'Do you want to come inside my house?' 'Foxfire' and the Teenage Closet
Going back on my teen years in New Hampshire, the whitest place on earth, none of these criticisms would have ever occurred to me. I rented the VHS copy of Foxfire so many times from my small-town grocery store that they finally just hauled off and gave me their copy (I was the only person renting it, and had, embarrassingly, paid for it several times over in rental fees).
Foxfire was more than just a film to me – it was a lifeline, a world of possibility, and also the possible genesis of my unending love of redheads. It was a quiet oasis where my confusing girl-feelings could happily dwell, undisturbed – at least until one of my brother’s friends picked up my copy and started mocking me for owning this “lesbo movie” every time I saw him --for months. Don’t even ask what his reaction was when I shaved my head.
As it turned out, Foxfire was also a huge liability. Because it was a sign. A giant, obvious, gay billboard -- like a Bat Signal in the sky in the shape of a flame-shaped tit tattoo, along with an old-timey air-siren screaming out “gaaaaaaYYYYYYYYY............gaaaaaaaYYYYYYYYY”. At least, that’s what my internalized homophobia led me to believe. So, like my sexuality, I had to bury it.
Not bury it literally. I didn’t trash my copy (like so many half-scribbled, confessional, immediately torn up journals), but thereafter I made sure to keep the whole Foxfire thing under wraps. And after a few dozen more incidents like that one, I would spend at least another decade completely closeted. Funny how such little cuts can add up to a lifetime of silence.
Even though most of Foxfire can be interpreted as straight-up tale of hetero female friendship and empowerment, the subtext is comprised of the hardest, most throbbing teen girl boners that ever existed. Am I projecting? If so, I’m not the only one. Some users at IMDB go into deep analysis of the matter including the off-cited exchange:
Maddy: But you’re...and I’m not..
Implication made: You’re gay, I’m not. (Alternately: You’re a girl, I’m not gay). Then again, it could mean tons of things, right? Here are some other alternative readings I’ve come up with so far:
Maddy: But you’re a zombie, and I’m not into being eaten.
Maddy: But you’re a tennis pro, and I’m only an enthusiast.
Maddy: But you’re an existentialist, and I’m not down with Sartre.
When I got older, I realized that Foxfire could be used as a dog whistle reference when meeting women of undetermined sexual orientation (translation: it’s a good way to see if a lady’s down with the ladies). Because, like it or not, I never met any totally straight woman with the same rabid, devoted love of this small film as I have queer ones. And it’s always easier to out yourself when you’re talking about teen crushes. Looking back on what is undeniably the filmic equivalent of a queer lady Teen Beat, women would tell me unabashedly how much they loved it. How it helped them come to terms with their sexuality and woke up their desire for women. Every time I’ve heard that, I’ve felt the ring of recognition somewhere inside, and a bond with my fellow womyn who were once closeted (or not) teens in the 90s. Talking about Foxfire has helped me to let go of the fear of my own queerness. It opened up a world of sexual freedom, and one of bonding with other queer womyn over the ways in which this film rejoiced in girlhood and friendship and let them conquer over boys and hookups and The Man. A rare thing, even today.
Now I hear that there’s a new version of Foxfire coming out this fall. While the trailer seems to be much truer to the novel (including using the original setting and time period), I am not sure how to feel about it. It’s taken my teen fantasy and ripped it asunder. I’m also mad jealous that as a fat performer there’s no way to go back in time and audition for the chubby girl part (come on - I could totally Luke Perry it, right?).
To sum up, I leave you with a quote from the ever-ambiguously gay duo of Maddy and Legs:
Maddy: If I told you that I loved you, would you take it the wrong way?
Legs: I'll take it however you want me to.
I feel the same way about Foxfire – even though I can’t go back to those heady days of closeted teenage frustration (nor would I, in a thousand years), I’ll take it as it is – flawed and silly, earnest and embarrassing, a perfect testament to my teenage closet.
Toronto-based Writer/Performer Catherine McCormick will be posting this column regularly, analyzing texts critical to her own queer journey, as well as taking recommendations of “classic” “queer” “texts” to “review” (with plenty of jokes and scare quotes to go around).