My Sexual Awakening (In Black Vinyl)
This article is being published in conjunction with the Michelle Pfeiffer Blog-A-thon hosted/created by Nathan R. To peruse other works of non-pfiction, click here
I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember grabbing the plastic sealed cardboard case from the peg on the wall. God knows what marketers were thinking when they made a six inch plastic S&M Queen replete with a rubber whip and an internal spring which allowed her to wield it. I suppose it helps that they called her Catwoman. Perhaps even more fascinating was the fact that I had yet to see the film for which the figure served as a tie in or know the purpose this sadistic figurine served to its greater narrative. It didn't matter to me. I just used that whip to harm everything in site. I typically constructed little scenarios to justify my actions. I got a pleasure in it that was so abstract and unnameable to my little mind. It was before this train of thought was detectable as "deviant." It seemed relatively innocent. I was only whipping the other plastic figurines (and on occasion, truth be told, myself).
This was a form of idol worship that only grew stronger after finally sitting through the film (my first attempt was thwarted by my abject fear of the Penguin - I was 8). Catwoman was fierce - in a way that, without an adult economy of signs, I could not really fathom. Of course, now I recognize the masochistic aspects of the her character and accoutrements(I am not a practicing masochist, in case you were wondering), the ridiculously fetishized outfit, and the homosexual relatability to the character of Selena Kyle - both before and after womanimalization (she was both total faghag and a drag queen - any femininity taken to such an extreme can be little else - perhaps a televangelist's wife... but that's besides the point). But the way Michelle Pfeiffer writhed and slunk about in her tight vinyl was really unparalleled in terms of childhood role models. As my role models were always the villains.
I was never the one rooting for Batman. In fact, the more he was harmed, the better. The horrible fates he would potentially befall thrilled me to no end. And in very overtly metaphoric ways, Catwoman was the perfect cipher for my unnameable homosexual fantasies. Violence (as is the American way), to me, equated sex in these situations. So when Michelle Pfeiffer caresses down Batman's(a strangely sexy Michael Keaton) side to find the weak spot in his armor then penetrates him with her sewing kit slip on claws, it awoke in me an unexplainable yearning. I had no idea why the sequence was so appealing to me. Only later would I realize the metaphoric sexuality implied in the act.
All of this would be abstractly circumstantial had there not been miniature physical manifestations of these figures with whom I could reenact these curiously stimulating situations. You could say that, for me, Michelle Pfeiffer comodified the masochistic impulses implicit with adolescent homosexuality - before that sexuality develops a language with which to speak about it, to understand it, even. In a way, Catwoman was an exaggerated version of characteristics already associated with Homosexuality. Of course, this is the early nineties that we're talking about here and the image of the Tom of Finland-esque leather Queer was still a predominant public image for Homosexuality. Even within the community, the majority of works from the New Queer Cinema had yet to be made and Cruising was perhaps the most readily accessible cinematic depiction of Homosexuality(true, some more sensitive films had been made, but few equaled the sensational image perpetuated by Friedkin's dubious picture). It should not be a huge shocker than that I could find a strange appeal in the physical (penetrative) harm which Catwoman would unleash onto her victims. It was a manifestation of the public image of that thing which I already suspected I was but had not yet fully realized the consequences of. Then, of a sudden, a small plasticine representamen of these social molds is placed before me, to reenact my playroom fantasies. It was both (immediately) empowering and slightly debilitating.
To claim that Michelle Pfeiffer made me who I am today would be a positively ridiculous statement. Any multifaceted person needs more than one figure to assist in their personal development. And though I have held on to very little of what I learned yearning to be whilst simulanteously manipulating a small plastic figure of the weighted social taboos that it represented, I must say that I did learn a thing or two about "alternative" lifestyles from Miss Kyle. The scene at home, when she destroyed the dollhouse and pulled the vinyl jacket from her closet (just what was she doing with it in the first place?) made me realize that there was an alternative to the cookie-cutter world projected by the hero. When Miss Pfeiffer went through the transformation into her most dubious persona, something in me transformed a little too. And for that I am forever indebted. Happy Birthday, Miss Pfeiffer.