panicked mirror licking- Amber uses the idea of a pottery class to force shape upon her otherwise meaningless life. The pottery class is to make sense of Amber’s decision to choose the life of a cheap starlet over motherhood. The aging Amber, the less alluring Amber, the increasingly infertile Amber will have made sense of it all by pursuing this latent artistic inclination.

 Amber, you see, is able to contribute value and beauty to the world after all, but only now in the form of pottery; and this proclamation, deep within a multi-hour coke binge, quells the anxiety of coming down.
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A quick flash deep into the two-hour plus running time of “Boogie Nights” (1997) and I’m pacing around like a madman- no narcotics needed, high on reality. There’s more truth in those few seconds of film than we’re accustomed to in our modern lives and it feels overwhelming.

A film about the making of pornography is a direct examination of what constitutes reality and unreality, rather than Spielberg’s manipulative sophistry or a big budget commercial for the female ego.

 

Porn movies must be designated as such because they aren’t really movies at all; pornography is defined as obscenity, and a 1957 Supreme Court ruling plainly stated that obscenity is “utterly without redeeming social importance.” This is a disheartening reality to the film’s resident porn director, Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who wants nothing more than to be taken seriously as an auteur.

While porn movies- or fuck films as they were known in professional circles at the time- are notorious for terrible production, dime-store acting, and meaningless stories told between extended scenes of actual sex, they have one significant advantage over their more critically acclaimed Hollywood counterparts: the sex is always real, and sexuality is our deepest human reality.

But this line between reality and unreality can be difficult to suss out, much less explicitly define- a fact that Buck Swope, played to perfection by Don Cheadle, learns the hard way when he’s denied a bank loan to finance his post-porn aspirations. The banker doesn’t want to be associated with a pornographer. “Pornographer,” asks a befuddled Cheadle- he’s not a pornographer, he’s an actor. Poor Buck would tell you there wasn’t a difference- reality dictates otherwise.

This bit of unreality on the part of Buck is indicative of how Horner’s odd camp of fuck film purveyors think of what they do; they’re actors making movies, they’re sexy and exciting local celebrities.

When Horner spots a new talent in the form of Eddie Adams- who has, what Amber calls, a “giant cock”- Horner doesn’t hesitate to cast Adams as “Dirk Diggler,” pairing him with his own live-in girlfriend. After all, they’re just actors making movies… until Horner’s in his director’s chair watching the awful reality of his girlfriend getting fucked by a younger, sexier, and more virile Alpha male- the look on his face is exactly what you’d expect.

It’s too easy to point to Amber’s story and look to the modern equivilant- a girl on Tinder, burning through her youth by going from one hook-up to the next while the quality of man who would happily have a genuine relationship with her slowly deteriorates aside her fading fertility. It’s too easy to point to personal responsibility; that a young girl should know better, make better choices, and be able to separate the deliberate bullshit of unreality from the way things actually work. It’s too easy to say, “be a coy Fay Wray, and not a slutty Amber Waves,” but that isn’t exactly reality either.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire civilization to maintain a morality.

The darkest depth of reality in”Boogie Nights” isn’t Amber at all, but Dirk’s own mother- a woman living the American dream with a husband, house, and family. When Dirk gets home late from a party at Jack’s, Dirk’s mother is up waiting for him, while chain-smoking cigarettes- ready to pounce with venomous verbal abuse.

But while Dirk’s mother is ridiculing Dirk for being a loser and dating a slut- emasculating her son by sarcastically calling him a stud- it becomes apparent that Dirk’s mother isn’t seeing the boy who was once her son. Dirk’s mother is lashing out at the man who Dirk now represents- perhaps the Alpha male who rejected her. Perhaps the Alpha male whom she let go in favor of the genetically-inferior beta-male with money, and has to swallow that decision in a world where Amber Waves can snort coke and fuck bad boys- a reality which she’ll forever long to know.

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4 comments

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  2. greenmantlehoyos · July 7

    Lot of food for thought here. Part of me just thinks though that half of what we’re pursuing is more the idea than anything else. Plenty of girls hooking up with Alphas in a drug haze are insanely unhappy and even sexually unfulfilled. I kind of see the phenomenon in girls who were “good” but fell for the image of the party scene (pleasure, excitement, adventure), only to find out it was unpleasant people having mechanical sex that they have to self medicate to get through. The “glamour” of it all is a gold ring in a pigs snout, to borrow a phrase.

    Drugs are real though, and that’s why drugs like coke or heroin will take your soul.

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