Risky Themes in Risky Business

The use of cigarettes only occurs when Joel (Tom Cruise) feels powerful. (photo: imbd.com)

Risky Business (Paul Brickman, 1983) tells the story of Joel (Tom Cruise), a high school senior who falls into business with a call girl. When his parents leave town for
vacation, Joel is convinced by his friend, Miles (Curtis Armstrong), to get
a call girl for the night. After some initial trouble, Joel eventually gets a girl named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) to come over. The next morning, though, Joel finds out he does not have enough money to pay her; in response, Lana takes his mother’s glass egg sculpture. This propels Joel into a series of events centered on trying to retrieve his egg. He gets even more tied up with Lana as he angers her manager/pimp, Guido (Joe Pantoliano). Eventually, after ruining his chances to get into his dream college and destroying his father’s Porsche, Joel works
with Lana and they use Joel’s house to run a prostitution ring.

After watching this movie, a few themes become apparent. There is evidence of strong criticism of capitalism within the film: the plot revolves around the idea of making money, both through prostitution and through going to college. Of course, the plot also revolves around sex. There are lots of scenes that contain sexual symbolism. Freudian symbolism is also rampant: Joel smokes cigarettes as an indication of phallic power. Though the movie presents a lot to work off of, the statement, “Two types of Freudian symbols, phallic and yonic, present within Risky Business, indicate that males must assert dominance over women to transition from youth to adulthood” functions as a thesis that will dive into the latent content of the film.

With this thesis statement, the body of the argument can be split into a couple parts. The first part could be about the phallic symbols. This paragraph can identify a couple of phallic objects present within the film. The use of the objects within a Freudian framework will be described. The cinematic presentation (how the shot is set up) of the objects will also be described. Acknowledgments about the limits of Freudian symbolism will be made in order to note counterpoints.

The second part of the body of the argument will be very similar to the first part, except it will describe yonic symbols.

The third part of the body will address the ways in which the objects (phallic and yonic) indicate that Joel (and most of the men in the film) are initially in submission to their female counterparts but eventually attempt to assert dominance in order to gain manhood. Furthermore, this part will show that the women in the film are generally more controlling and logical. The women in the film face no real distinction between youth and adulthood, since they do not have to overcome a female power. Using the analysis of the phallic and yonic symbols, the third part of the argument will explore the need for the men to assert power.


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