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Dottie Gets Spanked

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Six-year-old Stevie is a loner who's obsessed with a sitcom star in Todd Haynes's hauntingly mordant deconstruction of 1950s television and family life, which trenchantly depicts both in terms of hierarchical power relations and unexpected transformations. Alienated from other kids, who tease him for his femininity, and by his cold father, who watches sports on television, Stevie's infatuation with Dottie is, for him, liberating. In close-ups of his head against the TV screen he seems lost in the Dottie show, while filling a sketchbook with drawings of her. His parents try to wean him away from Dottie by asking him to watch TV with daddy in a powerful shot of the three arrayed in a diagonal line from foreground to background, depicting a geometry of control. But this attempt fails; he runs out of the room. When he wins a contest and visits the show's taping, his idol seems a trifle frowsy with a cigarette and scarf on her head, and accepts his drawings of her with an indifferent "Isn't that super." During the show's taping, Dottie interrupts a scene in which she's being spanked by looking through the viewfinder and determining that the couch needs a wedge under it. Rather than demystifying Dottie, these moments add to her allure for Stevie, who has kinky spanking dreams himself. Haynes's juxtaposition of the studio spanking, the same scene on video, Stevie's later drawing of it, and his recurring dream evokes the way Dottie inspires Stevie's own flights of fancy. Also on the program, part of the 15th Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, are Peggy Rajski's Trevor, Mark Christopher's Alkali, Iowa, and Tom Donaghy's The Dadshuttle. Music Box, 3733 N. Southport, Friday, November 3, 10:30, 384-0772.

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