The Curator of Schlock #90 by Jeff Shuster
The Legend of Billie Jean
I’ve always loved outlaws or the idea of the outlaw. Maybe it’s because my dad was a police officer. The idea of a hero that is heroic for the defying the law has always fascinated me. Heroes like Robin Hood, Lupin the 3rd, and now Billie Jean. I’ve always known about this movie due to the fact that it starred Helen Slater, but it only got a DVD release last year.
The Legend of Billie Jean is about Billie Jean (Helen Slater), a high school girl who ends up becoming an outlaw due an unfortunate turn of events. You see her brother Binx…Hold on a sec. Who names their son Binx? Is that even a real name? Let me check. Oooh! Don’t look that up on urbandictionary.com. Some of those definitions are just plain dirty. Anyway, some local hoodlums are picking on Binx (Christian Slater, obviously). By the way, Christian Slater is not Helen Slater’s brother. I found that out from the audio commentary on the Blu-Ray featuring Helen Slater and Yeardley Smith. What does Yeardly mean? Enclosed Meadow? Okay. It’s so weird hearing Helen Slater and the voice of Lisa Simpson on a commentary track.
Yeardley Smith plays the role of Putter, Billie Jean’s best friend and comic relief for the picture. You see, Billy Jean lives a hard life because she “comes from the trailers.” This might explain why the lower middle class kids keep picking on Binx. One of them even steals Binx’s motor scooter, a Honda Elite. Billie Jean goes to the police, but they’re no help.
Detective Ringwald is played by Peter Coyote, and whenever I think of Peter Coyote, I think of that time he served as a sort of a maître d’ during the 2000 Oscars. That was the one where Isaac Hayes disappeared when fog swarmed around him as he was singing “Shaft.” I always suspected Garth Brooks had been involved the disappearance. Or maybe it was Gary Coleman.
Anyway, when Binx goes to get his scooter back, he receives a bashed up scooter and bashed up face. Billie Jean will have none of this. She confronts the bully’s father, the owner of a local tourist trap shop. The bully’s father offers to pay her back in installments in exchange for some sexual favors. Billie Jean fights him off while Binx finds a gun in the guy’s cash register. Binx shoots the storeowner by accident, and they’re on the lam.
You’d think at this point their lives would be over, but it seems that kids in America see Billie Jean as some sort of folk hero. Billie Jean leads a rebellion of children against all of the mean adults in the United States. She cuts her hair short like Joan of Arc and before you know it, every other kid in America is doing the same thing. Her motto is “Fair is Fair,” stemming from the fact that a sleazy shop owner wouldn’t pay for the damages done to her brother’s scooter.
The Legend of Billie Jean is another quintessential 80s flick, and I can’t help, but think that it’s a pro-Generation X movie and an anti-Baby Boomer movie. Maybe this movie was payback for the way Hollywood treated Gen X children on screen during the 70s. At best, Gen X children were portrayed as insufferable brats. At worst, they were literally portrayed as the Antichrist.
Billie Jean was a rallying cry for every Gen Xer to get mad as hell and not take it anymore! Unfortunately, The Man with One Red Shoe opened the same weekend. I don’t blame audiences for that one. Even I’m curious as to why anyone would have one red shoe.
5 Things I Learned from The Legend of Billie Jean
- Strawberry is no substitute for vanilla!
- Rich peoples’ food tastes different from regular folks food.
- Don’t eat twenty Kit Kats. Your tummy won’t like you.
- A bag of marbles is still the best defense against a hot pursuit.
- Helen Slater could have conquered the world if she had wanted to.
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.