Monday, January 3, 2011

Review - Cathouse: Getting It Up (Episode 4)

Short review: The Bunnies sell fantasy while trying to keep from getting bored waiting for clients to show up.

Old men use viagra
Alexis does contortions
Selling fantasy

Full review: Although every episode of Cathouse seems at first glance to be a disorganized mess, most have at least some semblance of a theme running through them. The theme for this episode appears to be "how to keep men interested and how to keep Bunnies from getting bored". Or, more bluntly, "how to keep customers buying, Bunnies selling, and money flowing". I'll note at the outset that this episode has what I consider to be a fairly major flaw - Karla and her razor sharp humor doesn't appear in the episode at all.

In keeping with the show's title, the opening sequence deals with older men, and the difficulties that crop up with age. More simply, as a rapid fire sequence with Danielle, Deanna, Sunset Thomas, and Isabella Soprano discusses, older men have trouble getting erections because of the infirmities of age or simple nerves. And this leads directly to a discussion of the modern cure-all for this problem: Viagra, which Dennis is quoted as saying his customers believe will make them "as hard as Chinese arithmetic".

There is a brief lineup scene in which an older man picks out Amy Andersinn, a very tall, leggy blond using the line that most people who have watched the show will recognize from the opening credits "you're so tall and beautiful". Then the action switches to a party scene with Amy showing the downside of Viagra - it allows a man to get an erection, but to paraphrase Danielle's words, it makes it very difficult for a man to achieve orgasm. Though Dennis asserts that Viagra is as much a mental boost as a physical one, as Daisy points out the men are medicated, and able to keep an erection but unable to get to the finish line, which seems to me like some pretty good evidence that Viagra is mostly a physical boost.

Danielle states that a Viagra party is a "longer, harder party" because of the client's inability to orgasm, and the show then runs through several scenes of Bunnies with older clients, all presumably using Viagra, with the Bunnies struggling to satisfy their clients. In some cases they are successful, as Danielle is just before the speaker announces that it is "time to reparty" (at the Bunny Ranch they never say "time is up", they don't want the client to leave, they want him to spend more money by "repartying"). Amy, on the other hand, is apparently unsuccessful with her client.

As has become apparent in the series, what the Bunny Ranch sells is not simply sex. If it were, then I suspect that the business would not be nearly as successful as it is. What the Bunny Ranch sells is fantasy, and "What's Your Position", another classroom segment with Alexis Fire instructing some other Bunnies in unusual sexual positions, shows one way in which the Bunnies keep the fantasy alive. The incredibly flexible Alexis assumes a position against a wall, with her head at her feet and grabbing her own ankles before asking fellow Bunny Daisy to take the role of a client and demonstrate how they would have sex with her in that position. In an intercut interview segment, Felicia muses that with a regular customer, a Bunny has to spice up a party to keep things from getting dull. As Isabella notes, the customers are "looking for something different" than just run-of-the-mill sex, which one presumes potential clients could experience in their normal lives.

The class continues with Alexis putting first one, and then both her her legs behind her head, after which Sunset and Daisy try to emulate her, although they are clearly not as skilled as a contortionist as Alexis is. The positions lead to a discussion concerning penis size, with the girls commenting on whether they like a larger or smaller penis, with a variety of opinions. Alexis leads the discussion, with the observation that her size preference depends on her mood, and describes some oral sex tricks that she can do with a smaller penis that are impossible with a more well-endowed partner. Whether the girls are playing to the camera, or really are interested in smaller sized men, the sequence should give more modestly endowed guys a boost of confidence, which the Bunnies all agree is the real key to performing well with a woman.

We get another title card, this one called "Trying It Out", and a sex scene with Isabella Soprano and a client trying out the various contortionist tricks that Alexis demonstrated in her classroom segment. Isabella tells her client that he's the first to get a little freaky with the contortionist positions, and that several of the positions stimulated her g-spot. As I've noted before, the sorts of things that are labeled as "freaky" on the HBO show seem like they are decidedly tame, especially for a place that is supposed to be "anything goes" like the Bunny Ranch. One of the revelations of the show, it seems to me, is that most people are quite conservative when it comes to sex, even when they are in a fantasy-land like the Bunny Ranch.

The show then moves from the problem of keeping customers interested to the problem of keeping Bunnies motivated. Sitting in the business office Suzette and Dennis discuss the problem, with Suzette leading off by noting a Bunny told her when she came in to work that business that day was "so dead", but when she looked at the register, there was plenty of money flowing in. Dennis points out that as long as they have one customer per hour, they can stay afloat, and if they have two customers per hour then they are doing very well. But with fifteen to thirty girls working at any given time, this means that work will be slow for the majority of them for the bulk of each day. Being a Bunny apparently means that you will spend most of your twelve hour shift waiting for something to happen. To deal with bored, complaining Bunnies, Suzette keeps an arsenal in her cabinet - aspirin, tums, Tylenol, and so on.

Of course, bored Bunnies are bad for business, so we then shift to "Kittens at Play", a pool party scene showing how the Bunny Ranch keeps their Bunnies from getting bored. Dennis explains that they include a huge budget for fun in their calculations, to keep the Bunnies engaged and working hard. The scene is a huge pool party scene, with Bunnies in various states of undress from bikinis to completely nude running about shooting each other with water guns and playing with hula hoops. (With only two real sex scenes in the episode, HBO had to make sure they get some more nudity in the episode somehow). Most of the Bunnies we have seen before are in the scene.

But the episode then shifts to focusing on Dennis' then current girlfriend Sunset Thomas with a segment titled "Couples Therapy" touting Sunset's skills as a sex educator. Sunset asserts that wives bring their husbands in to ask Sunset to show them how to perform oral sex on a woman more skillfully. Dennis opines that "Sunset is a sex machine . . . she has no inhibitions". I'm not sure what having no inhibitions has to do with being a good educator, but she certainly seems to know a lot about sex, which is probably her best qualification. This segment segues to "Home Studies with Professor Sunset", featuring a seminar that Sunset apparently would give to a group of local women twice a month about sex, mostly asking questions about how to have better sex with their husbands. Sadly, the thrust of many of the segments throughout the series discussing Bunnies as sex educators seems to indicate that there are a lot of people out there having bad, unsatisfying sex with their spouses. To cure this, Dennis asserts that "Sunset is a great teacher" and "who knows more about sex than Sunset".

One thing Sunset is not is a comedienne, which she demonstrates by poorly delivering a very weak joke at the beginning of her seminar built on a double entendre for "box". But she quickly moves on to what she is good at, which is talking about sex. After running through a collection of different shaped toys, it is revealed that several of the women present don't know how to masturbate, or simply have never tried. As a guy, it seems almost inconceivable that someone would not know how to masturbate - for men this activity is pretty much as natural as breathing - and it seems quite sad as well, especially in 2005 (when the episode was first released). One would think that in the 21st century this sort of sexual dark ages would be over, but it seems that it is not. Even sadder, some of the women don't even seem to think that it is something they should do, leading Sunset to comments that there is "nothing like going home and curling up and giving yourself a really good orgasm" at which point she gives a simulated masturbation demonstration. She moves on to showing the women how to perform oral sex upon their husbands, which leads to a puzzling scene in which she shows the women how to roll condoms onto dildoes with their teeth. But if these women are married, one would think that they would not have a real particular need to use condoms as part of their regular sex lives (except, I suppose, for the presumably rare cases in which this was the couple's primary means of birth control, which seems odd in the present sexual landscape of the world).

The episode closes with "The Bachelor Party" as four guys, one of whom is apparently getting married come through the front door of the Bunny Ranch. Dennis is quoted saying that the Ranch is "bachelor party heaven", but this is presumably only for men whose future wives are fairly open-minded, since it seems likely that a bachelor party at the Bunny Ranch would often end up including sex, which I'm guessing a lot of potential brides would frown upon. The guys pick four women, starting with the bachelor picking the super cute Sunshine, one of the other party goers picking Danielle (who spouts her tiresome "you want chocolate" line), and the other two picking two Bunnies I don't recognize (as far as I can tell, these two are never identified by name in the series). Danielle says the guys "didn't know what they wanted" (which I doubt, they are in a brothel, they probably want sex), but that they were "rowdy and wild". The shows follows them from lots of drinking at the bar to a four girl strip show before the girls are shown leading the party boys out of the parlor, presumably to their rooms for some after-party sex. The show closes with Dennis opining that the Bunny Ranch is the funnest place on Earth and that he "wants to die here at one hundred having sex with triplets". I'm not sure if that would be every man's dream, but it sure seems enticing.

Oddly, despite the focus of this episode being on how to create a more fantasy-filled atmosphere and keep the work at the Bunny Ranch a more enjoyable experience, the real revelation of the episode is how dull and mundane life seems to be on a day to day basis. From the rather mild definition of "freaky" that is given, to the fact that the management of the establishment has to provide a means to stave off pervasive boredom among the Bunnies, this episode illustrates just how normal life is within the walls of the sexual fantasy factory.

Previous episode reviewed: Girlfriends.
Subsequent episode reviewed: She's Got Game.

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