Perhaps it was misguided to go into The House Bunny hoping to see the playing out of complex political themes … but I did so, nonetheless.
I mean, how could a film about a Playboy Bunny (the ultimate symbol of sexual frivolousness) making over a sorority of ugly intellectual feminists not touch upon politics in this age of 21st century self-awareness?
Alas, while The House Bunny provides laughs aplenty, engagement with politics on any significant level is virtually nonexistent (unless you include engagement by omission).
Despite a premise that seems rife with post-modern possibilities, the film is essentially yet another retelling of She's All That. Yes, ladies, it's that familiar Cinderella trope all over again; The House Bunny even has bookend fairytale sequences.
In a modern twist, after the Fairy-god Bunny turns the ugly intellectuals of Zeta House into sexy hotties, she discovers that, in order to win over the guy of her dreams, she needs their help to transform from sex kitten into intellectual conversationalist. The movie delivers an easily digestible moderate message: the modern woman needs to be both sexy and intelligent.
Where the film fails completely is in acknowledging just how massive a demand this is to place on the shoulders of young women.
That sixties icon, the Playboy Bunny, smashes up against the hairy-legged feminist, only to discover that neither extreme is considered desirable in modern mainstream culture. It’s not good enough to just be sexy nor is it good enough to be smart. The modern woman needs to be everything.
And being everything is hard. Really hard.
Yet the film plays out in such a light hearted manner as to suggest not only is it easy to be sexy and smart at the same time, it's also fun!
We have references to the Bunny's perfect breast implants but no mention of the painful and expensive surgery involved. The girls go from work boots to stiletto heels without so much as a stumble. In fact, the film misses several easy laughs throughout the transformation sequence. We don't even get a montage of the girls crying out in pain as their unruly bushes are waxed to perfection. Instead, the girls simply throw some scarves at the camera, and suddenly they are beautiful.
The House Bunny would have, perhaps, garnered more laughs if it had actually addressed just how difficult it is for young women to transform their identity, or if it dared to explore the challenge of finding that allusive balance between outer appearance and inner beauty. It could have, at the very least, acknowledged the politics it was invoking.
Instead, the film takes a much less interesting route, telling a fairytale narrative in which any difficulties amalgamating looks with intellect can be overcome by a quick montage or, even worse, a “Where My Zetas At?” hip-hop dance number.
And while it was certainly enjoyable to watch the Zeta girls dance around in hotpants and micro-minis, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where my politics at?”