Saturday, June 22, 2024

Holiday in the Sun – A Nerdy Feminist Viewing

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You know, friends, the mind of a teenaged girl is perhaps not the most feminist thing in the world. How can it be? The brain of all adolescents is primarily concerned with two things: sex and asserting the maturity that they do not, in fact, have. So all teenagers act like idiots, but there’s something especially idiotic about combining this natural phenomenon with the joy of sexist tropes, and the wonderfulness of faux-empowerment.

And then, for those who seek both agony and ecstasy, there is what happens when you take the addled, faux-empowered mind of a teenaged girl, and then give it money to make a movie. Not a lot of money, mind you, but enough. Like, $50.

And so Holiday in the Sun was born, the 2001 Olsen Twin production forgotten by everyone but fellow Fandomentals editor Kylie. Who made me watch it. Because she hates me.

We open in the wilds of… Chicago, in a public school science classroom full of normal looking kids, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who had at least five people working on this movie whose only job was their implausible hair, make-up, and wardrobe. They’re looking forward to going on one of those class trips to Hawai’i that every public school has, but then they get taken to their dad’s private jet.

Yup. I guess Dad is just one of those filthy rich guys who’s committed to public education? And to giving his daughters half a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts that I totally believe they actually ate. Because a superpower that all teenaged girls expect to have, although none do, is to be filthy rich, but without any of the implications, and to eat doughnuts by the dozen and still be able to please Karl Lagerfeld. It worked great for Mary-Kate.

In any case, they’re not going on the class trip to Hawai’i, they’re going to a Specific, Named Resort in the Bahamas. Because the twins’ search for autonomy is a super important theme. Even though there are apparently no lifeguards there.

So they arrive at Specific, Named Resort and we are treated to the first of MANY resort porn sequences. Then we meet the other randomly wealthy family. There’s Chad and Jill, Twin Mom and Dad’s “friends,” and their kids, Dogged Nice Guy, whose thing for Mary-Kate is rather sadly obvious, and Bratty Little Girl Who Eventually Becomes My Fave. Chad and Twin Dad work together, or something.

Twin Parents let the girls have their own suite because their autonomy is an important theme. They go to the front desk to ask a question, but Megan Fox butts in front of them. Yes, that Megan Fox. Her first role was in a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie. I don’t know why this isn’t brought up more often.

Anyway, she’s also a rich, entitled white girl, but she a “bad” one.

And then we get the first example of one of my favourite little details about this movie: the hotel staff. They are all, with one exception, black, like about 85% of Bahamians, but also, from the way they speak, all American. I’m not sure why I find this as hilarious and sad as I do.

So then the beach calls MK&A’s names and they sit and… talk about boys. And their quest for autonomy. But mostly boys. It’s very empowering. And then they rent some skidoos on a whim. Because they’re filthy rich.

We take some time out to establish Love Triangle #1 (yes, there are two…) Dogged Nice Guy (DNG) is literally creeping on MK in slowmo, while his Bratty Girl little sister makes quibbs.

But the twins are creeping on this blond guy with a puka shell necklace who will eventually be known as Dumb Jock. He gives them a flyer to party.

There is then a dinner scene that proves one thing: the director saw Battlefield Earth the weekend before they started shooting and discovered dutch angles for the first time. Honestly, the director is the best part of this movie.

So they go to this party and immediately scope out a man who is, in my opinion, not that hot. Though we will be told again and again that he is a heart throb. Then we are treated to an entire music video about DNG’s unrequited stalking of Mary-Kate. There are several music videos throughout this movie. One has dolphins.

Not-A-Heart-Throb comes to hit on Ashley. He explains how he works in the hotel. He cleans all the fish tanks. Okay… I’m just gonna get this out there now. This an adult. Like, he takes care of all the animals in the aquariums.

Typically, to be a zookeeper, you need, at minimum, an Associates Degree in Zoology or another life science, though a Bachelor’s Degree is far more common. So it’s very unlikely that this man is less than in his early twenties. Ashley is fifteen. She says so. And not once does the movie imply that this may be an issue. Not to mention that he’s an employee of this hotel, hitting on a guest.

And Megan Fox is there and she has minions. She spots Fish Tank Boy and decides that her plot will be all about how she’s a sexual predator.

Oh, and there will also be a catfight plot.

And then the autonomy theme again! The twins missed curfew! It’s very dramatic! I should mention, the parents have their own subplot where they’re all traumatized by their children and their seeking of autonomy. Or possibly about how they’re trying to get away from the children to have bisexual foursomes, but they feel slightly guilty? Like, the scenes are brilliantly structured to make either equally possible.

So the next day, Ashley decides to walk up to Fish Tank Boy while he’s trying to work. He introduces her to his friend Champlain. Remember him, he’s super important.

The Problematic Pair go on an impromptu date where Ashley proves she kind of dumb and Fish Tank Boy proves his true calling is narrating nature documentaries, because, like, people don’t talk like this, dude. But then Megan Fox the Sexual Predator uses her incredible privilege to make him her personal pool boy and slather her with sunblock. Because, hotels are such shitholes that they would allow their employees to be treated this way? But then Ashley saves him by making a fake call about a kid’s puke that needed to be cleaned up.

Yes, that all actually happened in the movie.

Mary-Kate is on her own date, sorry, “day date”. But apparently it didn’t go well, despite the fact that we were shown it going quite well, because MK REALLY needs to talk to DNG about it. Anyway, poor guy is in the Friend Zone (Oh, no!), but he’s really Nice™ so he’ll help her out with Dumb Jock.

So DNG talks to Dumb Jock and soon discovers that his problem is that: he’s really dumb. But he’s willing to put to effort in to give this great romance with MK a shot. They sit on the beach and he tries to charm her with his fake knowledge of Judy Bloom.

Then Ashley job shadows Fish Tank Boy again? This time he’s chopping up fish. These girls both know so much about romance. But at least we get a three minute music video out of it where we can watch them scuba dive in fake ruins.

Then the twins meet their parents for lunch (that was quite a full morning….) and Mom decides they’re gonna go shopping!


Twin Mom asks the girls how their sex lives are going and Ashley waxes lyrical about the adult she’s been dating, but MK thinks she and Dumb Jock should go to couples therapy to work on this communication problem they seem to be having.

And, also, let’s discuss the meaning of proverbs. I’m not entirely sure this movie had a script at all. They may just literally have followed the Olsen Twins around on vacation and made Specific, Named Resort pay for it. God knows they get enough resort porn out of it.

But oh no! There is trouble in paradise! Fish Tank Boy and the super important Champlain are up to something. Intrigue.

Dumb Jock takes MK on a date that involves sitting on a bench and reading giant cue cards that DNG is holding. “Hilarity” ensues. Although you have to wonder about his long-term plan. Will DNG still be around the corner with cue cards after their second child is born?

MK is super concerned about her day-old relationship and its communication issues. So, Ashley suggests they do their hair and make-up and then jump into a pool with Fish Tank Boy. DNG can come too.

But Megan Fox objects to their wholesome horseplay and chicken fighting, so she calls security! And seriously, Ms. Fox has really grown as an actor since 2001. It’s beautiful to see.

So Security comes for them and then everyone starts acting as though they were just caught sacrificing puppies to Satan. But don’t worry, Megan Fox “won’t press charges” for… making noise at a resort after dark. Okay, have these people ever been on vacation?

Oh, no! The parents are here! And they are sooooo disappointed. They grant the twins all this autonomy and they abuse it by… making a moderate amount of noise and never leaving the hotel they’re staying at.

The next morning, the twins and DNG are confused because, like, the parents decided to double-down on the autonomy, or something. Apparently, they’ve “ditched” them. I’m just as confused as they are.

There is more intrigue as Champlain gives them a discount on skidoos! Ashley is suspicious, but Fish Tank Boy has a VERY convincing explanation:

Then the director does me a solid by padding out this thing with two music videos in a row so I can finish this sooner. (There are dolphins.)

Then it’s an OFF THE HOOK party with white people dancing and kiwi smoothies where we are treated to: 1. a philosophical discussion about what the word “ignoring” means 2. Megan Fox’s pain as their love triangle is resolved, I think. (She disappears from the movie, in any case), 3. DNG’s pain as that love triangle is not yet resolved, and 4. a third music video where Fish Tank Boy sings Ashley a song while we see black and white footage of… all the shit they did in the last 50 minutes of this movie. Oh, and he’s still a grown man creeping on a teenager. But it’s okay, I guess. No one involved in the production thought it was a problem to have a scene where they stand in front of a fountain and make out so… it must be fine.

So, some comments on this first love triangle, if you will indulge me. And we’ll ignore the the whole statutory thing, since the movie does. Megan decides that Fish Tank Boy is her property and tells Ashley so. And then Ashley declares that “it’s on”. So then she proceeds to do, nothing. Like, she pursues Fish Tank Boy, but he is 100% receptive 100% of the time, so why shouldn’t she? Unlike Megan, who literally sexually harasses him and tries to undermine Ashley. But Ashley just ignores her and she “wins” this love triangle because she happens to be the one that Fish Tank Boy happens to be into.

Which is good. Feminist even. That is what relationship should be based on: people being into each other. And then you have superfluous Megan Fox, just being ignored by both of them because she has nothing to do with it. So why is this framed as a catfight? Why is Megan even there? Why do we have to have this conflict between two girls? She’s just there so we can hate her. That’s not particularly feminist.

So now it’s time to resolve the other love triangle! YAY!

Dumb Jock goes on a lunch date with MK and she finally notices that he’s as dumb as a rock. She tells Dogged Nice Guy that he told her everything. So he admits that he’s been stalking her for years. She’s his hobby, guys. MK finds this incredibly romantic, so I guess they’re together now. Even though he as no idea how astronomy works.

Okay, we gotta talk about this. Yes, the creepy stalker was rewarded when the girl FINALLY recognized his worth, but put that to one side for a moment. Let’s talk about the relationship between the two bottom points in both of these triangles. I’ve already discussed how the relationship between Ashley and Megan is completely hostile; they’re in competition. But that’s not how the relationship between Dogged Nice Guy and Dumb Jock is framed at all. Mary-Kate tells DNG that she’s into Dumb Jock, and he decides to help her out because he is just that Nice™ and cares about her so much. His attempts to help Dumb Jock succeed are genuine. And Dumb Jock himself is presented to us, the audience, in a very sympathetic way. Sure he’s, well, dumb, but he actually seems to like Mary-Kate and wants to make this work. Dumb Jock and DNG are not competing, they are bros, with the shared goal of making Mary-Kate happy. Obviously boys can rise out of this negative competitive mindset, and girls cannot.

And this would all be okay if DNG was actually just doing this out of friendship. But this is a narrative that clearly sees this as what he does to “earn” Mary-Kate’s affection. He’s doing this so that she will see his value, despite her preference obviously being elsewhere. But he knows better than she does. And now that she’s FINALLY figured it out, all is right in the world.

And what makes this all so full of joy is that this is the stockiest of stock tween movie plots. This is what is constantly being bombarded into the brains of twelve-year-old girls.

But I doubt these implications occur to the twins as they sit around in towel turbans and lip gloss and talk about, um, proverbs again. Whatever, the predator is taking three teenagers out on a boat at night. No problems here.

They come to a yacht because Fish Tank Boy needs to do Champlain another solid and they spend whole minutes just creeping around someone else’s property and touching random remote control buttons. Fish Tank Boy grabs a box of fishing tackle (or is it!) and they’re off!

But as soon as they land; OMG it’s the plot! Yes, an hour and four minutes into the movie and the plot has finally started. The sole Bahamian with a speaking role in this entire movie has come to arrest them all for smuggling antiquities. And thanks to the random tourist fact half an hour ago, we know that is illegal! What brilliant writing.

It’s how seriously the actors are taking this that really sells it:

Our heroes are totes taking it seriously, though. Everyone is eager to blame Fish Tank Boy, but Ashley leaps to his defense because, um, he’s hot, I guess.

Sole Bahamian let’s the kids off, though, since they’re obviously too stupid to smuggle anything.

The Parents are, like, “autonomy revoked!” but the girls are insistent that Ashley’s boyfriend was framed. FRAMED! Those stupid police just won’t listen.

Twin Dad agrees that they have a Scooby Doo plot. The first order of business is to check out this yacht. But would you look at that, it disappeared. And so has Champlain’s shack on the beach. It looks like Champlain and Yacht Guy are using poor Fish Tank Boy as a patsy!

Dad is done, though. He’s all, like, “let’s just enjoy this fun family vacation.” The twins and DNG discuss how their revoked autonomy will make the Scooby Doo plot hard. “This is a major cover-up” so they need a plan. It’s essential that they save poor Fish Tank Boy from languishing in black and white cutscene jail.

Let’s Do It!

So they… are you sitting down? They set up a CD player with canned “happy playing in the pool” sounds so that their parents will think they are playing in the pool while they sneak off to town to search for Champlain.

Do they have any reason to believe Champlain will be in town? Nope. But they ask a random dude if he’s seen an old dude somewhere, and he’s like “yeah, he’s over there.” And he is. He’s sees the Olsen Twins and the first thing he does is run. Dude, no one judges. The Olsen Twins are terrifying.

So we have a chase scene all over the kitschy touristy market, intercut with stills of black children. Because the Bahamas are super exotic, I guess. The children all have these wonderful bemused expressions on their faces, so I guess that’s something.

But Champlain eludes them by jumping on a boat. What a sneaky sneak. I’m not sure what their plan was if they did catch him, so maybe it’s for the best.

The trio return to the resort, defeated. They go to lunch with the parents, but don’t worry, they have a plan. Ashley is sick and needs to use the bathroom. Brilliant!

So then these two role models break and enter into a yacht that they THINK is the same one they were in before, even though it has a different name now, on the hunch that there are stolen antiquities there.

After a stop to escape from the parental yoke with a more flexible time frame than a bathroom break (but it’s cool, Twin Dad trusts them because they’re so awesome), they go back to Sole Bahamian Police Man and he tries to explain to them about Due Process because, like, he’s competent. Although the script does its best to imply that he’s only letting Yacht Guy off because he’s rich and powerful.

I have a bit to say about these girls using their privilege to battle against the ever-so-slightly more privileged.

Case in point: MK has a plan. They’re going to steal the boat and thereby force the police to board it and search it for stolen antiquities. Yup, they are so rolling in their own privilege that they don’t see how this may make the situation way worse for themselves. Because they’re rich, white Americans, I guess.

Like, it’s only when the police are actually chasing them that they realize that they don’t actually have any evidence to show them, and that maybe what they’re doing is illegal. So they riffle through the guy’s stuff some more while DNG refuses to obey the police’s orders to cut his engines. No problems here.

When the police have actually finally boarded, the twins find some antiquities in a super secret Batman compartment, then stand there look smug. Sole Bahamian finds this convincing? Like, would this “evidence” even be admissible? I have no clue.

In any case, Yacht Guy, whose face we never even see, is arrested, Fish Tank Boy is released, and Sole Bahamian declares that the twins are heroes. And then the movie is over…

I have so many questions about this ending. Like, how does this prove that Fish Tank Boy wasn’t involved? The fact that there were stolen goods on the boat, and he went out of his way to go to the boat to pick something up, kind of adds to the perception of his guilt, doesn’t it? How did the twins and DNG even manage to steal that boat? Did they hotwire it? Is it that easy to drive a giant yacht? Are they so stupid that they didn’t consider having any evidence to show them until there was a literal chase scene? Why the fuck would Yacht Guy go to all the trouble of having him and Champlain cover their tracks, even going so far as to change the name of his boat, but not move his stolen goods to a different place? Was he so confident in the security of his unlocked Batman compartment? What the fuck is going on with Champlain? What was his relationship to Fish Tank Boy? Why were they doing each other solids? Are the police really so blinded by their awesome Olsen Twin-ness that they’re willing to overlook the Grand Theft Boat, the operating said boat without a licence, the breaking and entering, the resisting arrest, the refusal to obey a police order… I can go on. How are their parents okay with this behaviour? Why are they not horrified that their daughter did this all for a grown man who she’s now making out with? Am I not supposed to notice that their privilege is so large that I’m surprised it can fit into the country of the Bahamas? How much did Specific, Named Resort pay them for this? How did they get away with only casting one Bahamian? Where did they find this director and why does he love closeups and dutch angles so much? Did he win all the awards for this? Who wrote it? Was it the Olsen Twins’ younger sibling?

Why am I bothering to harp on about this low-budget crapfest which never had any ambitions beyond making a few bucks off of tweens? Well, I have never bought this argument that it doesn’t matter if something makes any bit of sense because it’s “just for kids”. In fact, I would argue that quality is even more important in children’s media than it is elsewhere. And children know the difference. And these two young women, who apparently had a George Lucas level of creative control on this project, have the resources to put together something better than this, or at the very least, something more intelligent.

I’m not going to complain too much about the horrible acting, and the hilariously nonsensical direction, but I will complain about how they clearly just threw something together and said, “whatever, let’s slap a title on it and release it”.

You’re role models, girls. You can do better.

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