Today I went to the dentist for a cleaning and filling. Like everyone else in the world, I hate going to the dentist. But I do love my dentist, who is a kind and gentle soul, and who always has NPR playing in the background.
But I couldn’t help thinking about this, possibly my first introduction to BDSM, of a sort:
Little Shop of Horrors was one of my favorite movies as a little kid. I was completely fascinated by Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist, and Bill Murray’s masochistic dental patient:
I remember asking my parents about these characters, and them explaining to me what sadists and masochists were. To their credit, I remember that they did so in a fairly value-neutral way. I was just riveted by this idea – people who liked pain, giving or receiving? I won’t exactly say that it resonated deeply with me, because I don’t remember thinking “oh that’s me!” but the idea was very, very interesting to me, and something I remember asking my parents about … well, a lot. And I may have decided that some of my stuffed animals were sadists, and others were masochists, and there may have been some spanking games.
Looking at these scenes now is also really interesting to me. Now obviously, Steve Martin is a sadist in the bad way, but he’s also undeniably played up as sexy, as sadists often are in films. And yes, I had a huge crush on him. But Bill Murray’s character – I’m honestly not sure how to read him. Yes, he’s portrayed as being a bit ridiculous, and called a “sicko.” But I love how Murray plays him – with complete and unironic joy. This is a guy who gets off on pain and it makes him happy. He may be a freak, but he’s a happy freak.