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By the Power of Softcore

Photo from The Memory Store

One Man's Daring Look Back at He-Man and the Masters of the Universe… and Porky's

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - Season One, Vol. 1

Distributor: Bci / Eclipse
Cast: Michael Bell
First date: 1983
US Release Date: 2005-10-18

When Porky's was released in 1982, I knew nothing of the film's notoriety, nor its considerable cultural impact on the repressive Reagan era. I just knew that Dad wouldn't let me watch it, and that apparently some guy stuck his penis into a hole in the wall at some point. Or hell, maybe that was Dad; I was only five, and my memories from that time period are a bit hazy and jumbled.

In fact, all I remember for certain is that my meager consolation for being denied access to this cultural landmark was that my bedroom, where I sat imprisoned listening to the drunken, braying laughter of my parents and their Porky's-watching idiot friends in the living room, was filled to bursting with the assorted misfits and weirdos from the celebrated He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. These action figures were, of course, based on the cartoon of the same name; indeed, Filmation was forced to produce PSAs to air after each episode, instructing the viewer not to bully or cheat or stick his tongue in the light socket or his penis in a hole in the wall. This way, it could not be said that the cartoons were merely half-hour commercials for toys.

No one was fooled by this ploy, least of all we young folk. Not only did I receive a frankly unhealthy number of these silly toys, but I was also allowed to watch the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, and when I gathered my figures to play after a given episode (or while my parents got drunk and watched softcore porn down the hall), I sure as hell wasn't having them re-enact He-Man's latest moral lesson; I spent playtime forcing my toys to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other. (And, later, making them hump.)

Point being: to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Porky's and He-Man's 24th birthday, I took advantage of the DVD industry's willingness to reproduce absolutely any flotsam and jetsam from decades past. Yes, dear readers, I spent a week watching Porky's: The Ultimate Collection and The Very Best of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. And the conclusion I have come to is this: my parents would have been better off letting me watch Porky's, 'cause damn, that He-Man was sexual-educational!

Just look at some of the character names: Ram-Man? Fisto? Snout Spout? Extendar? Clamp Champ? Faker? Screech? Stinkor? Mantenna? Tung Lashor? Sssqueeze? Plus, practically every frame of the cartoon was loaded with comically blatant phallic imagery and not-so-subtle homoeroticism; dig the way those impossibly buff bodies were squeezed into those tiny loincloths. (And incidentally, if they all had the same body, why was He-Man the most powerful man in the universe?)

Consider: To power-up, Prince Adam would raise his "power sword" firm, long and proud into the air, shouting "I have the power!" while an orgasmic pyrotechnic display lit up Castle Greyskull. Resident hottie Teela ran around Eternia in a skimpy white bathing suit, and none of the men seemed to give her a second glance. (Incidentally, if you turn off your search filter and google "Teela", you'll be taking your Power Sword in hand and shouting "I have the power!" in no time.) One can only wonder -- did any of Castle Greyskull's nooks and crannies serve as Porky's-esque glory holes? And who was the Porky of Eternia? Orko, perhaps? Dare I wish for a crossover called Porko's?

Porky's, meanwhile, wastes no time in introducing its aesthetic and its philosophy: the film begins with morning wood. (I am disturbed, before this scene, to see that even the footage of the opening 20th Century Fox logo looks old.) But for all its supposedly good-time "Humor" and "Give me pussy or give me death" energy, Porky's today is a sad, ugly, tiresome movie, its humor telegraphed and dull, its nudity strangely uninteresting.

In fact, watching Porky's taught me that we don't actually like the human body. It takes the comically outdated fashions of an old movie (especially an old movie set in an even older time) to help one recognize the extent to which we use fashion to exaggerate, obscure, augment and deform our natural shapes. And I'm not just saying that 'cause of the 40 pounds I've put on this year. Most of the ostensibly titillating nudity in Porky's is simply unsettling because it appears to someone who has undergone the most current cultural programming that the "wrong" angles of the body are accentuated. It's like watching some other culture's idea of sexy, and 26 years later, that's exactly what Porky's is.

Dated porn makes the viewer uncomfortably aware of just how mundane, functional, and absurd our bodies really are. The last time I was this unsettled by the naked body was in my hometown of Oroville back in 1993, when this guy named Tripper popped a battered old porno video into the VCR while I was entering the peak of a particularly nasty and overwhelming acid trip; the sad, saggy men and women in this cinematic masterpiece appeared to have brown and gray sacks of watery flesh hanging limp and heavy from their torsos and thighs. It was a terrible scene, which had an immense impact on my fragile, 15-year-old psyche; I bet I didn't masturbate for a whole three days.

At least my folks had the good sense to be drunk when they did it; what's my excuse for watching this crap?


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