Last Week's Article

Dreaming Of A Genie

Copyright 2005 by Pat Powers

"Genie in a String Bikini" is a Skinamax parody of the 1960s TV series I Dream of Jeannie. Strangely enough, despite being a topnotch Skinamax film that does a LOT of Skinamax things very well, it somehow manages to miss the whole point of the show it was parodying. Not that I think director and writer Fred Olen Ray meant for Genie to be a well-thought-out parody of I Dream of Jeannie, I'm sure his intent was to just have a hot babe running around in a sexy harem girl outfit and having lots of sex. And don't get me wrong, that alone is worth doing, if it's done well, as it is in this case. It's just that there was more fun to be had with the subject matter than was actually had, as is often the case with the Skinamax films.

The story begins when Nicole and her genie lover Akbar (played by hardcore performer Evan Stone) are discovered to be ... in love ... by their genie master, who as punishment separates them by placing her in a bottle and him in a wooden chest.

Centuries later, Air Force Major Tony Wilson (played by Alexandre Boisvert) is blowing up a cave in the Middle East for some reason, and when the rubble clears he finds the bottle and chest. So he takes them with him back to the States, as the natives have a superstitious fear of them. (In a nice touch, Major Wilson's

Back in the states, Genie pops out of the bottle, and she's willing to give Master Tony MORE than three wishes, if you know what I mean. "You can make love to me for hours!" she tells him.

Unfortunately for Genie, the 2004 Skinamax Master Tony is just as stupid as the sixties television Master Tony. Skinamax Master Tony is all worked up over his engagement to Suzanne (played by Kennedy Johnston) and won't fool around with Genie prior to his marriage. What stupid Tony doesn't know is that his fiancee IS fooling around, and with her friend Chelsea (played by Skinamax stalwart Beverly Lynne) no less.

We know this because we see Suzanne and Chelsea fooling around, and in the course of their fooling around a certain chest gets knocked around -- no, no, the chest containing Akbar! And out Akbar pops. Well, Chelsea isn't averse to fooling around with jinni, and neither is Suzanne, so in no time the three of them are having a three-way.

The plot moves along nicely throughout this short-even-for-Skinamax flick (its runtime is 77 minutes). Will Genie reunite with Akbar? Will Tony figure out his wife is fooling around with him? Will Suzanne's father, the evil Dr. Bellows, get Tony locked up in a madhouse so Suzanne can grab his inheritance? How will Tony and Genie's relationship be resolved?

If you're thinking the resolution of all these plot points is terribly important, you aren't really up on your Skinamax films.

The key thing Genie does right is create convincing sex scenes. Genie's cast is unusual in that most of its leads, such as Nicole Sheridan, who plays Genie, are former (or current) hard core porn stars. This has had a strongly beneficial effect on the quality of the sex scenes, in that they weren't that slo-mo stuff you see in so many Skinamax productions. Maybe Tab A wasn't in Slot B, but Sheridan and her co-stars created a believable sense that they might be, which is more than you can say for many Skinamax films. I guess when you know how to act in front of a camera when Tab A actually is in Slot B (or Slot C, or Slot D, or Slots B, C and D all at once) as hardcore porn stars certainly do, you're better at pretending they're there in front of cameras when they aren't there.

Nicole Sheridan does a fine Skinamax turn as Genie, which is to say, her performance isn't going to put Meryl Streep or even Barbara Eden (who played the 60s TV series genie) outta work, but she does an acceptable job of projecting a sense that she's an innocent, friendly genie lost in a world of whacky humans, which is great by the incredibly relaxed standards of Skinamax films. (That is, she speaks her lines when she's supposed to and generally manages to convey a sense that her character is aware of and interested in what's going on around her.)

Now, Genie does get tied up in the course of the story, another big plus. At some point Master Tony is taken away to a funny farm and Genie goes on a search for him, the only way she knows how ... by running down a busy urban street in her harem girl outfit yelling "Master!" "Master!" "Master!" Hardcore performer Dolorian is driving along in a pickup and hears Genie's cries. She offers to help Genie find a master. Not "her" master, just "a" master.

Genie accepts Dolorian's help, hops in the truck, and next thing you see, Nicole is just wearing a G-string and her bikini top, and she's bent over with her wrists enclosed in cuffs attached to a wooden bench while Dolorian alternately whips and fondles her butt. Genie discovers that she likes this, and starts asking for more when her captoress slows down. Shortly thereafter, Genie's naked, sitting on the bench with her wrists now cuffed to either side of and about level with her head while Dolorian does some lesbian smooging on her body, which Genie clearly likes a LOT. Finally, she's "rescued" by Akbar, and there's a nice humorous bit in which Jeannie pretends she's glad to be rescued from all this horrible treatment, and magically transforms herself out of the cuffs and Dolorian into them. Shortly thereafter, Genie and Akbar magically depart, leaving Dolorian still cuffed to the bench.

Instead of ignoring the sexual bondage themes implied by a character who dresses like a harem girl and calls her man "master," Genie actually has the good sense to use it as the basis for a lighthearted, playful little sexual bondage scene. Which puts it way ahead of most Skinamax films, which tend to guiltily ignore sexual bondage themes even when they're very clearly implied by their material.

But Genie remains a Skinamax film, and despite it's willingness to play with the sexual bondage and dominance themes in the scene with Dolorian, it shied away completely from the dominance and submission themes implicit in Genie and Major Wilson's relationship. It did not have fun with the subject matter by confronting it head-on, as did, say, the movie "Secretary." In fact, Genie was far less successful than I Dream of Jeannie at dealing with this aspect of the relationship, I think for cultural reasons.

(To be fair, there is a scene where Genie serves her master in the manner you would expect a Skinamax genie to serve her master -- that is, simulated sex with no hint of bondage or dominance on Tony's part. For this we must applaud the makers of Genie -- at the very least, they had the good sense to have Genie and Tony get it on.)

To understand those cultural reasons for Genie's inability to handle the master/slave elements of Major Wilson and Genie's relationship, let's look at the legal status of man and wife back to the sixties. Marital rape was legal in the United States at that time (the first marital rape law was enacted in Nebraska in 1976, six years after I Dream of Jeannie's last episode aired). That's right, everywhere in the U.S., if a husband wanted sex and his wife didn't, and he took her anyway, it was NOT a crime. That's not to say that women couldn't get out of a relationship where hubby treated her like a nonconsensual sex slave -- divorce was easy to get in a lot of states -- but you couldn't stick hubby in jail for boning his wife against her will because it was considered part of marriage.

Now here's the other thing -- not a hell of a lot of people were outraged about this. I suspect this was largely because there wasn't a lot of marital rape going on -- most marriages were civilized relationships even back then, and the key point was how the spouses felt about each other, something that's not going to be helped if you're fucking somebody at a time when they really, really don't want to be fucked.

There was a different attitude about marital rape back then. It's analogous to the situation in modern Japan, where there is still no such thing as marital rape. I read an interview from the late 1990s in which American woman spoke to two fairly cosmopolitan, enlightened Japanese women about what it was like to be forced to have sex when you really didn't want to, and the response was something along the lines of a shrug and "It's kind of a pain sometimes, but eh, whatcha gonna do?"

I strongly suspect that attitudes about marital rape were about the same in American in the fifties and sixties. It just wasn't a big deal back then because it was just part of the general power imbalance between men and women that was simply accepted as "the way things are" at the time. It was a very different culture.

This is not a digression. I want you, gentle reader, to understand the gulf of the difference of power between the sexes back then, because its only within the context of that understanding that I Dream of Jeannie's much more powerful portrayal of a happily submissive genie will make sense. The fundamental power imbalance between the sexes was simply accepted. A woman could (theoretically) be very happy with a husband who occasionally had sex with her when she didn't want to. Men had more power, and many women accepted it without any qualms. Feminists were women who objected to this state of affairs, and they were not commonplace.

And this real power imbalance was translated into the fictional relationship between Major Nelson and Genie in a way that could only occur within the context of a socially contrived "master/slave" relationship between two lovers, in modern times. That is, in a modern version of I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie could only behave as she does only if in the story it's explained that she and Major Nelson are part of a kinky relationship. Or that they're Southern Baptist. Point is, behavior like that takes some 'splainin' nowadays.

Jeannie, the genie in I Dream of Jeannie, was clearly, obviously, happily, head-over-heels in love with Major Tony Nelson, her master, and also happy to submit her will to his in most things. It was clear that for Jeannie, the difference between a good day and a bad day was whether or not Major Nelson was around. She beamed whenever she looked at him and became just generally more perky at his mere presence. It was very obvious that Jeannie would gladly give Major Nelson anything he wanted in the way of sexual services, no matter how depraved his request might be. She was like a newlywed still in the blush of her first love, and that combination of affection and submission was not considered all that unusual or unnatural by most Americans of the time.

Unfortunately, Major Nelson, single young and virile though he was, never availed himself of Jeannie's sexual services until the last season of the series. How do we know this? We know this because Jeannie and Major Nelson never married until then. And in TV land at that time, if you didn't marry a babe, you didn't bang her. It was that simple.

Because I Dream of Jeannie adhered scrupulously to the conservative sexual standards of the day in that and other respects. The key element, from the point of view of the network standards arbiters (the employees whose job it was to impose a voluntary system of censorship on television fare and thus keep government out of the game) was that the sexual element of Major Nelson and Jeannie's relationship be expressed only in terms of personal fondness for one another. No groping, intense kissing, near-nudity or anything of that nature. So long as none of that happened, a virtual slavegirl/master relationship on TV was A-OK with the censors. Because of their cultural blinders, they literally never saw it.

The feminist movement, then still on the fringe but fast gaining power, was not happy with Jeannie. But they had much more substantive issues to deal with than I Dream of Jeannie like equal pay for equal work, marital rape and the attitudes of police and the courts with regard to just plain old rape. And the sixties feminists had not yet really refined the technique of using popular culture hits like I Dream of Jeannie to publicize their concerns. So the show didn't get all that much attention from them. So most of the disapproval for I Dream of Jeannie came from bluenoses, who were alarmed at the prospect of an enticing female body strutting around in harem gear on the TV screen for all to see.

And yet I Dream of Jeannie, despite its total inability to provide any direct payoff for the sexual element of Major Nelson and Jeannie's relationship, at least had the good sense to focus on that relationship as the keystone of the series. The whole appeal -- the very cheese -- of I Dream of Jeannie was the thought of this powerful, gorgeous babe being totally enamored of witless Major Nelson, willing to do ALL for him.

Not only was there the sexual tension between Nelson and Jeannie, but the sex roles in their relationship was reversed from what was considered the norm at the time: Jeannie was the hard-charging lusty babe, crying "Do me!" "Do me!" and all but bending over and pulling her labia apart for Major Nelson (in a metaphorical sense, of course), while Nelson was the shy one who just wasn't sure if he was ready yet. (Strangely enough, this is a not-totally-inaccurate picture of some dom-sub relationships. There are plenty of stories of submissive women coaxing the men in their lives to play the sexual dominant in bed, or picking out their dom lover from across a crowded room). Would Nelson finally yield to Genie's submissive but unrelenting pursuit of him?

Barbara Eden, who played Jeannie, and Larry Hagman, who played Major Nelson, did a great job of establishing a strong chemistry and sexual tension between their respective characters, but they were working within the limits of network television in the sixties, and so although there was much chemistry, it never got to "boil over" as it were.

ALSO FROM PAT POWERS
What a wonderful thing it might have been if Genie had explored what it would be like to be a modern, rational man confronted with a supernatural woman with magic powers who loves him and loves to do whatever he wishes, and to use her powers to make whatever he wishes come about? And who is his love slave by definition, magically created for that very purpose.

In fact, I had always assumed that I Dream of Jeannie's Jeannie's love for and submission to Tony was magical in nature -- that is, that she was a magical creature and her feelings for the person who possessed her bottle were strictly a product of her magical nature. She could not NOT love him, and her feelings were not an act or obedience to custom or jinn law but were expressions of feelings that she genuinely felt to the core of her being -- because that was literally how she was designed to feel.

Ignoring this aspect of the relationship is exactly where Genie goes wrong. The mistake writer and director Fred Olen Ray made here was frankly a result of his modernism. He made Genie's lover Akbar, not Tony. A relationship between equals -- two genii -- you see. Tony may indeed be Genie's master and she may indeed be willing to serve her "for hours on end" but she's not in love with him, so the whole relationship makes very little sense. Fortunately, it's not even an important part of the film. It's a relationship that just kind of dawdles along.

Furthermore, at the end of the film, Akbar calmly bows out of his relationship with Genie so she can be Major Wilson's alone. Even for Skinamax, it was a clumsy and contrived way of dealing with the issue of whose lover Genie would be, and that's saying something.

Going directly to the essence of the story -- Genie and Major Wilson's relationship and the way her magical nature and powers affect it and their place in the world would probably have produced a better ending, and a better everything-before-that, too.

But I'm undoubtedly investing way too much credit into this move. I'd be better to remember the famous last words of another movie:

"Forget about it, Pat. It's Skinamaxtown."

Except that I and Fred Olen Ray are not the only ones who haven't forgotten about I Dream of Jeannie. In 2004 there was a hardcore takeoff of I Dream of Jeannie called "I Dream of Jenna" starring the redoubtable Jenna Jameson. It was successful enough that there is a sequel planned, "I Dream of Jenna II."

And there's an actual, for real, mainstream movie in preproduction which will be a remake of I Dream of Jeannie. It's being directed by Gurinder Chadha, who directed Bend It Like Beckham, with Kate Hudson already signed on for the role of Jeannie for a reported $80 million. So we know they're serious. Unfortunately, Chadha says her version will take a feminist approach to I Dream of Jeannie. I liked Bend It Like Beckham but I wonder if now is the time to be pointing out the sexism inherent in 1960s TV shows. I'd say a post-feminist approach is one more likely to yield a culturally relevant film.

But all these sequels and parodies and takeoffs on I Dream of Jeannie coming out in the last couple of years ... must be something in the air.

Let's close with the first verse of theme song from I Dream of Jeannie. Check out line 2 for what some might call a "dead giveaway."

Jeannie, fresh as a daisy!

Just love how she obeys me,

Does things that just amaze me so.

The End