CRUEL INTENTIONS (1999)— My So-Called Aristocracy


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On this week’s annotated deep dive, The Cultists present Roger Kumble’s iconic “teen” flick, 'Cruel Intentions' (1999). Based on the 18th century French novel, Dangerous Liaisons (1782), about a group of bored (and very adult) aristocratic power-players living in a morality-absent void of entitlement and sociopathic values, CI hit the late 1990s YA landscape in a way no other film within the genre had quite done before. A hedonistic embrace of cold, sociopathic teenagers lavishly shot in cozy golden light, CI became a milestone of the revitalized Victorian child model, in which kids were simply seen as miniature adults—bodies to dress in adult attire and be shown off as reflections of their parents and their social class. Showcasing themes of incest, entitlement, sexual manipulation, consent issues, blackmail, assault, and even federal cyber crimes in what is technically trafficking and distributing child pornography, CI left no softcore taboo out of the reach of its highschool cast of characters, a decision that culminated in perhaps the film’s most daring choice of all: to create and accept an R rating for a film about teenagers—a demographic who wasn’t even allowed to see it in theaters as a result. (And yet see it they did).

Deep Dive topics include: CI's production history and details; the multitude of filming locations; comparisons with the OG aristocratic French novel; insights from the director’s commentary; all of the CI direct-to-video sequels; and the glorious but forgotten 2016 reboot test pilot in which Katherine returns to try and get it on with her dead step brother’s son.

Episode Safeword: “altruism”

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