Magnifica 70, a period-accurate study of Brazil in the 1970s, brings us deep into life under an authoritarian regime that’s always on the hunt for anti-government sentiment in media. Main man Vicente works as a censor, but quickly becomes obsessed with erotic star Dora Dumar. Anyway, the fine line between art and porn explored in Magnifica 70 got us thinking about all the times our mainstream culture was invaded by the underground. And given the subject, why not start with the most audacious mainstream cross-over:
Deep Throat showed a generation how ridiculous porn could be
A woman born with a clitoris in her throat. That’s the kind of twisted fever dream that leads to creating the most famous pornographic film of all time. One that was screened in theatres, attended by respectable couples and made a household screen name out of its star, Linda Lovelace. (Of course, if you want the true story in all its depressing glory, Lovelace is available On Demand.) Decades later, the X-rated industry was trying to recapture this zeitgeist feeling with stunts, such as Digital Playground’s Pirates boasting porn’s first $1 million budget.
Hairspray dialled down the grossness and up the fun
In contrast to John Waters’ other masterpiece – Pink Flamingos – this is a clean, fun romp that celebrates the kitschy spirit of the 1960s. Future talk-show star Ricki Lake turns dancing superstar-wannabe Tracey Turnblad into a heroine for the ages as she triumphs over the forces of mainstream popularity and Deborah Harry. A great watch when you’re feeling like life is permanently punishing you.
The Room proved that quality is no barrier to popularity
OK, so this diabolical ball of nonsense was given entry to the mainstream ironically, but it still counts. Tommy Wiseau’s story of a man who is being torn apart, plays football in a tuxedo and laughs at the idea of acquaintances being beaten is in the same sphere as The Rocky Horror Picture Show – public screenings are marked by rituals such as throwing spoons at the screen and tossing footballs around.
Sharknado made a virtue of dumb ideas
There’s nothing clever about the concept of a sharknado. It isn’t even a pun. And yet, there’s something so enticing about the imagery of a murderous twister inhabited by violently furious fish. Spawning three sequels worth of story so far, Sharknado led many filmmakers to try to capture its camp brilliance, but obviously they lacked whatever magic (and Ian Ziering) took place here.
The Toxic Avenger somehow became a thing for kids to enjoy
If you want to see a truly mindboggling example of this process, watch The Toxic Avenger then reflect on the animated series, kids’ toys and Marvel comic series that were spawned from this R-rated gross-out comedy. Featuring torture, extreme violence, child prostitution and human trafficking, The Toxic Avenger is one of those films that’s not suitable for anyone. (It’s hilarious, though.)
Magnifica 70 airs Thursday night on SBS at midnight. The entire first season is available in full on SBS On Demand: