Film / The Legend of Billie Jean

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"We didn't start this, we didn't mean it to happen, but we're not givin' up til you pay. Fair is fair!!!"

"Fair is fair!"

A 1985 film starring Helen Slater and Christian Slater (no relation in real life), about a small group of teens from Corpus Christi, Texas, who become outlaws after they are accused of attempted murder.

The trouble starts when Billie Jean and her brother Binx get into a squabble with a local bully, Hubie Pyatt. Hubie escalates the war by beating up Binx and vandalizing his motor scooter. When Billie Jean goes to seek reimbursement from Hubie's father, a local businessman, the sleazy Mr. Pyatt instead attempts to rape her; and, in the process of trying to rescue her, Binx accidentally shoots him.

Now the siblings, along with their friends Putter and Ophelia, are on the run from the law, as Mr. Pyatt quickly sics the cops (who had previously refused to pursue the vandalism) on them. While on the lam, they meet Lloyd, the son of the District Attorney, who chooses to join them as a "hostage". At this point Billie Jean, inspired by an old movie about Joan Of Arc, cuts her hair, changes her whole persona and begins making her own demands for justice. But can a bunch of kids really stand up to the long arm of the law?


"I'm Billie Jean Davy, and I wanna set the record straight..."

  • Abusive Parents: Putter's mom, and the father of a little boy, Kenny, that Billie Jean rescues.
  • Attempted Rape: A leering Mr. Pyatt offers to repay the six hundred to Billie Jean and Binx with installments, in exchange for... well, he calls it "lessons." She resists, and it turns into a struggle, which ends up with Binx intervening and shooting him in the shoulder by accident.
  • Bathos: Putter getting her first period (see below) is both played for drama and comedy.
  • Big Sister Instinct: It's never said who's older but the plot is kicked off by Billie Jean sticking up for her brother. Binx also has instinct for his sister, threatening Mr Pyatt with a gun when he tries to rape her.
  • Big "NO!": Billie Jean when Binx gets shot.
  • Bitch Alert: Putter's mother whose introduction is an offscreen "where were you!" followed by a slap to the face.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Billie Jean is blonde, Putter is brunette and Ophelia is redhead.
  • Brick Joke: Binx and Billie Jean talk about Vermont at the start, and Binx wants to run away to Vermont after they shoot Mr Pyatt. They're shown taking a vacation there at the end.
  • Call-Back: Billie Jean is inspired by the scene of Joan of Arc being burned at the stake. A statue of Billie Jean is burned once the truth is exposed.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Fair is fair!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: Putter's marbles, which she packs as they run away. She uses them to delay the police when escaping from the mall.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Billie Jean and her friends break into Lloyd's house, and Lloyd (wearing a monster mask) sneaks up on her, and she gives him a Groin Attack. Without having the realization that she broke into this guy's house, she bitched him out for scaring her.
  • Consummate Liar: As Mr. Pyatt himself said:
    Mr. Pyatt: Hubie and the truth have a way of not gettin' along with each other.
    • Of course, where do you think Hubie got it from? Mr. Pyatt masterfully bullshits the police and his Billie Jean-loving clients the whole movie, until Billie Jean exposes him in front of hundreds of fans, who promptly burn all the merchandise.
  • Corpsing: In-Universe. Lloyd tries to record a fake hostage message but can't stop laughing at what he's saying.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Putter likes to curse a lot, which is a little startling - as she's the baby of the group.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Hubie steals Binx's scooter and trashes it because Binx threw a milkshake on him when he made frequent passes at Billie Jean.
  • Dye or Die: Subverted. Billie Jean cuts her hair (see Important Haircut below) while on the run but then immediately films a video of herself with her new hairstyle and sends it to the police.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Hubie seems to be disgusted by how his father exploited Billie Jean by the end. He smiled when Billie Jean stood up to Pyatt in the climax and joined the rest of the onlookers in walking away from him..
  • Fanservice: Both Billie Jean and Binx get a scene where they're both in swimsuits relaxing by the creek. Also as it's in the middle of a hot summer in Corpus, mostly everyone else is wearing summer clothes too.
    • On the DVD Commentary, Yeardley Smith asks Helen Slater if she ever felt exploited doing the swimming scene. Helen replies "I'll never look that good again."
  • Girlish Pigtails: Putter has these to establish her as the baby of the group.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: The teens are actually smarter than you'd think, or at least Billie Jean is with most of their problems being solved by her quick thinking.
  • Groin Attack: To the point of being a running gag. Billie Jean knees Hubie in the groin after he beats up her brother. She gives Lloyd one for sneaking up on her, And in her big standoff at the end with Mr. Pyatt, she gives him an even bigger one.
  • Hollywood Healing: Subverted. Binx has visible bruises on his face throughout the film, having just gotten beaten up by Hubie before the plot starts.
  • Hot-Blooded: That's Binx all over, and this tends to make bad situations worse.
  • Hypocrite: Mr Pyatt refuses to pay the $608 his son owes in damage to the scooter, after he gets shot. Yet he's still happy to sell merchandise of Billie Jean even though he tried to rape her.
  • I Am Spartacus: Several teenage girls turn themselves in to the police claiming to be Billie Jean, but Lt. Ringwald knows her and sends them home.
  • Important Haircut:
    • Billie Jean does this halfway through the movie. It serves two purposes: 1) the new look invokes comparisons to Joan Of Arc (more specifically, a Classic Hollywood depiction of her); and 2) it marks her shift from passive, fleeing Damsel in Distress to tough "We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore" badass (see Awesome Music in the YMMV tab). How important is this haircut? It becomes a huge local fad.
    • More soberingly, when Putter is struck by her own mother, the younger teen grabs some scissors, holds them up defiantly as if to ward off — or strike — another blow, and then grimly uses them to hack off her own hair.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Billie Jean becomes a role model for teens in a similar manner to Joan of Arc. She even adopts her famous hairstyle inspired by a film depiction of Joan.
  • Jerkass: Hubie and, later, his father.
    • Lloyd's father is a minor one. He's a DA and while he has no doubt that Lloyd is far from an innocent kidnapping victim (assuming immediately he's a willing accomplice) but he can't bear bad publicity, and uses this to show publicly that he's unwilling to bend to criminals to get his son back.
  • Kick the Dog: When Billie Jean goes to turn herself in, in exchange for the money owed for the scooter, Mr. Pyatt instead get Hubie to sneak attack her right there in the mall. They couldn't not be Jerkasses for that one meeting? A furious Ringwald tears Pyatt a new one for that little stunt as everything could've ended right there.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Putter after she gets her period.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Putter is this mixed with Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
  • Lovable Rogue: How tons of kids and teens in the Corpus Christi area see Billie Jean, with girls even adopting her hairstyle en masse. That said, Billie Jean herself is more of a Humble Hero. Her fame isn't something she really asked for, or embraces to a significant degree - she and Binx just got themselves into a bad situation that spiraled out of control. Indeed all she wants is the money to repair her brother's scooter from Pyatt directly and she would turn herself in quietly. She is, however, grateful for the support, especially since her fans pay dividends in the third act.
  • Mouthy Kid: Putter's raison d'être.
    Putter: Hubie won't bring [the scooter] back.
    Ringwald: How do you know?
    Putter: 'Cause he's a fucker, that's how I know!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Well done, Binx, pointing a gun with the safety off right at Hubie's father. And Lloyd's father, bringing in the SWAT team that shoot Binx by accident.
  • No Periods, Period: Utterly averted; furthermore, the moment is simultaneously Played for Drama and for Laughs.
  • One Steve Limit: No, this film is not about the Michael Jackson song, nor is it about Billie Jean King.
  • Police Are Useless: The scooter vandalism which sparks off the whole plot is dutifully reported to the local police, but they choose not to act. Subverted when the cop Billie Jean reports it to eventually ends up helping solve a lot of the mess.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Billie Jean, in her climactic confrontation with Mr. Pyatt, does a textbook example of this trope.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Putter takes Billie Jean's escape as an easy way of getting the hell away from her physically abusive mom.
  • Sixth Ranger: Lloyd joins the crew, passing himself off as a hostage, about halfway through the film.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Lt. Ringwald, who just wants to help Billie Jean come home. The mess would have been solved by him sooner - if not for Mr Pyatt's Kick the Dog moment in the mall.
  • Tagalong Kid: Putter who appears to be younger than the rest of the teens. If she isn't she's definitely a wee bit more immature than them so she still fits.
  • Team Mom: Billie Jean fills this role for her friends at times. Obviously she's the Cool Big Sis for Binx.
  • The Theme Park Version: Billie Jean's followers who wear her t-shirts and cut their hair only do so because they think she's a cool rebel. When the truth comes out, all of them are disgusted at how she was exploited and burn all the merchandise.
  • Those Two Guys: Putter and Ophelia.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Taken quite literally as the gang sets up a public hostage exchange; Billie Jean wears a wig to infiltrate the crowd, and Binx wears a dress to impersonate Billie Jean.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Putter's mother. Her introduction is smacking her for coming home late.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Semi-example, with copious amounts of Never My Fault: Mr. Pyatt's gunshot wound, which he plays up for sympathy, is very real and was actually caused by those he accuses. Nonetheless, the trope is played straight as A) the gunshot was accidental yet he paints it as intentional; and B) he uses it as an excuse to persecute the heroes and also to downplay his and his son's own wrongdoings.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: While on the run, Billie Jean and her gang break into a home to steal food, shoplift toys to use during an amateur sting operation, and try to steal a car. For the toys, at least, Billie Jean leaves IOU notes.

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