27 December 2008

Diablo Cody's sugar high

In all fairness to CANDY GIRL, Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody's memoir about working as a stripper, I was pretty sure before I picked it up this book would alienate me within the first 20 pages. I liked "Juno," the product of Cody's first screenplay, but I was desperate for a backlash after the thousandth article on how "alternative" its writer was, and the stripping was part of that mythology. Sure enough, page 9, when Cody is contemplating entering an amateur night at a local joint:
"Stripping as a profession sounded super-sparkly..."
I think not. And since CANDY GIRL implores on practically every page for readers to understand where Cody is coming from when she becomes a part-time, and then full-time exotic dancer, I can't say I liked this book.

Cody started dancing when she moved to Minneapolis to be with the boyfriend she met on a Beach Boys fan site; bored by her secretarial job by day, she went out for amateur night and, though she didn't win, decided she wanted more. She loved the moves and even the shoes, tolerated her coworkers and kept a blog about it (that would get her the book deal, although it's hardly discussed here). Eventually, she quit her job to dance and later work at a peep show.

She may not present herself in a sympathetic way, but Cody has an eye for detail, so if you've ever wanted to learn anything about strippers or stripping, you'll probably see it here. (#4 worst song to strip to: "Ice Ice Baby," which is "widely used as 'punishment' by passive-aggressive DJs who are irritated with a specific stripper for undertipping.") But for me, there was only one moment when her introspection felt real, and it wasn't in the last chapter, which felt ordered by an editor. (In it, Cody explains that yes, she had a very happy and stable childhood and that has nothing to do with her decisions to strip, but that at some point she suddenly realized the objectifying force of what she was up to.) It's buried in a section about Schieks, her first alternative employer:
"I had come because I was subconsciously rejecting the grown-up position I was being nudged into by my boss. Being accountable for other people's profits terrified me more than he sex industry ever could, and I sensed the need to escape the rabbit warren of gainful employment before they got me for good."
I'm still not saying she was right, but unlike the actual decision she makes based on that belief, I could identify with that.

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