by Julia Sherman*
At a junk auction in Perkiomenville, PA, amidst tables of dust covered knick-knacks, old photos and hidden treasures, sat a booklet, black, white and magenta, with a large photo of a young, bra-less Cher, carrying a hobo bag and lazily sticking out her thumb. The title read: American International Presents, “Chastity.” The book was comprised entirely of promotional material for this 1969 film, which aimed to shock with its protagonist: an itinerant young woman who hitchhikes around the country, captivating men with her self-possession and devil-may-care attitude. This brazen behavior can ultimately only be explained by her troubled upbringing. Her malaise is at the kernel of her constructed appeal, as she herself isn’t sure if her sexuality is a weapon, a toy, or her own worst enemy.
The movie itself is indeed a series of the vignettes, all beginning with that irksome contraposto. Somehow the pathetic gesture of the out-stretched thumb, encapsulates the compelling depth (or lack there-of) of our female lead.
The booklet was produced by the studio for the purpose of promoting Sonny and Cher’s first filmic collaboration (and biggest flop). Images, synopses and tag lines were intended to be cut-out and sent to local press for reproduction, proliferating this picture of an a-motivational, alluring mope, a young woman who calls herself Chastity.
This is Chastity. She needs men like a gambler needs money and she throws them away just as fast.
She’s a bummer, a loser, using men like a drunk uses drink. Pick her up if you want but be warned—She’s not just a girl, she’s an experience.
Meet Chastity…Who wants something out of life but she doesn’t know what…nor how to get it…nor what to do when she finds it!
She’s not just a girl, she’s an experience!
She’s too much woman for any man’s good, maybe too much for her own.
What’s the trouble with Chastity?
A cop out! A drop out! And so far out!
Pick her up if you dare. She’s not just a girl, she’s an experience!
She goes thru men like a drunk thru his paycheck with nothing left but a hangover at the end of each spree.
What’s wrong with Chastity?
*Julia Sherman is a 2011 graduate of the MFA Program in Columbia University School of the Arts.