That infamous shower scene. A discussion of the movie would not be complete without at least mentioning it. Its function within the movie is obvious and yet, as a mere plot device, the movie could have done without it. The scene is unconventional on different levels and the fact that it has made it into the script (and ultimately into the movie) is probably due to one deciding factor: it is a parody/reference to another (popular) text – Glee.
You don’t have to look far to see Pitch Perfect’s symbiosis with Glee, the whole concept of the movie seems to build on the show’s popularity with criticism and mockery thrown in for good measure. The shower scene is put in as a reference to what I coined ‘locker room gaiety.’ There are several instances on the show where recruitment is preceded by a shower scene – Will Shuester (Matthew Morrison) hears Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) sing in the shower and although he refrains from entering the shower stall, he recruits Finn on the grounds of having heard him sing in the shower. This scene is paralleled by one where Finn hears Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) sing in the shower and recruits him later.
Pitch Perfect takes this up but follows through, if you want. Chloe (Brittany Snow) barges into Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) shower and makes her audition for the Bellas. But this is just the part of the plot that could have been established differently. The important part is the popcultural reference to Glee, the laugh it elicits among those who love or hate the show.
But the scene has another meaning, another purpose – one that may have been underestimated by the makers of the movie. The lesbian innuendo. While the scene is meant as a comedic nod toward another text, it quite effectively unleashes ‘the gay.’ And it doesn’t matter that gray sweater guy/Tom (Cameron Stewart) is put into the scene as a heteronormative convention, a buffer to contain the homoerotic tension between Beca and Chloe – the mere fact of two women, naked in a shower stall, singing to each other while looking deeply into each other’s eyes… it’s too gay to not function.
And the scene works on this premise, and it works for several reasons: one is that it is a scene between two women. Considering the plot of the movie, it, of course, had to be two women. The premise of the plot works with two same-sex a cappella singing groups and the focus is on the Bellas and Beca Mitchell as unrivaled lead. But even if the premise was another, it would not have worked with another pairing. A man walking into the shower of another man? Unthinkable (Hollywood is too sensitive toward its male audience; just ask the makers of Glee why they never actually did it). A man walking in on a woman showering? Sexual harrassment! A woman walking in on a man showering… well, that could work in a society which does not constantly perpetuate the male as the dominant and the female as the passive part of a heterosexual relationship. The dominant female in Hollywood is a man-eater, not a likable lead character in a mainstream Hollywood production.
Another reason the scene works is Chloe’s character – someone who is insensitive to personal boundaries. She is the one person who the audience can ‘forgive’ this indiscretion, and also the one Beca would forgive. There is an underlying reasoning of ‘she doesn’t know better.’ Of course, this is also meant to disable the homoeroticism of the scene, same as Tom. These obvious devices, however, do not work; and one can easily argue that they are not supposed to work either. Neither Chloe or Beca are ultimately labeled as straight. Sure, there are Tom and Jesse (Skylar Astin) who act as love interests but the great thing about Pitch Perfect is that it does not focus on these heterosexual love stories; it focuses on the Bellas as a diverse group of strong women who come together as friends, allys and – in possibility, at least – lovers.
The shower scene conveys this possibility. And it is not the only scene which hints at it, either. This could easily be interpreted as ‘queer baiting’ but for the fact that there is a nonchalance about these scenes, they are not drawn out, there are no flashy neon signs pointing them out to the audience. They are altogether too subtle, too unselfconcious, more endearing than sexy. They live from the one thing that is so rare, so special and at the same time inexplicable: chemistry. The chemistry between two characters that more often than not equals the chemistry between the actors portraying these characters. Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow alias Beca Mitchell and Chloe Beale have it. And that’s the ultimate reason the shower scene works.