Film: The Legend of Billie Jean
Fair is fair!
A 1985 film starring Helen Slater and Christian Slater
(no relation in real life), about a small group of Texas teens 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?
This film provides examples of the following tropes:
- Abusive Parents: Putter's mom, and the father of a little boy, Kenny, that Billie Jean rescues.
- Big Sister Instinct: It's never said who's older but the plot is kicked off by Billie Jean sticking up for her brother.
- 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.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Inverted. Good guy Binx is blond while asshole Hubie is brunet.
- Breakaway Pop Hit: Pat Benatar's "Invincible"
- 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.
- Chekhov's Gun: Putter's marbles.
- Corpsing: Lloyd tries to record a fake hostage message but can't stop laughing at what he's saying.
- Dawson Casting: Of the principal cast, only Christian Slater was a teenager (15). Everyone else was over 20. Particularly egregious is Yeardley Smith playing a girl who gets her first period during the movie...she was 21 in real life.
- 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.
- Girlish Pigtails: Putter.
- Girls Need Role Models: Likely this is why Billie Jean became so popular in-universe. In a twist, some guys considered her a role model as well.
- 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
- Guns Are Bad: The plot gets kicked off by Binx accidentally firing off a gun at Hubie's father. A redneck shoots at the teens with his shotgun while they're on the road and Binx gets shot by a SWAT sniper who thinks he's Billie Jean. All because he stole a toy gun and fooled the police with it.
- 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).
- 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.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Inverted. Putter was played by Yeardley Smith shortly before her unmistakable voice was forever linked to the character of Lisa Simpson.
- Jeanne d'Archétype
- Jerkass: Hubie and, later, his father
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: The film has never gotten a DVD release and most people have only seen it from TV airings.
- It finally got a DVD release in 2011.
- Karma Houdini: Yes, she was harassed and nearly raped. But Billie Jean and her gang broke plenty of laws. Even if you figure that Lloyd went willingly and wasn't kidnapped, and that the car they stole belonged to their own family...they still ran away. They committed vandalism. They incited a riot. They broke traffic laws. And their punishment for all of this? Nothing.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Putter after she gets her period.
- 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.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Lt. Ringwald.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.