Flirting, the movie, is perhaps a trifle, but it's laced with both tenderness and adolescent lust, two things that utterly baffled me when I was a lustful adolescent and still perplex me today. Written and directed by John Duigan, Flirting tells the story of a couple of teenage misfits from the middle 1960s, sent away to boarding school — single-sex boarding schools, of course, separated by a lake. Never the twain shall meet, except in the case of a rugby match, for which invitations were duly sent through proper channels to the girls on the other side of the ocean.
Thandiwe doesn't fit in with the girls at all; they mock her for her African ancestry, and she isn't overly concerned about that. There's a scene early on, at a school assembly, in which the girls, resplendent yet indistinguishable in their uniform, take their seats on cue, and cross their legs at exactly the same angle — except for Thandiwe, of course. She's also not all that interested in rugby, but she'll happily go, just to get away from her big stone prison. There she meets Danny, and files his name and image away for future reference. At a school dance, they slip away for a few moments of their own, which brings down the wrath of school officials. "It's just flirting," she protests, to no avail.
To me, this sort of thing has always been something that happens to someone else; it's a quantum phenomenon, the sort you can't actually observe without interfering with the process. While I'm not inclined to buy Thandiwe's definition of mere flirting — once she and Danny were caught in flagrante delicto they'd moved far beyond that verb — I'm not sure I'd trust my own definition. I'm not even sure I know what that definition is, but I think it's safe to conclude that it doesn't include this:
A former state senator admitted Friday he made unwanted advances and lewd comments toward a female Uber driver during a ride in 2017.
Truth be told, I have my doubts about those "alcohol issues": Marlatt's problem, it seems to me, is more of a horndog issue. And it's not like this sort of thing is unheard of:
Occasionally, Jane said she'll have a passenger who might get be a little inappropriate. She said there is one obvious tell if a passenger is trying to pick her up. "They might say something like, 'You can turn that off, right?'" she said, referring to her ability to shut the app off. The implication here being that she could switch off Uber when she gets to the passenger's place and maybe come in and stay awhile. One time she was dropping off a group of friends at their homes, one by one, and she hit it off with one of the men in the group. When she got to his place, he asked her if she'd like to keep chatting and have a beer. Assuming this was an innocent enough invitation and knowing she intended to quit driving for the night after this particular ride, she accepted. So, they had the beer and chatted and it was pleasant. When she told him it was getting late and she should take off, she said he practically chased her to the door trying to take his pants off. He did not succeed.
Somehow I don't see Danny doing that sort of thing to Thandiwe. But Flirting had some questionable consequences for the actress who played her:
In 2011, Thandie Newton told InStyle Magazine that during the filming of this movie, its director, John Duigan, coerced her into starting a sexual relationship with him, despite the fact that she was 16 and he was 39. She clarified in the interview that the relationship was not strictly illegal, since she was above the age of consent in Australia, but that it left her feeling "self-destructive" and not "in control of the situation," and she had to have therapy later to come to terms with its ramifications.
God damn it, men. You're making it harder for the rest of us, and not in a good way, either.
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Copyright © 2019 by Charles G. Hill