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Suzie Q: A date with the Playmates of Apocalypse Now

The pulsating whir of the chopper, descending from overhead, is that great signifier of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” This is the image referenced time and time again as the measure of cinematic bluster, the kind of shot that takes (per Ethan Hawke, comparing Coppola’s grueling shoot to his experience shooting “The Northman”) “hubris,” “arrogance,” and — of course — “balls.” It follows that we are intimately familiar with Coppola’s famed helicopter shot, in which a quiet, cloistered jungle-scape is doused in flaxen smog. Consider, however, the film’s other helicopter shot: airlifting in, not napalm, but bunnies.

At the USO base, we are surely “in” the jungle, but still our surroundings seem mechanized, commercialized. Our crew’s first action is to purchase some fuel — our first sign that around here, it is capitalism as usual. Moments ago a tiger roamed free, now the only animal present (besides Lance’s puppy, a Golden Retrieving reminder of neatly mowed grass and picket fences far, far away) is the logoized Playboy Bunny, plastered brazenly across the prow of the descending aircraft. Referencing a kind of primordial sexuality (“fucking like bunnies”), the Playboy brand epitomizes the New Masculinity of the 1970’s. With the arrival of Women’s Lib, gender dynamics of yore were facing their greatest threat yet, and no one was better primed to shepherd the “New Man” through this imminent crisis of masculinity and towards a celebration of consummate bachelordom than one Hugh Hefner. The Playboy set opted to ditch the stodgy girlfriend, the nagging wife, and embrace the Bunny… read more >

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