First, a confession: when I proposed Earth Girls are Easy for this column, I kind of cheated, though not deliberately. I thought, “Hey, this is a movie from the 1980s about fuzzy space aliens who come to bang their way through the Valley. I loved it when I was twelve. It has to be bad.” But, apparently, my adolescent self had better taste than I thought. Earth Girls Are Easy is actually, kind of…amazing.
Valerie (Geena Davis) is a Valley girl working as a manicurist in her friend Candy’s (Julie Brown) hair salon “Curl Up & Dye.” Val is engaged to Dr. Ted Gallagher (Charles Rocket), a navel-gazing loser who cheats on her and can’t please her sexually. The day after tossing Ted out, Val is sunbathing when a massive spaceship crash-lands in her pool, disclosing three furry aliens: Mac (Jeff Goldblum), Wiploc (Jim Carrey), and Zeebo (Damon Wayans). And what do the aliens want? Girls, of course! Rather than running off to the authorities, Valerie calls up her pool boy Woody (Michael McKean) to dry out the spaceship, and takes the aliens along to the hair salon, where Candy helps her to make them more presentable to the world of 1980s California. Val begins to fall for Mac, who resolutely refuses to put a shirt on, while his buddies run rampant in the Valley. There are musical numbers. There’s Jeff Goldblum emerging shirtless from a full body wax. There’s rainbow-tinted alien sex. This is absolutely the best film ever.
It has been years since I sat down and watched Earth Girls Are Easy, and I did not realize that it was such a delightfully subversive pleasure. Yes, I did first see this film as an adolescent girl, when my heart beat only for Goldblum, and yes, it is a piece of weirdness that could only be made in the 1980s. It also has its tongue heavily embedded in its cheek, and showcases the not-inconsiderable comedic talents of a group of actors who were only just starting to rise. Carrey and Wayans are two years off from In Living Color, and here they’re a delightful tag team of innocence and adolescent sexual energy. The aliens are masters of mimicry (they learn English from clicking through TV stations) and that’s developed across the film, culminating in a dance club scene that has Wiploc and Zeebo finally finding the smoking hot chicks they’ve been looking for.
Meanwhile, Julie Brown’s performance and songs act as a Greek chorus for the film, both satirizing vanity and superficiality and celebrating makeup, hair color, and female libido. Davis is a deliriously befuddled leading lady, playing Val with sweet stupidity that is part of the film’s constant charm. And Goldblum, probably the most subdued of the group, spends most of his time gazing at her in rapture.
The movie turns on sex, but it ends up celebrating female desire far more than the title suggests. The aliens wind up in Val’s pool because they’re cruising the galaxy for chicks (well, Wiploc and Zeebo are; Mac is a bit more mature). But before that, we see Val’s rather unhappy love life as she begs for affection from Dr. Ted and is made over by Candy to the tune of “Brand New Girl,” a Madonna-esque satire/celebration of makeup and blow-dryers. When Ted turns out to be philandering, Val sings “Worship the Ground You Walk On” (an 80s power ballad) while destroying all his stuff in increasingly bizarre and satisfying ways. As Candy says, Val needs to get laid: “You spend all your time taking care of Ted, but who’s taking care of you?” Even her attempts to become a magazine image are couched in terms of her sexual needs—maybe if she looks the part, Ted will satisfy her. So by the time the aliens turn up, this film has been totally focalized through Val and how much men have failed her. But if Ted doesn’t get it, the aliens sure do. They take one look at her and think she’s a babe.
In fact, the aliens spread orgasmic energy wherever they go. Their primary weapon is a “love touch,” a version of the Vulcan death grip that makes anyone they touch reveal their deepest romantic fantasies. Mac taps into that with Val (hehe) and takes his cues from Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, playing piano for her as she explains to him the meaning of the phrase “Mr. Right.” During the dance club scene, Wiploc and Zeebo run through a gamut of women, but their uninhibited sexuality is about satisfying everyone’s lusts, not just their own, performing for the girls far more than the girls perform for them. The camera consumes the three aliens—once they’re shaved and waxed (double hehe), they become sleek and sexy, female fantasies fallen from the sky. When Mac offers to make Val “feel good” after she throws Ted out a second time, Val finally gives in to her need for sweet, satisfying sex, bypassing her overly complicated self-help manuals and relationship rules. He can make her feel good, and there’s no reason to pass that up.
If the film starts with aliens looking for sexy women, it’s never really about their fantasies, but the fantasies of the women around them. Is there anything more fantastic than to have ripped starmen fall to earth with the sole goal of making women orgasm?
“You’re incredible,” Val breathes when she first sees the shirtless, doe-eyed Mac.
“Yeah. Real good.”
Same, girl. Same.