A special holiday Screenshot Saturday featuring the one-two punch of Todd Haynes’ Dottie Gets Spanked and Mary Hestand’s He Was Once (produced by Haynes). Made between Safe and Poison, Dottie Gets Spanked is a strange, affectionate rumination on childhood sexuality, fantasy and repression, featuring a possible stand-in for Haynes as a young boy. The boy, Steven, is fixated on two things: spanking and a TV comedienne named Dottie. His obsessions come full-circle as he visit the set of The Dottie Show and witnesses Dottie being spanked theatrically during a comedy routine. The film is short, made for TV, but packs an emotional wallop, with stilted, dark dream sequences of Steven’s guilty pleasure.
He Was Once, a much shorter companion piece on the DVD of Dottie Gets Spanked, is also highlighted by exceptional, dark dream spots, and although both films act as parody, neither is intended to be particularly funny. Produced by Haynes and directed by Mary Hestand, He Was Once is based on the moralizing claymation show Davie and Goliath, with a dalmatian-print ottoman standing in for the talking dog here. The short deals primarily with punishment and (dis)obedience, as Davie sees a bear and then is excessively spanked by his father (who’s played by a boy much, much younger than Davie) for telling the story. Davie’s sister, meanwhile, dreams she is attacked by a bear who rips her ear off.
Both films could have easily been mediocre parody-comedies, but work brilliantly as serious, distressing dramas. Although Davie and Goliath has been parodied countless times, He Was Once holds its own beautifully twenty years on. Simplistic parody it is not. Dottie Gets Spanked is its own entire world, a glimpse both into our reality and a reality we may have suppressed or merely forgotten.
The DVD with both short films is available from Netflix.
By Britta R. Moline 5/29/11
For another rumination on the DVD:
Thoughts on Stuff: Dottie Gets Spanked