I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Anatomy of a Teen Sex Comedy: Joysticks


by Brian Correia
Dec. 27, 2015

Good morning, class. This is CIN6969: Teen Sex Comedy. Everyone is in the right place? Good. Let's get started. The teen sex comedy (TSC) is a genre of film that is traditionally considered to have reached its apex in the 1980s. It usually involves lewd humor involving subjects including but not limited to teenage sex (where the genre gets its name), bodily functions, and drugs and/or alcohol. TSC scripts will often employ double (or even triple) entendres to ensure that the jokes do not, in a manner of speaking, go over the audience's head. While TSCs are (with a few notable exceptions) usually disregarded by critics, they are often very successful at the box office and in the home video market, and therefore they are, for better or for worse, American cultural touchstones. As such, they are worth studying.

Today, we will be dissecting our very first film. Anyone who is uncomfortable with beating a dead horse might do well to drop out now: This class will not be for you. We'll be looking at Joy Sticks. Joy Sticks (1983) is an archetypal post-Porky's TSC. Oh, Porky's? That was on the summer viewing list – there's a copy on hold in the library for the slackers out there. But I digress. Here, we will, in a sense, “dissect” the film so as to demonstrate the venerable “anatomy” of the TSC. Some background information on the film: It was directed and produced by Greydon Clark, written by Al Gomez and company, and stars Leif Green, Scott McGinnis, and Jim Greenleaf. Don't worry, those names will not be on the test. Some of you may know supporting actor Jon Gries, however, from Napoleon Dynamite, or Joe Don Baker, who is something of a B-movie legend.

The details of TSC plots are variable, though they often require a ragtag gang of misfit protagonists to go on some kind of quest or spiritual journey that comes to a head in a climactic showdown – more often than not, the primary or secondary goal is coitus, especially loss of virginity. Joy Sticks is no different – it follows the goings-on in a popular video arcade in the small town of River City. Yes, to those of you who may be Broadway fans, they do make a forced allusion to “trouble in” the setting. The film's video arcade is a utopia of sorts; here, fat slobs, square-jawed hunks, nerds, broadly painted racial stereotypes, and well-endowed, scantily clad, and slow-witted women co-exist with minimal conflict, bonded by their love of video games and their eternal horniness.

Joy Sticks employs many of the stock characters you will see again and again this semester. You're going to want to write these down:

The nerd – Typically a virgin, the nerd is either hopelessly in search of sex or hopelessly apathetic towards it. Despite possessing above average intelligence (especially by the standard set by other characters in the TSC), he is usually oblivious to come-ons, put-downs, ploys, tricks, or insincerity of any sort. Nerd garb includes thick (sometimes broken) glasses, braces, acne, bowties, pocket protectors, high-waisted pants, and suspenders. Joy Sticks' Eugene Groebe is a fairly classic iteration of the stock nerd.

The jock – Jocks can be on either side of a TSC's plot – the jock-as-protagonist tends to be charismatic and driven and the evil jock tends to be dull-witted and cruel. Jocks on either side are apparently experienced in the bedroom (or more often the backseat) and do tend to be muscular, handsome, and have elaborate hairdos. Joy Sticks has a protagonist jock in Jefferson Bailey, arcade manager.

The Bluto – named in tribute to John Belushi's hero of Animal House, the Bluto is the loveable fat slob. Despite his penchant for over-indulging in food and drink and his tendency towards flatulence, the Bluto often proves a particularly valuable member of the ragtag misfit gang as he is not afraid to lower the bar to new depths of depravity. The perfectly named Jonathan McDorfus is a classic Bluto.

The man – As in, “stick it to the man.” Whether he be a coach, a father, or a businessman, the man is a common enemy. He is usually on a passionate and petty mission to prevent or take something away from the ragtag gang of misfits in the name of money, sanity, or his daughters' virginity. The man appears averse to fun, sex, and youth in general. The harder he tries, the less likely it becomes that he will come out victorious. He can often be seen wearing a suit.

The girl – The unfortunately misogynistic nature of most TSCs does not allow me to elaborate. The females in TSCs exist only as objects to be ogled, fondled, etc. Whether they be valley girls, cheerleaders, or sorority sisters, they're rarely clothed, they're rarely intelligent, and they're generally DTF. For shame! Joy Sticks delivers on this full front, with its nudity being particularly inexplicable, considering its arcade setting.

While we won't be talking about music too often in this class, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the original song that grace this particular film. If there is anything that sets this film apart from the pack of TSCs, it is this extraordinarily dated celebration of “totally awesome video games.” The joy stick as phallic symbol – truly base.

The reliable popularity of the TSC has resulted in a steady stream of mostly generic ones being pinched off into box offices for the last thirty-something years – a period that has, through some miracle (an old scenario involving Shakespeare, monkeys, and typewriters comes to mind), produced several films that are worth examining on their own merit. Joy Sticks is not one of them – it is remarkable only in how it perfectly exhibits the classic TSC formula. Fun? Sure, I suppose you could call it a “fun” film. God help you if you're here to have fun, though. CIN6969 is serious business.

Brian Correia is a budding computer scientist and aspiring writer from Boston, Massachusetts who couldn't decide which hip-hop lyric to put in his byline. The top three, in no particular order, were as follows: “cooler than a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce,” “spiced out Calvin Coolidge loungin' with six duelers,” and “I got techniques drippin' out my buttcheeks.” He is on Twitter (@brianmcorreia) and Tumblr (brianmcorreia.tumblr.com) like the rest of the kids.