Comments Off on Mannequin

When I was in college I used to walk passed the Macy’s in center city Philadelphia every day. I remember checking out the window displays, Dickens’ village and the pipe organ during the holidays. I felt a little nostalgia for those college years when I watched Mannequin (1987). So many of the places I knew in my early twenties show up in the film. It was fun seeing what downtown Philadelphia looked like back in the eighties.

But what really surprised me about Mannequin is how much it has in common with Karen Arthur’s film Lady Beware (1987). The two films both came out in the same year and both are set in Pennsylvania with Lady Beware taking place in Pittsburgh as opposed to Philadelphia. They also approach themes of physical autonomy and sexual desire in relationship to mannequins.

The lead characters in Lady Beware and Mannequin are iconoclastic window dressers at major department stores who form a strong attachment to their mannequins. The major difference is that while Andrew McCarthy’s mannequin turns into the beautiful Kim Cattrall, Diane Lane’s mannequins remain lifeless and she gets a homicidal stalker instead. Lady Beware focuses on a woman’s battle not to be objectified while Mannequin celebrates that objectification. Mannequin deals in the heterosexual male wish fulfillment that Lady Beware vilifies.

Cattrall only exists in Mannequin as a sexual object and servant to McCarthy. He sculpted her and now she has come to life to serve him. The film makes a bit of a stink about an ancient Egyptian curse that makes no sense to try and justify Cattrall’s appearance. At the 11th hour she is made fully human and the film asks the viewer to just accept that without questioning her agency as a liberated human being.

Mannequin is problematic to say the least. In addition to its gross misogyny it also boasts a stereotypical gay man in the form of Hollywood (Meshach Taylor). This gay sidekick to McCarthy exists purely as comic relief, inviting the audience to laugh at rather than with the only queer character in the film. I suppose it could have been worse though.

All in all there is little to recommend Mannequin. The best part of the film is either Miss Cattrall’s outfits or James Spader’s sniveling bad guy. Unfortunately neither is enough to sustain another boring and toxic Andrew McCarthy vehicle. Maybe the sequel is better?