Stuck inside during this pandemic, I’m finding the only TV shows and movies worth watching are set in faraway tropical destinations. I want hot sweaty dudes struggling to start a fire on Survivor. I want David Attenborough lulling me to sleep while narrating bird fucking on Our Planet. There’s something about the vast outdoors, removed from contagious people, that pulls me out of the depression of living in a cramped Brooklyn apartment with two equally bored roommates.
So it’s fitting that earlier this week I finally met Mother Nature herself. Jennifer Lopez’s 1997 horror film Anaconda is now on Netflix.
It’s the escape we need right now: melodramatic hots trapped in the rainforest.
Anaconda checks off every creature-feature cliché. The gumptious documentarian Terri Flores (Lopez) embarks on the Amazon River to do some colonization and document the Shirishama, a long-lost indigenous tribe.
She’s joined by a sexy crew: cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube in a blue bandana), production manager Denise Kalberg (Kari Wuhrer, vibing like the nanny in The Parent Trap with her tied chambray shirt and khaki shorts), sound engineer Gary Dixon (horny Owen Wilson in a puka shell necklace), visionary Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde as a precursor to The Wild Thornberrys), hot dude in peril Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz) and hot dude out of peril Mateo (Vincent Castellanos). Eventually, stranded snake hunter Paul Serone (Jon Voight) wreaks havoc by trying to catch an elusive, deadly anaconda.
Anaconda premiered in 1997, less than a month after Selena, the Selena Quintanilla biopic that solidified Lopez as a serious, unrelenting actress. The two movies couldn’t be more different. Selena gave us Oscar-worthy emoting, while Anaconda is a pure money grab with hoaky fake snakes and damsels in distress.
Lopez’s juxtaposition between serious actress and sexy diva is what we’ve come to love about her. She’s going to bring all she has regardless if that stage is Madison Square Garden, the TCL Chinese Theatre or a Kohl’s beauty counter. (This wouldn’t be the last time she was robbed of an Oscar nomination: Justice for Hustlers.)
Twenty-three years ago, Lopez was a different woman, soft-spoken and wide-eyed. She had yet to settle on her signature nude lip. Her soft brown curls and cherubic features more closely resembled her now-12-year-old daughter, Emme. And just like Emme’s powerhouse vocals at the Super Bowl in February, Lopez’s Anaconda was a taste of brilliance to come. She’d only grow to become more independent and charismatic.
While Anaconda is a good type of bad — camp bad — it’s full of important observations:
- Never trust a white guy in a puka-shell necklace.
- In Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort’s deadly snake, Nagini, couldn’t take on these powerhouse serpents.
- “I can trap a snake too” is how I’m gonna hype myself up before asking guys out.
- Anaconda will make you wanna put on a safari cap and book a table by the animatronic gorillas at Rainforest Cafe.
Above all else, Anaconda is a prescient allegory for why white men are the worst. Here, Jon Voight is rightly cast as king of the snakes. As Serone, he’s a trifecta of taboo: a white-ass actor playing a Paraguay native with a shit ponytail and a flimsy, offensive accent. It might as well be Voight’s most iconic role. More than two decades later, he’s a real-life villain, allegedly assaulting his co-star Frank Whaley on the set of Ray Donovan. Plus, he’s still wrestling around with a bunch of snakes, even the king serpent himself.
Protect J.Lo at all costs. She’s gonna save us from this hell, I believe it.