The Goonies is a family-friendly movie about a group of kids who find a pirate treasure, defeat a family of forgers and save their town. It was written by Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg, two filmmakers fascinated by coming-of-age tales. But, as this Reddit user points out, the cinematography and the multilayered script also highlight the (in)glorious sexual dimension of growing up through the use of clever visual metaphors.
From the get-go, The Goonies takes the classic symbol of sex (water) and power (cars and other vehicles) and runs with them. The opening sequence establishes both the frustration of the male Goonies with their uncontrolled hormones, with the use of water and other liquids exploding around Mouth and Chunk, Data falling face-down into an empty vat, Mikey being short of breath by his rain-activated asthma, and Brand, the oldest of the Goonies, emasculated after failing his driver’s test. The same sequence is kinder to the girls: Andy first appears confidently leading the cheerleader squad into an inverted pyramid formation, a universal symbol of the sacred feminine that Columbus and Spielberg would use again in The Secret of the Pyramid, while Stef knows that the best way to stay cool is to plunge her head in water.
In contrast, the Goonies nemesis, the Fratelli brothers, stay safe and perfectly dry during a police chase in the rain and down the beach in a car driven by Mama Fratelli. She has emasculated her sons and straight-up locked one of them in the basement of their hide-away restaurant, like Freud’s unwanted Id. (The Id is roughly the subconscious mind, where our most basic impulses lay: food, sex, flight, and fight.)
The Goonies is not subtle about placing each character within a Freudian archetype: Data, Mouth, and Chunk fill Freud’s functions of the Superego, Ego and Id. And the Fratellis mirror this with Francis as the Superego, Mama’s favorite, and Jake as the charismatic, opera-singing Ego.
The Fratellis, through their name and Italian origins, also link the theme of sexual awakening to classic Catholic guilt. The religious connection appears twice. Once when they force Chunk, the only Jewish Gooney, to “confess everything” as they sit through his exhaustive confession more patiently than any villain ever would. The confession scene is then followed up with Mama Fratelli wanting to cut off Chunk’s “plump, rosy fingers.” This also works as a metaphorical castration and as the extreme Catholic tradition of physically purging the sinner from temptation.
The second reference to Christian repression happens when Jake uses the sign of the cross to ward off a spooked bat colony. Bats have a pop-culture connection to vampires, and vampires were seen the Victorian shorthand for sexual desire. The Fratelli brothers have internalized Mama’s dominance so much that even as adults, they are repelled by every kind of sexuality, and they use religion to push it back.
And the symbolism only continues to build throughout the film. For instance, there’s the David sculpture gag. Mikey and Brand's mom's favorite sculpture is Michelangelo’s David, and she has a small reproduction on her coffee table. Within the same scene, Mouth, the Ego, poses as the intact David, projecting what he wants the world to see (and failing). Next, David’s bust complements a pastoral background, framing Mikey within the idealized paradise of childhood. Then Chunk, the Id, drops the sculpture and breaks off its penis (fear of being emasculated by one’s impulses), but the kids “repair” it by gluing the genitals upside down, giving the David sculpture a constant boner that would mean he’s pissing in his own face.
This says more about their raging hormones and the unruliness of their own bodies than about their restoration skills. In general, watching the male Goonies -- and sometimes Andy -- go through puberty is like watching Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers writing sexy friend fiction: equal parts hilarious, horrifying and nostalgic.
Nostalgia plays a significant role in the movie. If water and other liquids represent burgeoning sexuality, the sea is the exciting world of adults, full of possibilities, and a ship is the ultimate power vehicle to navigate it. So what does it mean that Mikey and Brand's parents have to move away from the sea and leave a shipwreck’s relics in the attic of their own house? The adults in the movie love their children dearly, but their power has been stripped away by the owners of a Trumpian Country Club.
From a villain analysis perspective, the Country Club is the Fratellis' negative. Where the Fratellis are led by an older woman leading immature men; the Country Club (personified by Troy and his father) seemingly only caters to older men and their idiotic male children. The Fratellis forge dollar bills in a wet basement; the Country Club has locked an ancient wishing well in their land, although their clients can wish for nothing. The Fratellis want to dominate Sloth, while Troy wants to dominate Andy -- the representation of the absent feminine. Both the Fratellis and Troy have a power-asserting scene with a car -- they are two sides of the same coin.
Troy’s character could be the poster boy for toxic masculinity: he tries to cop a look down Andy’s shirt and up her skirt, he uses his car to try to dispose of Brand, he moves his bowels to the tune of a Guns & Ammo magazine, and he brags about his sexual advances with his equally odious buddies. However, just as it's wrong of Mama to emasculate her sons, it's wrong of Troy to presume that Andy had no agency, and that’s the message that The Goonies tried to hammer into its ‘80s audience brains: independence and consent are essential to becoming healthy adults.
There’s a scene where Jake and Francis Fratelli have to sit astride a mast, while water rushes at them. Visually, it’s as phallic as Dr. Strangelove’s missile, and they are petrified. Metaphorically, they are stunned by the strength of their repressed Ids. Leading to Mama Fratelli to scream at them, “What is wrong with you?”
When the Fratellis reach One-Eye Willy’s ship, they force two couples to walk the plank: Andy and Brand and then Stef and Mouth. They still think that water will harm them, but they thrive in it – Andy and Brand even share their first kiss in the underground lake. This is the same mistake that Troy makes, assuming that the Goonies would be terrified of the cave (the subconscious.)
The Goonies liberates the characters by letting their Ids express themselves. By the end of the movie, the couples are openly hugging and kissing, Sloth is under the open sky for the first time in his life, and Mikey is cured of his water-induced allergies. One-Eyed Willy’s treasure becomes the Goon Docks’ family jewels which save the town, and there’s even an almost ritualistic generational relief, where the parents accept their children’s maturity and recognize their younger selves in them.
So while The Goonies doesn’t feature a scene where anyone loses his or her virginity, it is a movie that showcases tumultuous teenage sexuality in a very positive light as a crucial part of growing up, and that is part of its magic.