Essay: For the love of ''Porky's''...
On the 25th anniversary of ''Porky's,'' EW's Chris Nashawaty recalls his own age of innocence — and the explosion of teen sex comedies that helped him survive it. Forget school. All you really needed was a private tutor
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
”What do you use for a jockstrap, kid? A peanut shell and a rubber band?” —Porky’s
By the early spring of 1982, executives at 20th Century Fox suspected that they had a bomb on their hands. The smart ones, or at least the ones who looked forward to a bright future at the studio, had already begun to distance themselves from their little $4 million comedy about a group of horny, Eisenhower-era high school buddies gunning to get laid.
The studio reluctantly agreed to open the film in Columbia, S.C., and Colorado Springs — the kind of out-of-the-way markets where, if the film tanked, no one would be the wiser. There was nothing about the first few screenings to make Fox any more bullish. Audiences were thin at best. Then something happened. By the time the weekend was over, the movie was playing to packed houses. Packed houses laughing their asses off. Fox ultimately decided to give the film a wide release. And by the end of the year, it had racked up $107 million, making it the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 1982, behind E.T., Rocky III, and An Officer and a Gentleman. Porky’s was an orphan no more. In fact, it would soon have a lot of brothers and sisters.
It might be hard for teenagers today to wrap their heads around, but there was a time — not so long ago, really — when you had to jump through a lot of logistical hoops just to see a pair of naked breasts. Before you could anonymously rent Showgirls through Netflix, or purchase a Girls Gone Wild DVD via a 1-800 number, or just turn on your computer and open up the floodgates to a smorgasbord of smut, young guys had to have the cunning of a cat burglar to see boobies.
For example, you might start by buying a ticket to see a PG movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark, wait until the acne-plagued usher stepped outside for a smoke, and then sneak into the next theater in the hope of seeing Phoebe Cates topless. Plan B might involve going over to your buddy’s house — the one who was lucky enough to live on a street that had cable — and pretend to do homework until his parents went out. Then, and only then, were you finally free to turn on Cinemax and taste the forbidden fruit of Hot Dog: The Movie.
Porky’s was the first big teen sex comedy of the Reagan era — a seemingly innocent time, when former actors could ride into the White House and declare that it was ”Morning in America.” And there’s no overestimating just how long a shadow the film cast in this innocent new age of Family Ties values. In 1982 — year zero in the T&A sex-romp belle époque — hordes of horny onscreen teens set out on ridiculous Arthurian quests to lose their virginity or risk being doomed to nerd status forever. As time went on, these films would eventually become cruder, their high jinks more Benny Hill-ish, and their plots more outlandish. But in 1982, we were all still too busy peeping through the collective hole in the girls’ locker room to see that far ahead.
NEXT PAGE: Fast Times at Ridgemont High — the Citizen Kane of teen sex comedies
Fast Times at Ridgemont High