After all, isn't that what happened with Gidget and Moondoggie? To me, this seemed like the True and Only American mating ritual. Never mind the fact that I knew nothing about actual sex. And watching Beach Party did not educate me in that regard. Seeing the movie almost fifty years later, I was struck by the artful balance between what the characters said and what they did not say. The adult characters use the word sex several times, but the young characters, the people I thought were teenagers (on the second viewing, they struck me as college-age), never do.
There are two couples at the center of the movie, and the younger one, whose age group was undoubtedly the target audience for the movie, is having trust issues. He wants to be alone with her; she's afraid to be alone with him. As an adult, I can see that he was hoping their relationship could move to the next level of intimacy, the one that would require at least one of them to use birth control. But she's afraid of that level, because she's not sure he's in it for the long haul. If she ends up “in trouble,” she may be on her own.
In 1968, the real world was coming to pieces and trying to remake itself into something new. Viet Nam divided the younger and older generations, people were beginning to question whether war caused more problems than it solved, whether a 9 to 5 job was the only worthy goal in life, whether drugs should be illegal. And the family itself was a reason for conflict – was it really a one-size-fits-all proposition? Was Western religion the only true philosophy, or did Eastern religions have something to teach us? In another year, the pinnacle of hippie culture would be realized at Woodstock, the nadir in the Manson killings. Younger people felt an irrational hope; older people thought the world was coming to an end.
And me? I lived in Arizona. I bought into the beach myth with all my heart, and it was with great dismay that my balloon was burst many years later, when I made my first trip to an actual beach in California, thinking it would be Pavones. But every square foot was taken up by a human being, and almost none of them looked like those fabulous people in the movies. They were old and fat, or screaming toddlers, or people who gave me the creeps. The sand was hot, the water was cold and full of icky stuff, and I got a sunburn just by walking from the parking lot. (All of you people who didn't belong on my beach, I still hate your guts 30 years later – especially now that I look like you).