Butt News Movie Club #4: Coyote Ugly
Everyone Wants to Know If We CAN Fight the Moonlight; Nobody Ever Stops to Ask If We Should
[Butt News is a free e-mail newsletter about movies and butts! You can receive Butt News in your inbox weekly by subscribing now. If you like it, please tell your friends! And if you have suggestions for future movies, put them in the comments HERE!]
Let me tell you, I was doin’ movies hard in the year 2000, I was looking up the matinee times in the print newspaper, I was going to the theaters, I was double-featuring, I was stuffing my bra with Duds, but I never watched Coyote Ugly when it came out, or in the years that followed, or even considered it, not once, not ever. I think that’s because:
Title bad. “Coyote Ugly” is so inscrutable, both in and out of context, that my brain just slides off it—like, idk, “The Constant Gardener”???? (So…it’s a movie about a guy who’s constantly gardening? Sounds boring but I guess I will take what you’re saying at face value! Except then when I look at the poster it’s actually about Ralph Fiennes exploding!? Now I’m mad! You tricked me in a way I don’t even get!) The words “coyote” and “ugly” make so little sense next to each other, in this order, that I feel betrayed. When I try to figure out what it means, using my very good reading skills, literally the explanation that makes the most sense is that it’s verbatim a joke the Incredible Hulk tells at the Comedy Central Roast of Lassie. Is that what your movie is about???? Because the trailer is just a low-rise jeans commercial, so I’m confused.
I could never figure out—and I’m even less certain now that I’ve watched it—who this movie was supposed to be for. Women? No. Men? No! All I can think of is that maybe it was made for horny couples on dates who don’t care what they watch as long as they get to have sex after. (Now, obviously, it has become kitsch, which it is… okay at.)
But because I’d never seen Coyote Ugly, I decided to write down my best guess about the plot beforehand, and this is what I came up with. This was sincere!
A girl from a small town moves to the big city to escape her mean dad? She gets rejected from a bunch of jobs for having no qualifications but then she gets a job at a cocktail bar for being hot. This cocktail bar is off the hook! It’s called Coyote Ugly? Is the name of the bar? They throw the bottles around and the girls dance on the bar. It’s a sexy place. Tyra Banks is one of the girls. The guy that owns the bar is involved in crime. Probably drugs? He wants the main girl to do drug crime but she says no, because she has small-town values. So he frames her for a crime? She has to prove her innocence? Meanwhile, she falls in love with a hot customer. He turns out to be a cop and he helps her prove her innocence but he has to betray his badge. His name is Officer Jeremy. She and Officer Jeremy trick the boss into confessing on tape on a tape recorder she has hidden under her extremely thick belt. At the end of the movie she uses her reward money to buy the bar, Coyote Ugly. Jeremy dies.
This is… not correct. But some of it is correct!
Violet (Piper Perabo) is a small-town girl (I did it!!!!!!!) from South Amboy, New Jersey, who spends her days fat-shaming her dad and listening to Sugar Ray, and her nights singing “I Will Survive” with her girls at a whites-only bar, but dreams of moving to New York City to become a famous songwriter.
Her dad, John Goodman, doesn’t want her to go to NYC because people die there. At one point he warns her, “They say the handrails on the subway system could someday lead to an outbreak of plague,” and can you believe we laughed? Twenty-one years ago we laughed! We don’t laugh anymore.
Violet’s mom (dead) moved to New York to be a songwriter too but she was a massive fucking flop, so Violet is nervous. Twenty-five years old. Her mother, god rest her soul. But Violet is also determined. She just wants to fly. She saves up her money and packs up her shit and says truly histrionic goodbyes to everyone and everything she has ever known and sets out for the faraway big city.
This is the part of the movie where you hop on Google Maps and figure out that South Amboy, New Jersey is only 38 MINUTES FROM MANHATTAN.
She DOESN’T EVEN HAVE TO MOVE!
She could have been doing “songwriting in New York City” THE WHOLE TIME.
WHEN WE WERE WRITING SHRILL SEASON 2 MY COMMUTE FROM BROOKLYN INTO MANHATTAN WAS 40 MINUTES.
JUST FUCKING COMMUTE! THERE’S A TRAIN! YOU BASICALLY LIVE THERE NOW! YOU CAN DEFINITELY WRITE SONGS IN NEW JERSEY!
She’s going to go pay a MILLION DOLLARS FOR SOME SHITTY APARTMENT when she could LIVE WITH JOHN GOODMAN FOR FREE!?!?!?!??
But anyway, they make this huge deal out of it, like she’s never going to see anyone from her hometown ever again, like, oh my god, she actually made it to this NEARBY PLACE that she’s DEFINITELY GONE TO A BILLION TIMES IN HER LIFE?!?!? Wow, did you hear that inspiring story about a young actor from Pasadena trying to make it in Santa Monica!?
Anyway, Violet and her best friend (Melanie Lynskey, angel) are in Chinatown and they cannot believe it. Chinese people? Walking on the street!?!?!? Selling produce???? And she’s going to live here!? Her mean neighbor won’t let her plunk on her Casio indoors, which, you know what? I agree with! Because she sounds like crap and her songs are all stinkers and that neighbor probably has to get up really early for a real job without a John Goodman back home to bail them out if they get fired! So instead Violet goes up to the roof and does sadgirl roofmusic with a knitted hat, which captures such a specific kind of year-2000 embarrassing romanticized dumbass sincerity about What Life Will Be Like When I Am Adult that I can feel the viscose of my graduation gown grazing my calves. I love it, I hate it.
Violet’s plan for breaking into the music business is to go bother every mean receptionist in town, starting with Ellen Cleghorne, who deserves a SPIN! OFF!!!!! She tries to force all these agencies and record labels to take her demo tape, and of course everyone rejects her because WHO ARE YOU, LADY and one of them gives her a sarcastic, “Welcome to the music business,” and you’re supposed to feel so sad for her because these people are such gatekeeping snobs, but sorry! This is not how you get into the music business! GO PLAY SOME MUSIC AND SEE IF PEOPLE LIKE IT. GO MEET SOME PEOPLE ON YOUR LEVEL. THESE RECEPTIONISTS ARE BUSY AS HELL.
Then she wanders into a random club and says to the bartender: “Let me ask you something. I’m a songwriter. Who could I talk to here about my songs?” Talk to about your songs WHAT. What about your songs? Then she asks for a “Pepsi and some crackers,” which, yes, I want that too, but have none of the 17 raccoons who wrote this movie ever been to a bar before?
The bartender tells her that this Australian guy named “Mr. O’Donnell” is the “music manager” of the club, so she gets all excited, but then the camera follows “Mr. O’Donnell” into the back and what?!?!?!?!! He’s no music manager! He’s just the club’s burger boy! Some dinky chump who rode a great white all the way from Sydney just to flump the borgers!? He can’t help Violet’s career at all, unless she just wants to play her songs for some BEEF.
But he does have one thing: attitude. He and his boss have this incredibly cool and normal exchange:
Burger Boy: “We can talk about my raise later.”
Angry Head Chef of New York City Dance Club (Do Those Places Usually Have Food?): “You think this is Australia!? There’s no raise!”
wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwhat does that meannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
Then burger boy catches wind of his wingman’s “music manager” scam, so he plays along in an attempt to trick Violet into having sexual intercourse with him. It’s wacky! And not NOT sexual assault! A fun thing about this scam is that it’s exploitative whether he is or isn’t the music manager! It makes no difference! Either he’s extorting sex by promising to help her career, or he’s extorting sex by pretending to promise to help her career! This was a completely acceptable (in fact, celebrated) way to treat women for the first, uh, 39 years of my life (I am 39), but it was especially acceptable for the first 29 years of my life, and that is the root of… 40% of my therapy bills?
Fucking luckily for Violet, the angry chef storms out and completely busts this sex-crime-in-progress, but then SHE has to be embarrassed for attempting to give a fry cook her demo tape. No, my girl! He and his friend tried to do a fraud on you to get sex! I know we weren’t allowed to complain about that until 2017 but I’m sending you love and light!
Then this guy fucking FOLLOWS HER HOME. She’s trying to get away from him and he’s following her. This is a complete stranger. I literally hate this. He follows her for half an hour! And at one point she’s like please stop following me and he’s like, “You did throw yourself at me!” and then she says “I’m about to get out my pepper spray” BUT DOESN’T and then accuses him of staring at her ass and he says, “For the record, I was only staring at your ass for the first 15 minutes.” And if you think she doesn’t fall in love with this person later then u don’t kno tha early 2000s, s a h w e e t e e!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Still undeterred, she goes and bothers one more mean receptionist, this time at William Morris, and when he doesn’t answer her question (which is “I just want to leave this for Whitney or Mariah?”) she RIPS THE PLUG OUT OF HIS PHONE.
Then he goes: “I’m sure it sounds great in the shower, but karaoke ended a half hour ago, so if you’d like to get your songs heard you’re going to have to take them to an open mic night, just like everyone else.”
Thank you for your service, mean gay. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
So she does go to an open mic night, and she goes up on stage, and immediately gets stage fright and then gets heckled by two Guidos, and if you were hoping to gauge the care and nuance with which Coyote Ugly renders its world, my husband does these two characters named Mikey and Frankie—they’re just his two hands that he uses like puppets to sexually harass me in a horrible “real Brooklyn pizza” accent—and I can say with conviction that Michael and Francis Handarelli are a more sensitive and respectful representation of the Italian-American community than the open mic hecklers in Coyote Ugly.
Anyway, she bails, and she goes back to her apartment, and turns out she got robbed, so then she goes to the diner with $2 and makes “I’m hot but I’m sad” face at Bud Cort who gives her a GIANT piece of free pie, and it’s moments like these when you really know thin privilege is real. BUD CORT WOULD NEVER GIVE ME A FREE PIECE OF PIE. You know I love her, but Michelle Obama would give Bud Cort an award for taking pie AWAY from me!
Okay, here’s where the movie really gets spicy. Sad Violet meets three hot chicks at the diner who are reading Playboy and trying to guess the Playmates’ favorite movies from their questionnaires, which is such a perfect example of “men writing women” that everyone can stop working on their Women’s Studies dissertations now. Violet notices that the women have money to pay for their food and she’s like whaaaaat? Women… with money?
Then Tyra Banks does a dance for a looooooooooooong time. Like it feels like maybe it was in her contract that they had to let her dance for a full minute and 45 seconds or else she would walk.
Bud Cort tells Violet that the girls are so rich and sexual because they are coyote girls from Coyote Ugly. Violet doesn’t know what that is, but she gets an idea.
She finds the address for Coyote Ugly, which is a bar, and accosts the owner, Maria Bello, in the basement. They have this exchange:
Bello: “Let me guess. Piedmont North Dakota.”
Violet: “South Amboy, New Jersey.”
Bello: “Same thing.”
NO IT’S NOT. IT’S LITERALLY A SUBURB OF THE CITY THAT YOU’RE IN.
If she went to college in Arizona and people asked her where she was from she would definitely say “just outside New York City”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It makes the stakes so low. If she doesn’t make it she can go home and then just keep trying!
Bello asks Violet what that scar is on her wrist and Violet says it’s a “permanent scar” from burning it on pizza and then Bello says “that might be the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” I guess because this was still a year before NINE-ELEVEN so no one in New York had ever been sad yet. (Honestly the dialogue in this scene is so weird that I transcribed literally all of it, but I’m trying to make these things shorter [LOL] so you’ll have to just discover this full cave of wonders when you watch it. According to Wikipedia the Coyote Ugly script was written by a woman and then rewritten by like 47 men including Kevin Smith, and let me tell you it feels like 247!)
Then Bello is like, “You start Friday.”
CAN I HAVE A TOUR?
WHAT IS THE JOB
WHO ARE YOU
Also then this:
Violet: “I don’t mean to press my luck, but would you mind telling me why you’re hiring me?”
Bello: “Because the average male is walking around with a toddler inside his pants, a two-year-old right there inside his Dockers.”
Violet: “Men have two-year-old children in their pants, that’s why you’re hiring me?”
Bello: “You look like a kindergarten teacher. The kids will love it.”
Uh, ma’am, two-year-olds don’t go to kindergarten. And they also aren’t… horny? Or allowed in bars?
So Violet comes back there for her first night of work, and it turns out this isn’t your dad John Goodman’s cocktail bar! It’s a SEXY BAR. That means that in addition to bartending, all of the employees have to do sexy dances on the bar, scream a lot, stay very chill about sexual assaults, be on fire, and wear skinny scarf. It’s sooooooo hot!
Literally, like, you guys just do this all night every night????? Just soak people with liquor and steal customers’ shots and crowd-surf and swing from the rafters like a lil monkey? Aren’t you tired? When she first saw the girls at the diner Violet was really impressed because they were bragging about how they make $300 a night. Sisters! That is not enough!
The Coyote Ugly bar has an especially cool tradition where if a customer asks for water, the bartender has to get up on the bar and scream, “DO WE SERVE WATER IN THIS BAR!?!?!??!” and then the crowd chants, “HELL NO, H20” with truly the energy of the January 6th capitol mob, while the person who requested water is sprayed in the face with the soda gun. Very cool and definitely very safe and no one would ever pass out and die in this bar.
Another cool tradition is that when “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” comes on all the women have to hop up on the bar AGAIN and do a very specific dance. As she has only worked here for 12 minutes, Violet does not know the dance, and so Maria Bello fires her for not doing the dance. HOW WOULD SHE KNOW THE DANCE? YOU HAVE TO TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES.
But then on her way out she breaks up a bar fight using her small-town pizza waitress street smarts, and so Bello re-hires her. Respectfully who caaaaaares?
Then they go shopping to be more slutty. Now Piper Perabo is finally hot!
The next night at work, one of the other coyote girls gets fully sexually assaulted by a customer so she takes a big cooler of ice and dumps it on the guy! Nice! Problem solved! That was the paradigm in my adolescence and young womanhood for how we were supposed to handle degradation and stay a cool girl for life. A grueling hell in which my psyche is still trapped!
A grumpy man comes in and orders water and so Violet faithfully performs the ritual. But noooooooo! Turns out he’s the fire marshal, and somehow Maria Bello is MAD at VIOLET, even though she’s the one who decided to MAKE A RULE IN HER BAR THAT ANYONE WHO ORDERS WATER, THE BUILDING-BLOCK OF LIFE, IS PUBLICLY HUMILIATED. Bello says that Violet has to make $250 that night or else she is fired. Jesus Christ.
Fortunately(?), Mr. O’Donnell has stopped by to be a sex pest again, so Violet decides to kill two birds with one stone and auction him off to a horny businesswoman in heat in order to pay off her illegal wage slavery.
He gets really into it though and gets up on the bar and starts stripping and touching his nipples and it’s unclear whether he has to fuck the businesswomen? But one of the businesswomen is Kaitlin Olson and she says, “You want to come home with Momma?” so I liked that. And then the lady that wins kind of suggestively drops down on her knees and it’s like… are you blowing him? in the bar? Lady, if you just want to blow an Australian guy, you don’t have to pay for it!
Maria Bello explains that “coyote ugly” is a term that refers to when you get so drunk that you go home with a random stranger and then you wake up and realize that the person you fucked is so ugly that you would chew off your own arm to get away from them. Wow, surprisingly unsatisfying to finally solve the mystery of what this title means! Maybe because it sucks!!! I’m going to open a bar and call it Coyote All Bodies Are Good Bodies! And you can have as much water as you want, chunky kings and queens.
Then Violet and Mr. O’Donnell have a date where he makes her go with him to pick up an expensive comic book that he bought (oh, are you sure Kevin Smith wrote part of this movie?), and he asks her about her hopes and dreams. She says she remembers exactly how she felt the first time her mom played her “Bridge Over Troubled Water” “by Simon and Garfunkel" (yeah, he knows who wrote that song). She tells him that she’s just a songwriter, not a singer, but then complains, “now they’re telling me the only way to get my songs heard is to go out and sing them myself.” I don’t know what to tell you, ma’am. Maybe try to actually meet some musicians? Make friends with some singers? Form a band? Do any of the work?
Then O’Donnell forces her to go to work with him at the fish market and help him unload bins of tuna at dawn. It is not human behavior.
THEN she goes home to take a bath finally, but THEN he knocks on her door and they kiss and he says “have a nice day” and leaves.
Perabo: “Have a nice day?”
HOW ABOUT “HOW DID YOU KNOW WHAT APARTMENT WAS MINE”
The cops raid the Coyote Ugly and it turns into a full-on riot. The men grab Violet’s Polish friend and they drag her over the bar and into the crowd and it is legitimately so fucking scary to watch. This place is essentially a strip club with way lower pay and none of the protections. There is ONE security guard!
Violet realizes the only way to stop the escalating sexual violence is to… perform karaoke. She gets really into it. All the men stop fighting and just watch Violet sing along with the jukebox. Also Michael Bay is there. Bello quips there was “not a dry seat in the house,” which is a gross thing to say.
Afterwards, Violet is so high on singing along with the jukebox that she has to go kiss Mr. O’Donnell, and then she goes and plays guitar on the roof. Until some RAP GUYS start playing their RAP MUSIC too loud across the street and distracting her!
But it gives her an idea: I should use rhythm!!!!!! She starts reworking her song and… wow, this IS as good as “Bridge Over Troubled Water”!
Mr. O’Donnell makes Violet a fake crowd of celebrity cardboard cut-outs (all the ex-presidents and Jenna Elfman) so she can practice not being stage-frightened. Then they have sex and then she confesses that her mom had stage fright and could NEVER sing in front of Jenna Elfman and it ruined her career and that’s why now Violet has that problem too. So he turns all the lights off, and that’s the trick! She can finally sing!
Everything is really coming together for Violet right now. She’s loving her work at Coyote Ugly, she knows all the dances finally, she’s mailing out demo tapes right and left, and she bought a weird iMac. Plus, O’Donnell pulls some strings and gets Violet a spot to perform at “this club where a lot of music people hang out.” Yes!!!!!!!
Coyote Ugly plays softball against the fat old horny men league and the Polish girl just TAKES HER TOP OFF, which I’m sure was in the original script that the woman wrote.
One night, all the girls are dancing on the bar to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy,” and, I’m sorry, they seriously only make $300 a night doing this? They should get $300 just for having to listen to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.” Violet is getting sexual water dumped all over her to the tune of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy,” when she looks up and sees her dad, John Goodman, standing there. Or as I like to call him, John Bani-Wei-Man. He is NOT bani wei right now, though.
mfw I see my daughter do coyote ugly dance to kid rock’s cowboy.
He storms out and he won’t even talk to her because he’s so mad that his daughter is a wet bartender instead of a dry waitress. I’m sorry, John Goodman, but she would be sexualized at any bar that she worked at! That’s the nature of the service industry, and also, existence itself!
Violet tries to talk to him: “I’m not going to apologize because that would mean I’m doing something wrong and I’m not sure that I am.” Honestly impressed by that boundary!
Johnny Knoxville cameo.
The night of the big showcase, Coyote Ugly is too busy so Bello won’t let Violet go even though she already said that she could and PSA: your boss does not own you.
We find out that O’Donnell gave John Fugelsang his most precious comic book to get Violet the spot on the show, and then she didn’t even show up. So O’Donnell goes down to Coyote Ugly, starts a big fight, gets Violet fired, slut-shames her, dumps her, then leaves. GOOD. STAY GONE.
It’s a long, dark night of the soul for Violet. She’s not good at stage bravery… she’s not good at wet slut… what is she gonna do?? She goes back up to the roof to sing some more. It’s like they forgot to hire someone to write the songs for this movie until the day of.
Violet goes back home for Melanie Lynskey’s wedding and runs into her dad. He ignores her at first but then Melanie makes them dance together and he says the meanest fucking thing to her: “For the first time in my life I was ashamed of you. I would never have thought that was possible.”
HEY MAN, DON’T DISOWN YOUR DAUGHTER FOR WORKING AT A BAR.
This movie pretends to be kind of sex-positive, but it’s also like “Yeah, but we also know that it’s actually bad and the women are bad.” Remember that itchy old cage?
Then her dad gets hit by a car (honestly impressed that this movie didn’t choose heart attack), survives, apologizes, does some incredible crutches acting, and reveals that Violet’s mom never actually had stage fright. She quit singing because he was a selfish piece of shit who deliberately withheld encouragement so that she would STAY HOME AND MAKE HIM BOLOGNA SANDWICHES FOR LIFE. He feels bad, I guess, so he says that Violet has to be a singer, no matter what it takes.
Violet finally gets the call she’s been waiting for. Someone actually listened to her demo tape! The Bowery Ballroom loved her CD and they want her to play in their songwriter’s showcase! And she’s on page 137 of the Voice! (Remember when print media mattered SO MUCH???????)
Can you imagine seeing your name next to the Skank Honkies????? (Literally dying of irritation that this was described as a “Songwriter’s Showcase” but then it’s just Violet’s name, but I’m breathing through it. Also, see those fake theater listings? That was my first writing job!)
Violet goes to New Jersey to drive Melanie and her dad back to New York for the show. Dad works in the toll booth, so he has his colleague give them the “old 123,” which is a thing where they make all the toll booth lights and gates go berserk in an extremely dangerous way during rush hour. Then Violet, who is driving, says “I can’t do this” and then DOES A U-TURN IN THE TOLL PLAZA, CAUSING MANY DEATHS. Then her dad talks her back into going, so she DOES A U-TURN AGAIN.
WHILE THE GUY IS STILL DOING THE OLD 123.
Then she drives UP ON TO THE CURB AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM, LIQUEFYING SEVERAL PEDESTRIANS.
Then she’s STILL nervous! We are still doing this nervousness storyline! Oh my god! We get it! I’m so bored! I have lost patience. If you don’t want it you don’t want it!!!!! That’s fine!
Eventually she gets up on stage with the house band (never, like, rehearsed with them, I guess, okay) and just stands there. Well, I guess she can’t do it! Better go home!
THEN, all the lights go out.
Violet looks around like huuuuuhhhhh???
O’DONNELL IS THERE
O’DONNELL SHUT THE POWER OFF
NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN SHE CAN SING
(EXCEPT THERE’S NO FUCKING POWER
WHAT IS AMPLIFYING THESE SOUNDS)
She sings her big original song, “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” and this is the big fucking finish to the movie.
How many Swedish people do you think it took to write this song? (It was 89 Swedish people and Kevin Smith.)
Anyways, Violet is famous now so she buys O’Donnell his comic book back and a 17-year-old Leann Rimes performs “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” standing on the bar at Coyote Ugly, which means, like, so, Violet doesn’t even become a pop star at the end? She really does just become a songwriter who sells songs to real pop stars? Then why did we go through this entire stage fright arc, where she finally learns to face her fears and own the spotlight just like her dead mother???? Was that not the whole point of the movie—that Violet’s dreams of “songwriting” were really just a cover for the fact that fear kept her from acknowledging her true dream of being a singer? I feel gaslit by this ending.
In conclusion John Goodman gets to have sex with his hot nurse and that is what America is all about to me.