Apr 012020

Tomcats is a 2001 sex comedy. 

Tomcats is a catalog of white heterosexual male anxieties at the turn of the millennium: castration, marriage, children, public humiliation, romantic and sexual rejection, unruly female bodies, being outperformed by women professionally, women turning into lesbians, and women who are too sexual. For the purposes of this project, the relevant scene has the same comedic premise as in Eurotrip: that even the horniest man can be overwhelmed by the most voracious woman.

What lies beneath the meek exterior of librarian Jill (Heather Stephens)?

The premise is that a group of male friends made a bet that whoever is the last unmarried gets all the money in a large mutual fund. Our protagonist, Michael (Jerry O’Connell), tries to impress a woman at a Vegas casino, ends up owing $50,000, and has to get his womanizing single friend, Kyle (Jake Busey) married by the end of the month so he gets the money. 

Michael finds Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), the one who got away for Kyle, who turns out to be a police detective. They set about seducing Kyle, while our protagonist starts falling for the woman. Natalie tells Michael that she’s falling for Kyle, prompting Michael to seduce the first woman he sees, which goes spectacularly awry.

Michel’s target turns out to be Jill (Heather Stephens), a redheaded librarian, the most stereotypically repressed of female professions. Complete with horn-rimmed glasses, hair in bun, and meek body language. Jill sees that he is (unknowingly) carrying The Scarlet Letter. They talk and she invites him into his home. 

Inside her pastel den of traditional femininity, Michael meets Grammy (Marnie Crossen), who was also a librarian. They go into Jill’s bedroom, which starts with her on top, and rapidly progresses to unnegotiated bondage. Jill’s handcuffs are hidden inside the arms of her stuffed toys, so it looks like they are holding his wrists to the bed. 

Michael (Jerry O’Connell) wonders if he’s in over his head.

“Trust me,” she says.

She bites his nipple, eliciting an “Ow!”

Jill: “You can take it.”

Michael: “I don’t know if I want to take it.”

Jill reveals her wild side.

She strips off her pink slip to reveal purple bra, panties and corset.  

Michael: “I gotta tell you, Jill, this is a little unexpected.” 

Jill: “Call me Mistress, you disgusting little worm.” [Gets off bed] “You said it. We’re on the same wavelength.” [opens trunk, pulls out matching thigh boots]

Michael: “All that wavelength stuff, frankly, I was just saying that to get you into bed.” 

Jill: “That is not very nice.” [zips up stiletto platform boots] “In fact, that is downright naughty.”

Jill and her neatly organized dungeon

Jill’s bedroom rapidly transforms into a dungeon, complete with suspension bondage, mood lighting, and a rack of toys, neatly organized and each with their own Library of Congress-style code. (A much more literate visual gag than I expected in a movie like this.) One giant paddle has a large red A. 

She hits Michael with it, who screams through the gag, and sobs.

Jill: “I don’t know. I’m just not feeling it. Something’s missing.”

The bedroom door bursts open. Grammy comes out in black dominatrix outfit, including cap, with coach whip. “Here’s Grammy!”

Michael recoils in terror. 

Cut to: Michael fleeing the house, muttering, “No more redheads…” He hits himself in the butt on the way out with the gate, and screams. 

(In a later scene, we see the imprint of a large A on Michael’s nude buttock.)

Later on, Kyle also hooks up with Jill and ends up in the same situation, complete with a surprise appearance by Grammy. However, he seems to like it….

I won’t even bother pointing out this is a total violation of consent. 

The joke here is that the meekest mouseburger can be revealed as a voracious virago. While this can be seen as comedic justice, in that Michael got what he deserved for trying to seduce and abandon a woman, the reversal of power also justifies the film’s overall anxiety about women, as if the most terrifying thing imaginable is to be at the mercy of a post-menopausal woman. 

Like other appearances of BDSM in comedic contexts, sadomasochism in Tomcats gives the sexual content a place to go that’s too far but won’t push the film out of the R-rated category and into the dreaded, commercially non-viable X.

  One Response to “Tomcats (2001): The Celluloid Dungeon”

  1. […] like the dominatrix scene in Tomcats (including a similar room that instantly transforms into a dungeon), the comedy exploits male […]

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