Five Thoughts & Observations On “The Legend of Billie Jean”

I first saw “The Legend of Billie Jean” on Television when I was nine years old on my favorite network WPIX Channel 11 in New York. This was a time when I had no cable, so my only movie entertainment were the edited for time, pan and scan films from the eighties that were also cut for adult content and language. In either case, “The Legend of Billie Jean” became an instant favorite and it’s remained one of my favorites for a very long time. Now with a Retro VHS re-release from Mill Creek, I thought I’d ponder on my favorite memories with what I consider a classic from 1985.

5. Helen Slater is Beautiful
I was pretty awestruck with Helen Slater’s beauty when I first saw “The Legend of Billie Jean” as a child. I was constantly in awe at how she also shifted from a peculiar kind of beauty in both chapters of the movie. When we see her she’s more a country born, down to Earth small town girl kind of beautiful with long hair and a slender body. When the movie is ending, she is now a beautiful warrior with strength, a clear cut sense of purpose, and a pretty rad haircut evocative of Pat Benatar. Yes, I know she models it after “Joan of Arc,” but all I see is Pat Benatar. I didn’t get to see Slater in “Supergirl” until a few years later, so I primarily knew her as Billie Jean when I the movie became an instant favorite as a child. Many fans think of her as the first Supergirl, but for me she’s Billie Jean.

4. As a “The Simpsons” fanatic, it was fun seeing Yeardley Smith in Person
I still am a big “The Simpsons” buff, but when I was a kid I loved finding out that the woman who played Lisa, was also in the movie. Yeardley Smith has a huge supporting role here as Putter, a spunky sidekick with a big Southern drawl. She’s a lot of fun here, and it was great matching the face to the voice.

3. I Was a Big Christian Slater Fan as a Kid
I was big in to Christian Slater when I was a kid. WPIX Channel 11 in New York gave a lot of his early movies, so whenever they were on I’d watch them. I loved “Heathers,” I adored “Pump Up the Volume,” and “Kuffs” was a movie I could have seen over and over again without ever getting bored. Yes, many people say Slater basically just did an impression of Nicholson, while “Kuffs” was kind of a rip off of “Beverly Hills Cop,” but I didn’t care. I thought anything that Slater was in was pure gold (yes I also enjoyed “Mobsters” and “The Wizard”), and his role in “The Legend of Billie Jean” was one of his all time best. Oddly enough I never did see “True Romance” until I was in my twenties, but I think I’d have loved the movie.

2. I Hated Peter Coyote as a kid
He captured E.T. and now he was trying to catch Billie Jean and Binx. That was something I could never really forgive when I was eight. I can separate the man from the characters now, but back then I hated him for trying to arrest Billie Jean and her brother and now that disgusting pervert who tried to rape her.

1. It’s a childhood favorite that’s still a favorite
“The Legend of Billie Jean” hasn’t gotten old and I say that without my rose colored nostalgia glasses on. There have been so many childhood favorites that have fallen by the way side over the years (ahem–“Sister Act 2,” “Bushwhacked,” “The Applegates”) but I always re-visit “The Legend of Billie Jean” and it never fails to entertain and thrill me. It’s a well directed and interesting crime thriller with still very relevant themes about female empowerment all set off by an attempted rape. Helen Slater is also a doll, even if Christian Slater’s blond locks are weird looking. In either case, I still love the movie as much as I did when I first saw it when I was nine.