Karina Longworth: You Must Remember This Podcast Probes Erotic 90s

In his second series on erotic cinema, the podcaster tells IndieWire how he delved deep into the sexual culture behind films like “Pretty Woman,” “Basic Instinct” and more.

Karina Longworth, born in Los Angeles, has been writing about Hollywood for a long time, either as a co-founder of the film blog Cinematical, as a contributor to Spout, as a critic and film editor of the LA Weekly, and as a writer (books about Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, George Lucas and Howard Hughes). , or the popular nine-year-old creator “You must remember this” podcast. Over the years, Longworth’s memorable series have included the profound exploration of Charles Manson; Joan Crawford; Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg; Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.; gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons; and Polly Platt and Peter Bogdanovich (which is being made into a TV series).

Patreon podcast fans may seem like they have to wait long stretches between seasons. But Longworth and an assistant put months of research and writing into podcast series like “Erotic 80s” (ten episodes) and the just-released “Erotic 90s” (Part 1: 14 episodes; Part 2 debuts in the fall) that delve into the depths of dive, which are no longer thought of in longform journalism these days. Each episode is 7000-9000 words. Longworth began writing “Erotic 90s” as soon as “Erotic 80s” finished last summer. It has completed 11 episodes so far. He works full time, except for two weeks off at Christmas. (Luckily, her husband, director Rian Johnson, is also very busy.)

And this season brings a bonus for Angelenos: Longworth is partnering with the American Cinematheque to program a number of films, some of which are quite rare, and is featured in The Erotic 90s.

When Longworth delves into 1990s films like Julia Roberts’ career-launching Pretty Woman, she doesn’t just deal with the film’s erotic content; describes how the film was written at the time. This can be an eye opener. The “Pretty Woman” episode isn’t just about Roberts, the film’s sexual politics and how people feel about the film. It’s also about the way people write from “Pretty Woman” and the many disturbing ways women and men alike have belittled the 22-year-old rising star.

Karina Longworth

Courtesy of Customs House

“I’ve always been more interested in storytelling than history,” Longworth told IndieWire in a recent Zoom interview. “I’ve always been interested in the way things are written about. It was interesting for me to try to dissect this first year or two of his stardom because I remembered the Kiefer Sutherland wedding bombing, but I didn’t quite understand how widely it was covered, not just by the Hollywood press. , but the AP camped in front of his house. They coined him a superstar while saying, “Don’t be too big for your girls.”

She added: “Throughout the history of Hollywood, especially when it comes to women, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of ​​saying, ‘You’re fantastic, you’re a superstar. We love you.’ And also “you are not good enough and you will never be good enough.”

Despite her young age, Roberts stood up for herself and countered director Garry Marshall’s suggestion that she was too needy during the production, reminding her audience that she had to endure filming an attempted rape. “One of the reasons the media was maybe more hostile to him,” Longworth said, “is because they felt he was ungrateful.” Even before Pretty Woman’s press cycle was over, she hit back at her and the idea that she was the woman of the moment. And of course it shows in the reviews of the next few films (including his next hit, the thriller ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’) where he didn’t have a chance to impress people.”

While “Pretty Woman,” the story of a successful businessman (Richard Gere) who hires a sex worker (Julia Roberts) to accompany him on a weeklong business trip to Los Angeles during which they fall in love, might seem politically incorrect today, Longworth is a satisfying wreck protected as -com with positive values. “It’s a movie I’ve always loved,” he said. “I knew that when I’m writing about it now for the podcast, I really have to question why I liked it and why it never offended me. So I tried to describe how the film treats him. I think it humanizes him. This conveys the idea that even if you don’t agree with what he does for a living, he’s still a human being. And that seems almost radical in this period.”

As Longworth wrote about ’90s movies, she tried to see what the men were doing. “There are so many conversations then and now about what these movies reflect about women and what they say, whether they portray women in a good or bad light or not, and what they communicate about women. And there’s so little conversation about what’s being communicated about men and masculinity,” he said. “Writing Pretty Woman, I became interested in Richard Gere’s character and this idea that (he’s the only one) who really has to change his personality, his life, and the way he interacts with people. And they can only have a relationship if he treats her like a human being. The male character has to change and he has to.”

The classification system is key to how erotic films of the ’90s are presented to the public. In the first part, Longworth shows how the new NC-17 rating given to Phil Kaufman’s period art film “Henry & June” was intended to replace and improve upon the malign X rating (which had become associated with pornography). arrival.

One reason there wasn’t much progress in exploring erotic content between the ’80s and ’90s is that “if you’re trying to figure out how to make and release movies for adult audiences,” he said. Longworth –, “that question never arises. answered during the 90s. Experiments with NC-17 are non-commercial.

BASIC INSTICT, from left, Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas, 1992. ©TriStar/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Basic Instinct”

©TriStar Pictures/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

The end result was that the studios pulled everything back to get an R rating. NC-17 would bring newspapers that wouldn’t advertise, theaters that wouldn’t book, and video stores that wouldn’t carry the movie. Why did the MPAA give ‘Henry & June’ an NC-17 rating? Some lesbian sex and erotic art.

“They were crazy then, and they’re even more crazy now,” Longworth said. “The commercial potential (of the NC-17 rating) never really took off. After ‘Henry & June,’ studios certainly went back to where they were in the mid-’80s, where they didn’t believe in the commercial potential of releasing an NC-17 film. So they cut his movies to get an R rating. And that goes all the way back to “Showgirls,” which put the final nail in the coffin of NC-17’s commercial prospects. Of course it’s still there, it’s still the right choice for certain films and certain distributors, but I don’t feel like it’s ever really had a commercial life.”

Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven pushed the envelope in the ’90s with the blockbuster “Basic Instinct,” which received an R rating after judicious editing, as well as the bombshell “Jade” and “Showgirls,” which the They are marked with NC-17. Longworth traces “the push and pull between Verhoeven and (screenwriter Joe) Eszterhas,” he said, and Sharon Stone’s burgeoning stardom through “Basic Instinct” and “Sliver,” which were “received almost like a sequel. to “Basic Instinct”, but this is a completely different film.

“Verhoeven’s career is interesting because he had this period in the ’90s where he was making these movies in America,” Longworth said. “They deal a lot with American culture.” But eventually Verhoeven would return to Europe to make sophisticated films like “The Black Book,” “Beguiled” and “Elle.”

When figuring out which films to include in Erotic 80s, Longworth made lists of the films he wanted to cover, which came down to two per year. However, in the 90s, he wanted to do so much that he finished with 21 episodes. “It takes 14 episodes to get halfway through the decade,” he said, “because that’s what happens between Henry & June and ‘Showgirls.’



United Artists

Longworth doesn’t limit himself to things that are widely known. The third episode focuses on Theresa Russell and two unknown films she’s been in, Ken Russell’s “Whore,” which is hard to see, and Sondra Locke’s LA neo-noir, “Impulse,” which is available to stream. “I was blown away as this sex symbol that almost happened but never reached the level of Julia Roberts or Demi Moore,” Longworth said. “I could have done an episode of her on ‘Erotic 80s,’ but I decided to do one on ‘Erotic 90s,’ because she did those two movies side by side. “Whore” allows me to talk about Ken Russell and how the movie was promoted as a crass answer to “Pretty Woman.” And “Impulse” allows me to talk about Sondra Locke and her entire filmmaking history, as well as Clint Eastwood.

An episode of Candice Bergen’s “Murphy Brown” and Bergen’s husband Louis Malle’s “Damage” is still coming. “The Red Shoe Diaries” and “Late Night Sex TV in the ’90s,” Longworth said, “are Madonna’s sex book and her erotica album and the different ways she forced sexuality into this mainstream discourse,” Longworth said. Demi Moore and ‘Indecent Proposal’, ‘Thelma and Louise’, ‘Disclosure’ and ‘The Last Seduction’ and ‘The Fears of the Brunette Businesswoman and the Female Boss’.

Clearly, Longworth takes satisfaction in these deep dives into “the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.” While he spent time as a film critic, “I don’t know if being a contemporary film critic was right for me,” he said, “because I’m much more interested in the past.”

“You Must Remember This” was produced by Cadence13 Studios, an Audacy studio.

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