Friday, February 26, 2010
Go Ask Alice - a toupological analysis.
Go Ask Alice is a 1973 TV movie based on a book of the same name published two years earlier. The book, written by "anonymous" purports to comprise of extracts from a fifteen-year-old girl's diary that chronicles a horrifying descent into drug addiction and prostitution. Bill Shatner, in a relatively small role (though curiously receiving top-billing), portrays Alice's father.
The plot goes thus: Alice is a middle-class girl in a middle-class family living in a middle-class neighborhood. For no reason that is explained in the movie, a chance puff of a joint leads to a monumental spiral of drug addiction.
The whole Pandora's box is opened: marijuana, LSD, cocaine, uppers, downers, heroin, which leads to dropping out of school, homelessness and even prostitution. Those "damn dirty hippies" do nothing but force an endless array of drugs upon this poor girl.
It isn't long before Alice is quite literally eating out of a dustbin and walking around with a tear in her shirt (a sign that, you know, she's become a bum...).
Fortunately, Alice encounters a "with it" Catholic priest (played by Andy Griffith), who "digs where the girl is at". As a result, Alice decides to go clean.
She then meets a non-hippie - a Jock whose straight, clean ways also offer a way out.
However, while babysitting for a junkie friend, Alice drinks soda that has been spiked with LSD. The hell from which she had thought she escaped returns. She locks herself in a cupboard and almost cuts her fingers off.
By the end, Alice has again gone clean, but remains just one pill away from returning to the old life. At the end of the movie, we learn that she died of a drug overdose anyway for some reason - probably designed to try to make the movie feel really powerful.
The way that this girl's story is told in the movie is so crass, so shallow, so two-dimensional, that we were immediately reminded of the classic 1936 anti-drug movie Reefer Madness. We don't doubt that fifteen-year-old girls could meet such a fate, but rather it is how this story is told here that led to instant doubts among our team of toupologists as to the veracity of the "real life" diary on which this tale was based.
So it came as no surprise to learn that the authenticity of the original book has been seriously questioned. Apparently, it is actually (and we most certainly agree) a work of fiction, written by a zealot, barely capable of concealing some deep-seated personal issues (or simple profit motive, or need to proselytise) that led them to pass off such work as being real. The real author is one Beatrice Sparks about whom you can read here.
Go Ask Alice comes off as being written by "adults" - a caricature of teenage drug abuse, designed to be watched by youngsters to terrify them into just saying "no". In truth, the movie is so shallow, it's likely to actually serve the opposite effect - making teenagers want to take drugs, if only to numb the pain of watching such condescending, patronizing nonsense.
And where are the parents in all of this? Bill Shatner and Julie Adams, who portray the girl's mother and father, are so completely detached - docile, yet well-meaning - that this instantly raises yet another red-flag about the story's authenticity. They can only watch from afar as their daughter, for no reason whatsoever, descends into a world of pushers and pimps. That is a deliberately manufactured contrivance that seems increasingly odd as the movie progresses: Alice runs away, then returns, the weak parents don't even seem that bothered. Again, we're not saying that parents can't be this bad, but rather this clichéd, in terms of how they are written. Curiously, for a movie that espouses the socio-political credo of "personal responsibility" (which would gain a strong footing in 1980s America) the idea of anyone sharing in the responsibility for what happened to Alice, particularly her parents, is entirely absent from this movie.
Similarly to Reefer Madness, Go Ask Alice has attained a kind of cult following for its sheer kitsch value.
On the plus side, the movie contains a decent soundtrack of contemporary-era music (as the late comedian Bill Hicks would no doubt point out, all written by musicians that were very high at the time).
Now, to the hair...
Neither Bill Shatner, nor his hair, really have very much to do in this TV movie. The way these wishy-washy parents are written, all they really do is watch events unfold, completely powerless as their daughter is possessed.
Interestingly, Bill Shatner, apart from the usual toup, wears not only a mustache, but also glasses.
The hair round the back and sides is particularly long for Shats, while conversely, the toup at the top is relatively light for this era:
Meanwhile, the actor's performance as a weak, bumbling father, is (again) deliberately understated and pretty effective considering what he was being asked to portray. At one point, the hair moves a little as Bill Shatner removes his glasses:
And that's about it. Perhaps the toup was telling the audience that it likely won't be moved much by Go Ask Alice - or was the actor trying to underscore, via the toupee, a weakening of his character's rigidity?
Due to both its awfulness and a music rights clearance nightmare akin to The Wonder Years, one shouldn't expect Go Ask Alice to be released on DVD any time soon. However, it is pretty easy to find on the Internet - Go Ask Alice really has to be seen to be believed, and by "believed" we certainly don't mean that it should be believed in any way!