by Rich Moreland, September 2015
Our interpretation of Daddy’s Girls continues with a look at imagery.
For clarification, my thanks to Girlfriends Films for providing the stills used in this series on Daddy’s Girls and Daddy’s Girls 2.
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B Skow is no stranger to color and in Daddy’s Girls he uses pastels to underline his themes. Take a look at the drawings in Samantha’s bedroom.
On the wall above her nightstand are hand drawn dual faces looking straight ahead (as does the visually disabled Samantha). Incidentally, her bed is a single, room for only one, an ironic contrast to Quincy’s which we will see later. The bed is, however, angled into the corner like a phallus in the act of penetration, a comment on Samantha’s still active sexual desire.
The faces are of the same girl. On the left, she has eyes without pupils; on the right, her eyes are animated and her expression is surrounded by a cut out background that could pass for a nun’s wimple and veil.
The first face is stiff, lifeless, and creepy; shadowing and colors light up the second. Both have the same enigmatic smile.
Shades of yellows and muted blue-greens shape the room. Of interest are the pictures to the right, mountings covered with a dark cloth or shroud, a reminder of Samantha’s pain and her suicidal thoughts.
More broadly, the faces are indicative of the story’s message. In order to “see,” the characters must break through the collective pretenses that hide their secrets and perversions. Discarding the masks they present to others, the first face, and emerging from a cesspool of lies and feigned affections, the second face, is the heart of the Daddy’s Girls saga.
As an added touch, Skow positions Samantha’s cane and sunglasses under the pictures to remind the viewer that she is the only person who really “sees.”
And a Mask
Bob’s daughter Quincy has her own mask behind which her fetish thrives. She leaves a note in the bathroom for him, “I love you daddy” with the word love illustrated with a heart. It’s drawn in the manner of a four-year-old with the sun, stick figures, a tree, and a house (an arrow points from “daddy” down to the house). The swing set is a clever addition to lure daddy into extracurricular sex (remember Freud’s assertion that a girl who dreams of her father in control of motion, such as pushing her in a swing, has undeniable sexual implications).
Discovering the note, Bob slips it back under the mirror and looks at his reflection. Placing his fingers over part of his face, he leaves space for his eyes as if he were wearing a mask, which of course he literally does at times throughout the film.
Skow informs us that Bob puts on a theatrical domino in his play acting sex because of all the girls Bob carnally explores, not one is an actual daughter. To be a Daddy’s girl means to be young. Bob’s Lolita fetish is more a May-December sexual shenanigans illustrated by flings with hookers and his impending marriage in Daddy’s Girls 2. Both films are spin-offs of fauxest (phony incest) with Bob the big dog of the action.
When he has sex with his prostitute Marla, Bob dons his costume accessory and she wants to know who he really is, though by this time the fetish has become a part of the routine. Quincy comes up in conversation and Marla assures Bob that some girls have a daddy complex. Quite true. In psychoanalysis, Freud called it the “Father Complex” and used the Oedipus and Electra versions to sort out the difference between male and female sexual longings. Modern thinkers associate Freud’s ideas to “Father Hunger” in which the daughter seeks affirmations to boost her self-esteem.
The mask, however, exists on more than one level. It can hide illicit sex and Bob’s Lolita hang-ups, but it’s also the calling card that links Bob with his Samantha substitutes.
Ironically, when he is with Samantha he has no need to wear his mask because she cannot “see” him for what he is, or so he hopes. To put it another way, she is hidden behind a veil of blindness which weakens her resistance. As a result, Bob bears responsibility for wrecking her emotionally. His selfish desire to sate himself at her expense is itself a mask.
Using Marla as a sympathetic ear, Bob confesses his affair with Sam. “Does your friend know?” she asks, speaking of Dale. Bob says no, whereupon Marla asserts, “I bet she tried to kill herself.”A semi-panicked Bob denies that insight, but later concedes the homecoming party for Samantha will be difficult because he still lusts for her.
The scene enhances Marla’s role as the unofficial “therapist” in this first film (there will be a supposedly real one in the second).
“I think I have just what you need,” she says, and pulls out her sunglasses.
“Hi Bob, remember me?” Marla caresses his face with her fingers, he calls her “Sam,” and rough sex follows.
This scene sets up the rest of the story, establishing Marla as a voice of honesty in a role that reflects the Greek chorus used centuries ago to accompany the audience through a drama. She emerges as the story’s most admirable character. There is another in the second film, the prostitute Oralee who becomes the new hostess of Bob’s sexual obsession when Marla’s status changes.
At times B Skow blankets the film’s brilliant colors with shadows to cover the secrets that mute the joy of Samantha’s return. After he learns his friend Dale has incurable cancer, Bob lies awake in bed. Beside him is his wife Gina, face packed in neon green mud (her personal mask). He is on his back; she on her side. Both are in shadows broken by stark lighting and have tears of guilt running down their cheeks.
Each has broken a trust in the name of the illicit.
There are companion shots of Samantha lying awake, fixated straight ahead with a softness that combats the chilling rigor mortis of her personal tragedy, and Dale in his bed, trying to negotiate his own mortality.
It is a masterful, powerful moment in Daddy’s Girls. The contrast of color and light is strident while contradictorily embedded in silence. Skow wants the viewer to feel the isolation of each character, a reminder of the Expressionist terror of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
The irony of Daddy’s Girls is that the characters have allowed themselves, by way of their oxymoronic voiceless screams, to be put where they are. As Dale tells Bob when he first discovered Samantha’s suicidal tendencies, “You know Sammy . . . keeps everything inside. I never know what’s going on with her.”
Amid this selfish and grasping account of smug perversions, everyone is hiding something. To borrow a thought from Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, an individual’s public persona and his inner shadow represent the contrasts between what we see and what we don’t in ways that are counterpoints of each other. Skow uses shadows and light to illustrate Jung’s insight.
Yet there is an exception. Quincy is not in shadows in her bed. She’s too busy with her webcam, masturbating in front of her computer. Of all the players in the film, she is the most complex, a temptress who is abused, a controller who is also a beggar. Her colors are subdued pastels and she dresses to play her part: a little girl in knee socks, pigtails, and shorts. Nothing seemingly harsh for maybe the harshest character who by her very nature hides nothing . . . except when the computer is on.
One final note before we move to the last installment of Daddy’s Girls. A painting shows up periodically throughout the film. It appears to be a Victorian era representation of an Eastern harem, naked women gathered around a pool with pleasure devices on hand. Appropriate because there are characters in this story who would prefer simple frivolity and the soothing water of the hookah.
Everyone would feel better if they could only blow a little smoke into the illusion that is Daddy’s Girls.