One Night at McCool’s (IMDB) is a 2001 sex comedy film. Three men become obsessed with one beautiful woman, resulting in a tangle of sex, greed, and murder. (Though it’s rated R, there’s no actual nudity.)
For our purposes, the only point of interest is one of the men: Carl, a yuppie lawyer who gets into a submissive relationship with the woman, Jewel. She includes the demand for legal advice as part of their scene, and Carl happily agrees. Though materially successful with a wife and child, Carl is unhappy, sexually unsatisfied, and immediately smitten with Jewel.
For Jewel, this is purely instrumental. She needs legal advice to get her dream house, and adopts the domme persona in the same way she plays the damsel in distress to manipulate other men. There’s only one scene of her in the dominatrix outfit.
Later, Carl tries to set up a date with Jewel in the house she has appropriated, and puts on leather assless pants and a bondage harness. This is interrupted by another of Jewel’s admirers in a full motorcycle cop uniform. Circumstances conspire to put Carl in situations that look like he is gay, as if no “real” man would ever wear such a thing. Many other characters immediately assume that he is. The gay-panic comedy even arranges to put the three male characters and a “cigar store Indian” in a lineup looking like the Village People, and then follows it up with a shootout set to “YMCA”.
The shootout that ends the movie spares the first man of the three to meet Jewel, and kills the cop character in a blaze of masculine glory. Carl flees the scene barefoot and in bondage gear, only to be crushed to death by a falling dumpster in the last scene. This feels weirdly punitive for a character who has transgressed the least compared to the others. Can’t he just go back to his wife?
One Night is meant as a comedy, and arguably has no obligation to educate on BDSM. Still, it is uncomfortable that many of the scenes with Carl are based on the assumption that a man willingly in a submissive position is, in and of itself, funny. It comes close to the rare appearances of a homosexual man or a lesbian woman in media of early generations, as an object of either ridicule or fear. Having apparently forsaken masculine dignity, Carl might as well be dead.