Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Free-for-All: Iconic sexy scenes - where is this generation's Phoebe Cates?

Originally I was going to save this one for next week, but we're already getting an interesting talk going over on the Facebook page, so as we're inching closer to the official start of summer, why not head towards the weekend with a blog inspired by a swimsuit?

I think every writer wants to write a scene that's remembered as iconic. And after over seven years of reading, I know that male readers enjoy writing scenes with female characters in various states of undress. And yet, in all that time, with all that female flesh, I don't think any writer I've seen has come up with something that's iconically sexy.

What provoked this thought was a Yahoo article I stumbled across earlier this week. It was about Phoebe Cates, and for at least a generation's worth of you, I probably don't need to offer further explanation. For people - mostly men - of a certain age, that name might conjure up memories of Gremlins, but it'll probably make you think of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. As the article notes: "Perhaps the most famous scene in which the bikini plays a starring role came in the 1982 comedy classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Actress Phoebe Cates wears a red two-piece while lounging at her friend's pool after school. Though the film is nearly 30 years old, online interest in the iconic scene remains red-hot."

I'd argue that the scene is famous not because Phoebe wears the bikini, but because she takes it off. Supposedly video stores in the 80s had to regularly replace their VHS cassettes of Fast Times because of "tracking problems" during the scene in question. (For my younger readers - that means that the videocassette was being worn out at that particular spot, likely because of excessive slo-mo and freeze-framing of that portion of the tape.)

Granted, times have changed and DVDs have replaced VHS, but I'm honestly at a loss to think of what this generation's "Phoebe Cates scene" is. Can you think of any film in the last decade that was purchased or rented largely for its T&A, to the point that the actress's name is synonymous with that scene?

The Yahoo article had their own picks for best bikini scenes. It's interesting, because out of 11 scenes, I could only peg three as iconic.

Ursella Andress in Dr. No.
Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.
Carrie Fisher in Return of the Jedi

Interestingly, the most recent scene on that list is Jedi at nearly 30 years old. Andress' scene was so iconic that they had Halle Berry rip it off in a later Bond film, Welch's cavegirl bikini was a popular pin-up, and Fisher's Slave Leia sent a generation of Star Wars fans into puberty, becoming a popular costume at Comic-Con.

The remaining eight picks in Yahoo are certainly of attractive women, but not memorable in the same way:
Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Jessica Alba in Into the Blue
Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Kristen Bell in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Salma Hayak in From Dusk 'Til Dawn
Kate Bosworth & Michelle Rodriguez in Blue Crush
Brooklyn Decker in Just Go With It
Halle Berry in Die Another Day

Can you imagine any of those scenes being homaged 30 years later? Did any of those scenes spawn popular pin-ups, or become so memorable that when you mention that actress, that scene is what springs to mind? Frankly, most of these scenes are more along the lines of what I read virutally every week, eye candy with no deeper context. Empty calories.

(Also, to give most of the actresses on this second list credit, they've largely had more successful careers than Cates and the other actresses on the first list. Actresses like Moore and Bell have a strong body of work that overshadows their bodies.)

One Facebook follower came up with the same theory I have as to why the last ten or fifteen years of film has been light on these sort of moments, saying "With internet porn, there may never be another Cates' scene, again." True - Fast Times was a popular rental because it was something that a teenage kid could get his hands on in a time when naked breasts weren't a Google search away. I'm sure that had something to do with the scene's popularity. Surely the other three on the first list benefitted from being risque images either during a more conservative time (Andress and Welch), or being in a family-friendly film (Fisher.)

So with all of this in mind, I'm going to turn it over to you guys. First, are there any more recent scenes like this you think deserve to be called iconic? And then tell me what you think makes an iconic moment like this. I've bitched about T&A done wrong - how would you guys do it right?


  1. Here's a more recent iconic "bikini" scene/outfit:

    Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element (1997)

    And another older one I'd throw into the mix is:

    Bo Derek in 10 (1979)

    Other than that, the only thing that comes close recently is Kelly Brook and Riley Steele in Piranha 3D (2010). That is, if it's even possible for a modern B movie to contain an "iconic" scene.

    However, this definitely warrants more research... ;)

  2. Shannon Elizabeth, American Pie.

  3. As a woman, I really don't find any of the sexy scenes iconic. Especially bikini ones. But if forced to pick one I'd actually say Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch on the subway grate or an earlier movie of her's - Don't Bother To Knock - where she plays a woman recently out of an asylum. For most of the movie she wears this pretty black negligee(sp?) with stockings and diamond earrings. And even when she goes nuts and is threatening the little girl she's suppose to be babysitting she's still sexy.

    I honestly hate the attempts at sexy scenes though. Sexy should be something that just comes about organically. Not because some writer or director wants to give the men in the audience a boner so they can sell more tickets.

  4. For what it's worth, I think American Pie and Wild Things are the only two "recent" films I've heard people mention that seem like legitimate contenders for the crown.

    I hear you on Piranha 3D, but I think it might still be too under the radar. At least the other two films put Shannon Elizabeth and Denise Richards on the map. I don't think Kelly Brook got the same bump from P3D