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Just for Fun: Bad Girls Behind Bars

Just for Fun: Bad Girls Behind Bars

From vintage Pam Grier in a female 'Blacksploitation' style chain gang film to her small-screen television sis, Jennifer Beals’ Bette Porter, pleasuring herself against a prison wall, women behind bars is a winner. Hollywood's hottest women in prison, including the original Angels, Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett; Rachel Shelley; Mandana Jones, Simone Lahbib; Anne Heche, Ione Skye, Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale.

TracyEGilchrist

From vintage Pam Grier in a female 'Blacksploitation' style chain gang film to her small-screen television sis, Jennifer Beals’ Bette Porter, pleasuring herself against a prison wall, women behind bars is a winner. Hollywood's hottest women in prison, including the original Angels, Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett; Rachel Shelley; Mandana Jones, Simone Lahbib; Anne Heche, Ione Skye, Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale.

Faded and tattered denim jumpsuits, dirty white undershirts, handcuffs, chains, a pack of cigs rolled up in the sleeve, a make-up free Hollywood celeb sporting a well-placed facial cut, bruise or scar and, of course, the compulsory strip-search and soap-dropping shower scenes are just a few of the tropes that make “women in prison,” on the big and small screens, particularly fetching.

A sub-genre that openly objectifies bad girls, and makes sex symbols out of the “innocent until proven guilty,” the women behind bars theme, is at times self-reflectively campy and at others, just a big old gay girl tease to those who harbor a lock-em-up fetish.

From vintage Pam Grier in a female “Blacksploitation” style chain gang film to her small-screen television sis, Jennifer Beals’ Bette Porter, masturbating against a prison wall, the subversive and titillating nature of women in lock up is not lost on producers and directors.

A long-time admirer of the demented sub-genre since I first laid eyes on the original Charlie’s Angels chained together in an undercover prison episode that sent my nascent lesbian tendencies percolating, the overdue to decision last spring to send Mariska Hargitay’s hot cop Olivia Benson undercover in jail on Law and Order: SVU got my juices flowing about all the incarcerated babes in film and television who came before her.

Here is, a by no means definitive, look at some saucy prison scenes.
 

Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith in “Angels in Chains”:

Television mogul Aaron Spelling was either a dirty old man, an evil genius or both but we have the king of “jiggle television” to thank for the pop-culture phenomenon that is Charlie’s Angels. Displaying great vision into the needs of the American public—budding lesbians included—Angels' creators served up a deliciously campy women-in-prison scenario early in the show’s first season.

In the episode the original angels -- Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith -- receive a good ole hosing down from a repressed female guard, engage in erstwhile prostitution and beat the shit of a couple of good-ole-boy cops while chained together. Throw in a baby Kim Basinger as an inmate, and this is the stuff that gay gals’ wet dreams are made of. A true classic to which the big screen version starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu couldn’t resist paying homage.

Jennifer Beals and Ion Overman in Mutual Prison Masturbation on The L Word Season 1:

Another first-season camp moment… Ilene Chaiken and the gang climbed right on the women-in-prison chain gang and sent Jennifer Beals’ Bette, the object of her infidelity, Candace, played by Ion Overman, and the rest of The L Word gang to the pokey for some full-on Lesbo silliness. Of course, since The L Word fancies itself at turns, political and at others, flat-out fetish fun, Bette and the girls hit the big house following a clash over freedom of expression with rightwing Christian protesters outside Bette’s museum.

Replete with twangy back-country blues guitar, Bette fortuitously—not so for Tina—winds up in a cell with the object of her roving eye, carpenter and definite top, Candace. But being the tormented soul that she is, Bette opts for a horny co-cell fantasy session accompanied by mental tribadism. Oh to be more than a fly on the filthy wall in that prison cell.

Rachel Shelley’s Helena Rules the Prison Yard on The L Word Season 5:

Everyone loves a prissy English girl gone bad and capitalizing on the success of The L Word’s first season prison scene, producers sent smokin’ Rachel Shelley’s poor little rich girl Helena to the pokey for a complete story arc in season five.

Tossed together with a laconic, if not downright frightening—but sexy—cellmate, Dusty, played by bad-assed boxer Lucia Rijker, silver-spoon-up-her-bum Helena finds a confidante, protector, lover and business partner. And once Dusty takes broken bird Helena under her wing, the orange-jumpsuit-clad hotties rule the prison yard.

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British gals in the clink, Helen and Nikki in Bad Girls:

British gals behind bars made for a solid eight seasons of the gritty BBC prison drama, Bad Girls. Every long-running show needs its Ross and Rachel or Bette and Tina and Bad Girls’ first season delivered the central storyline that brought Mandana Jones’ prisoner Nikki and Simone Lahbib’s Wing Governor (guard) Helen, together.

The pair fell in love between lockdowns and strip searches while Nikki was in the clink for killing a policeman who’d raped her girlfriend. Helen made much ado about her big piece of man meat boyfriend for much of the season but the women eked out a tumultuous and steamy love affair nonetheless. Their love affair was so epic, it spawned a West End musical, Bad Girls: The Musical, which closed after only two months. Here’s guessing there just wasn’t enough on-stage nudity for jaded London audiences.



Vintage Pam Grier in Classic Blacksploitation Women in Chains:

A lifetime before she became Bette’s big sis Kit on The L Word, Pam Grier was—and still is—the undisputed queen of the Blacksploitation film and it doesn’t get much steamier than an afro-coiffed Pam chained to a hot blonde played by Margaret Markov in Eddie Romero’s 1972 cheese flick, Black Mama White Mama. The so-bad-it’s-good cheese-fest pays homage to the classic Stanley Kramer film The Defiant Ones, in which chain gang escapees Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier tackle racial differences while on the lam.

Naughty nightie style prison threads, undercover nun uniforms, a good-ole-fashioned bitch slap fest and a compulsory nudie shower scene, make this the gold standard of prison flicks.

Anne Heche and Ione Skye are Girls in Prison:

Self-reflexively campy and completely aware of itself, 1994’s Girls in Prison brought together two admittedly erstwhile bi-sexual actresses to romp around in the prison yard, cell, shower, you name it. A period piece of sorts, since it takes place in 1952, Girls in Prison cast Ione Skye as the wrongly imprisoned nice girl and Anne Heche as a deliciously naughty lifer who intentionally squeezes the soap out of her hands in the shower and toward her paramour.

Borrowing the title of 1956’s pulp classic, Girls in Prison is a guilty pleasure for all the women’s prison fetishists out there.

 

Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale learn to never trust boys in Brokedown Palace:

Former teen queen Claire Danes and British babe Kate Beckinsale proved they were all grown up playing life-long friends pinched for drug smuggling in Thailand in 1999’s dour—but not without its promising moments—Brokedown Palace. Producers got it a tad wrong and erred on the side of realism in this girls gone wild episode cum prison drama in which a pair of hapless American tarts rub elbows with a charming, preppy drug smuggler, who plants drugs on them, landing them in a Thai prison. But kudos to the casting director who thought to put these adorable actresses together in matching uniforms, rough them up, and shoot them behind bars. In the end, it’s a rather inspired pervy endeavor.

 

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.