18 October 2010

The Dirtbike Kid

United States - 1985
Director - Hoice C. Caston
Charter Entertainment, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 31 minutes

I did not have high expectations for The Dirtbike Kid, and bought it merely out of morbid curiosity. Peter Billingsley who you may be more familiar with as Ralphie in A Christmas Story plays Jack, a kid who basically rehashes Herbie the Lovebug with a dirtbike. I shall present the argument however that just under the surface, The Dirtbike Kid is a not-so complex analogy for puberty, masturbation and freshly minted Oedipal masculinity.

Jack is at first a typical little kid watching cartoons and eating potato chips. His mother Janet (Anne Bloom), a frazzled woman barely able to keep the house from burning down sends Jack to the store with 50 bucks to buy groceries. On the way Jack stops at a dirtbike rally where he admires the noisy and flamboyant machines of the confident and cocky older boys as they leap into the air and spray mud. At that moment a kid with a bike that doesn’t work well stalls it out right in front of him and frustrated, offers to sell it to Jack for 50 bucks. Suddenly a strange old man appears and tells Jack that the bike has magic powers if it has the right rider…

The problem is, Jack’s single mom is unemployed and that was their last 50 dollars. She sends Jack to bed with a promise to sell the bike and recover their money in the morning. That night Jack sneaks out to the garage and lovingly cleans and polishes his bike, which literally becomes erect, and together they go on a wild midnight ride, only barely escaping detection by mom.

Notice Jack's pose in the top set.

Soon Jack has been transformed into a confident and proactive young man, he and his new Bike do things together, go on adventures and even fly through the air in several wet-dream scenes reminiscent of the finest wrinkly E.T. sequence. Jack and his crotch-rocket’s biggest challenge is yet to come however when local bank mogul Mr. Hodgkins (Stuart Pankin) selects the location for his new branch building. It happens to be the exact site of that community institution, Mike’s Dog House, Jack’s favorite hot-dog stand and sponsor of his little league team. At the very same time, Mom is trying desperately to land a job at Mr. Hodgkin’s bank, an application he would be happy to consider with her at his mansion over a glass of wine…
!!But there’s Jack, blasting in on all 300cc’s of his manhood to save the wiener stand and his first love’s purity from the slimy grasp of one totally unmasculine slob. In fact, Jack goes so far as to publicly humiliate Mr. Hodgkins and make him dress up in a giant hotdog costume. Alas, just at their moment of triumph, the magic suddenly fades from Jack’s Bike.

“No! Don’t go, this is what we’ve worked for!” Jack exclaims, but the bike is suddenly lifeless, the glow gone from its headlights.
“Jack honey, what’s wrong?” says Janet, climbing the sand dune toward her son.
“It’s my bike mom, all the magic’s gone.”
“Well Jack I know this bike is really special to you.”

“It sure is. But y’know mom, I was just thinkin’, maybe the magic is gone because I have my own magic that’s working for me now.”
“Your father used to say, we all have a little magic hidden inside us, sometimes it just takes someone special to bring it out.”
“That’s what my bike did for me right?”
“And that’s what you do for me.”

Bam! Jack has his own magic, reserving his mother and their home for his sole male dominance. Mike's wiener hut is intact and bigger than ever (and his girlfriend is suddenly pregnant!), and finally the obese, cowardly and child-hating Mr. Hodgkins, thoroughly desexualized, is thus defanged and relegated to the status of walking joke. Jack has discovered his penis.
Thank you.
I rest my case.

Moments after Jack abandons the bike, another small child climbs onto it and proclaims his desire to possess such a magnificent machine. Then suddenly that same strange old man from the beginning of the film steps from behind a column and says “This is a very special bike you know…. well, provided it has the right rider…”
That's exactly who you want to teach you about your penis.

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