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In the ’90s we were totally okay with statutory rape (we weren’t really okay with it): “The Crush”

September 2, 2013

crush

So, we’re back on the misogyny of the 1990s—well that was quick—but it’s hard to escape, what with the decade being so rife with it and all. 1993’s The Crush was no doubt sold to studio execs as “Fatal Attraction with a teenaged girl.” And they no doubt lapped it up like a…thing…that laps stuff (sorry, wrote myself into a corner, there). The final product, however, viewed some 20 years on is basically the story of a potential statutory rapist struggling with his urges. Well, the first half anyway. After that, it does actually become Fatal Attraction with a minor. But by that time I already felt like showering with acetone. Because if we were anything in ‘90s, we were terrified of women, no matter their age.

So, The Crush begins with young reporter Nick (Carey Elwes) moving to a new town—dunno where, looks like maybe the Pacific Northwest—to work at a national newsmagazine that, for some reason, isn’t headquartered in New York City. He moves into the guest house of a well-to-do suburban family, and immediately catches the attention of the family’s 14 year-old daughter, Darian (Adrian in later versions, due to a lawsuit) played by soon-to-be Biggest Actress in the World Alicia Silverstone—then only about 15. Pay attention to this, because it’s gonna make things very skeezy very soon.

Chewing gum aggressively was waaay sexy in the '90s.

Chewing gum aggressively was waaay sexy in the ’90s.

See, Darian takes an immediate interest in Nick, and Nick…well…Nick doesn’t do much to deflect this attention. From early on Darian is established as fairly mature for her age—she rewrites one of his articles in much better prose than his, plays the piano like a prodigy, and generally banters with all the wit and erudition of a 40 year-old. Because teenagers like that exist.

Still, this doesn’t excuse Nick’s terrible, terrible decisions regarding her. No, he doesn’t do anything overtly sexual, but he does let her hang around his place, has long, intense conversations with her, and even takes her on a nighttime drive to the local make-out point, where she kisses him, and, um, well, he doesn’t pull away all that quickly. It’s like the guy doesn’t have that little voice in his head any normal man would that says, “You know, maybe it’s not exactly proper to let her hang out in my living room while I shower and get dressed.”

Nope. Nothing at all wrong with this...

Nope. Nothing at all wrong with this…

By the time he pervs out and surreptitiously spies on her sunbathing—the camera lingering over her nubile, bikini-clad body—I was pretty sure I’d join everyone involved in the production of this film on some list the FBI no doubt has.

Well, from there things go all wrong (really? This situation? Amazing.) Darian’s titular crush becomes more intense, and Nick starts dating his work-wife (perennial ‘90s B-movie cutie Jennifer Rubin). While this helps establish the fact that, yes, Nick can relate to women his age (though it’s an even bet their role-playing involves a Girl Scout uniform being worn by one of them).

This drives Darian absolutely bitchcakes and pretty soon she’s sabotaging Rick’s career, defacing his car, and maiming his new girlfriend (“Not the bees! Not the bees!”) Before finally framing Nick for raping her. I’m not 100% on how this is supposed to win Nick’s affections, but then again, I’m not a genius-level homicidal 14 year-old girl (it’s true).

Yep, all still totally okay...

Yep, all still totally okay…

Eventually, Nick manages to clear his name by exposing the truth to world: he’s not a rapist, just the victim of your garden-variety crazy bitch.  The fact that Nick led her on, actually said to her, “If you were ten years older…” (thank Christ he never completed that thought), and peeped on her dressing while he was hiding in her closet is totally okay, because, hey, she may be a crazy bitch, but she’s hot, so what’s the big deal? And, to Nick’s credit, he doesn’t actually slap the ham right then while he’s watching his underage neighbor undress, so it’s not like he did a bad thing, right?

Holy fuck, the ‘90s were really, really weird.

If the 1990s belonged to Lara Flynn Boyle, she had to share it with Alicia Silverstone—only Silverstone flew higher and disappeared more thoroughly than Boyle. She started the decade as an ingénue and soon became the Hollywood A-lister before Batman and Robin pretty much slaughtered her career like a fat, slow turkey in mid-November. But she began as a tasty bit of jailbait in this and a couple Aerosmith videos, all of which seemed to acknowledge for the first time that underage chicks were hot. Before the Internet we weren’t entirely sure about this fact.

As a ‘90s man, Elwes fares even worse. He’s perpetually outflanked and outfoxed by a teenager. Hell, just the fact that he relates to her as an adult says something about his maturity. He’s a first-rate wimp, unable to control himself or make a decent decision about anything. He also speaks in a weird, affected cadence, like he decided that being a reporter means you have to speak like you’re in a ‘40s movie.

“Damn, I’m smooth…”

The Crush was allegedly based upon an actual incident that happened to writer/director Alan Shapiro. I don’t know if this is true or not, but what is pretty much unambiguous is that Shapiro is a creepy, creepy dude. He sexualizes Darian endlessly–shooting her like she’s in the first couple minutes of a soft-core  porno film (just before Jan-Michael Vincent shows up)–and generally making it clear that she is wanton little trollop, and Nick is damn near heroic for not, you know, seducing a minor.

As for other ‘90s signposts, mostly we have fashion and technology:

Signpost #1: Nick rocks the ‘90s fashion—Whether he’s showing up to work in a suitcoat and faded jeans or just sporting pleats large enough to capture wind power, Nick is every bit the ‘90s fashion plate. Bonus points for the hideous tortoiseshell glasses.

Signpost #2: So does Jennifer Rubin—Man, the ‘90s fashion just hated female sexuality. She’s all about mom-jeans, ugly hats, and shapeless dresses. At least she escaped without any plaid…

Signpost #3: Nick’s priceless computer—It’s the finest model Wang ever made.

Signpost #4: Underage sex is okay if it’s not forced—The phrases “statutory rape,” or “underage sex” is never once mentioned. Nick’s flirtations with Darian are seen as a bad idea because they lead her on, not because they hint at a fucking felony! If this movie were made today it’d be cloaked in controversy.

Signpost #5: Amber BensonYay! Only five more years until Buffy!

So, yeah, safe to say the ‘90s were not a real good time to discuss underage sex or sexuality. Thankfully, today in our post-To Catch a Predator world, we know better. Right? Oh…oh shit…

Next up, we check out the spectacularly bad idea that was Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.

2 comments

  1. Funny review. Glad I found your site. You must have a masochistic streak in you to sit through all this crap! Though, it’s fun to read your funny take on this garbage. Keep up the good work!


    • Thanks for the compliment. I hope you enjoy the rest of my reviews. And, yes, I do have have a masochistic streak…



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