It's a movie, folks. It's a documentary
. And for some of us, documentaries are pretty durn sexy. So be it.
Once upon a time, the dancers at the Lusty Lady Theater in San Francisco decided it was time to unionize. If you know anyone who's worked in a strip joint, they'll tell you it's not fun work, and dignity and respect are not currencies in common circulation there. One of the dancers, Julia Query, took the opportunity to create a film about the process of unionizing, and also documented her relationship with her mother, a doctor and feminist involved with outreach to prostitutes in New York.
There are some seriously funny bits in this movie. As the narrator (a stand-up comic) observes, she's never worked with so many college-educated women before - mostly women's studies and philosophy majors. While this may or may not be an exaggeration, the women in the movie are smart and pragmatic, and - you're not allowed to miss this point - authentically feminist, as much so or more than the old guard feminists who feel they are counterrevolutionary and exploited.
The unionization is a success and inspires dancers across the country to try to follow their example. This is the most interesting part for me - seeing the vastly different attitudes and styles of dancers from Philadelphia and Alaska after watching the San Fran girls for most of the movie. I wanted to know more about the Alaskans' situation and see less Jewish-commedienne schtick. But the film was also a personal document.
As such, Julia's relationship with her mother was a major plot point of the film, even directly stated as such at certain points. This led me to feel somewhat uncomfortable with these segments of the film, as i felt it exploited her mother by putting her in situations that were not entirely consensual. I can't imagine being the friend who filmed her "coming out" as a stripper to her mother and the ensuing argument.. the "eye" of the camera is acknowledged (by Julia, not her mother) even during this emotional scene, it's unblinking, you wonder what the heck the cameraperson is thinking. I can only assume that there has been plenty of off-camera patching up since then. Perhaps turning one's mother into a symbol of old guard feminist viewpoints on stripping comes easily to a woman who uses jewish mother jokes and stereotypes in her comedy routine. I can't say.
Overall, the movie is worth watching, as a snapshot of an interesting point in labor and feminist history, and for the good laughs and interesting people in it. It makes me more curious about what goes on in my own town, where the strip clubs are plentiful, the bookstore workers are unionized, and lil' ol' me is still unemployed...