Shag: A timeless mother-daughter movie


We are on vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina, with three moms (one is a step-mom), three girls (almost 11, 9, and almost 5), and one dad. For four nights in a row now, we have come in from the beach, chased the dad out of the room, and snuggled up with cookie dough, kiddie cocktails / wine spritzers, and the movie Shag.

The girls have picked up on the same quotes the moms did 20 years ago…

“Now girls, we can have a good time, but we CANNOT be wild.” -Spoken by the prim senator’s daughter, Luanne.

“Harley’s so square he’s got corners.” -From the bold and reckless preacher’s daughter, Malayna.

“You don’t know me. You don’t love me. And you sure as all damn well don’t wanna marry me.” -From the uptight good girl Carson, who is engaged to marry square Harley, but instead “goes all the way” on a houseboat with bad boy Buzz.

“Carson, why can’t girls ask boys to dance?” -Friendly and naive Pudge, who isn’t pudgy at all, whose only apparent shortcoming is a lack of confidence.

Some observations about this movie, after watching it again after 20 years, this time with our daughters:

1. This movie is still awesome! Want to tell a story that will still be relevant a generation later? Set it in an even earlier generation. Focus on emotional details, not historical ones. For example: It doesn’t matter what the reproductive laws were at the time, when the girls drive past Magnolia Court, the motel “where Frances Jarris got pregnant last year”, their fearful awe is the same as it would be today.

2. Movies with archetypical characters inevitably lead to us archetyping ourselves. Alicon, the magic fairy “Butterfly Head” in our group, is Pudge. Courtenay, who does whatever she wants including tell everyone about it, is our Malayna. Because I will also do whatever I want, but only after some bullshit worrying what other people might think about it, I’m our group’s Carson. We don’t really have an adult Luanne, but my daughter is well on her way. Which gets me to a third observation…

3. Are we raised by society’s archetypes, or are those archetypes built around reality? A grown-up Carson will at some point embrace her “wild” side, as the character declares when she emerges from that houseboat. And it makes sense that a grown-up Carson might encourage a daughter to be a little more free-spirited and confident than she was growing up, and as we know that all children rebel in some way from their parents, it would stand to reason I am raising a bit of a Luanne. She’s rebelling by not rebelling.

4. Malayna is not a slut. Opportunistic, yes. Calculated, yes. Assertive, certainly. But the word “slut” infers a woman who gives herself away at someone else’s discretion. The only slut in Shag is Carson – pushed by everyone but herself … and Malayna … into marrying Harley the tobacco baron’s son – and she turns that around (ironically) when she decides to sleep with Buzz.

5. Can we please stop demanding too much of our figures? Pudge is by far the most lovable character in this movie. She also has no clue, because she thinks she’s fat. I took my little Luanne shopping for a bathing suit the other day. At 10 years old, she is 5’4″ with long, colt legs, graceful, shapely hands that will play a guitar or paint a masterpiece, and a heart-shaped face that’s a lovely canvas for her insightful blue eyes. “My thighs are big,” she said.

It’s Day Five at the beach. I think we will watch Pudge and Chip enter that Shag contest a fifth night in a row.


9 thoughts on “Shag: A timeless mother-daughter movie

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