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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Piranha 3DD (review)

Piranha 3DD red light

Boob Job

In the grand scheme of things, if horny boys of all ages wanna watch unnaturally balloonlike fake mammary glands bouncing around onscreen, who am I to argue with hormones? It’s sad for the lonely boys who get off on this, and it’s sad for the girls with no self-esteem who give in to this, but it’s their choice. But there’s no reason at all that the boobfest has to come with such vicious — and positively unsexy — antiwoman overtones.
Oh, I know, we’re not supposed to bother the beautiful minds of fanboys by pointing out the misogynist subtexts of their gorefests. It’s just a movie, boys will be boys, etc and so on. Well, tough shit: someone has to tell them.

Okay, here’s the setup: Swarm of ancient ravenous carnivorous fish invade a water park, wreaking bloody havoc on swimmers and splashers. Given the location, it’s perfectly understandable that those being terrorized are in various states of dishabille. Rather less plausible than even ancient ravenous carnivorous fish, however: almost everyone in the pool appears to be a young white woman between the ages of 18 and 22, blond and Barbie-esque in proportions and appearance, right down to the plastic-smooth lack of body hair. We are made intimately aware of this because director John Gulager makes no boners about it, avoiding the faces of the anonymous young women in favor of lingering on their pert nipples and shaven pubes. Didn’t I mention? There’s an underwater “Cootch Cam” near a ladder that catches those exiting the pool. Oddly, not one single penis gets captured on either the Cootch Cam or Gulager’s as it roves around the “Big Wet” waterpark. Where are all the men the naked Barbies are supposedly there to draw to “the hottest hole in town”?


Anyway, during the piranha attack — which occurs cheesily late in the film and somehow simultaneously feels both endless and way too short to justify the building of a movie around it — numerous blood-covered fleshy bowling balls bounce into the camera, put in motion by nameless, faceless women screaming and running in terror. These women aren’t characters — the film is far less kind to these victims of horrible violence than it is to David Hasselhoff (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Knight Rider), playing himself as a celebrity lifeguard, and he’s the butt of much of Piranha 3DD’s attempts at humor… yet he’s still treated more like a person than the boob-carriers are. These women are somehow meant to be “sexy,” not in spite of but because they are in fear for their lives.

Do boys and men really get off on women as dehumanized vehicles for body parts and girlish panic?

The film presumes they do, because this is far from the only sexualized violence Piranha 3DD indulges in. Chomping piranhas end up in female crotches more than once. Women are raped by piranhas. The only man who suffers any sexualized violence is the one who dares to defy the movie’s unspoken but far from unobvious premise: “I’ve never really been into girls with big boobs,” he says, thereby later condemning himself to a piranha-delivered future without sex as most men know it.

You know what isn’t sexualized here? Sex. Piranha 3DD features two scenes in which a young man and a young woman are engaging in actual sexual relations… and in both of them, the women are more covered up than women tend to be at such moments. Now, this flick cannot claim modesty, not with all the boobage and all the erect nipples onscreen. Nope: it’s hard to ignore the implication that the makers of this film and the audience it presumes wants to see it believes that women’s breasts are for the viewing pleasure of other people, and nothing else. Certainly not for the sexual pleasure of the woman to whom the breasts actually belong.

I’d love to think that’s a jab at the audience, the suggestion that they wouldn’t know what to do with an actual woman’s actual breast were they to get within touching distance of one, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s just one more cruel, inhuman aspect of this disgusting movie.

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Piranha 3DD (2012)
US/Can release: Jun 1 2012 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: May 11 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated B (contains an abundance of boobs, plus some naked female breasts)
MPAA: rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use
BBFC: rated 18 (contains strong gory horror and sexualised nudity)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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