Wednesday, May 04, 2005

# Posted 12:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCHWARZENEGGER SLEEPS WITH THREE DIFFERENT WOMEN IN TWO HOURS: That's a pretty good summary of Conan the Barbarian, which I saw for the first time a couple of nights ago. I rented it primarily for its kitsch value, but it turned out to be a pretty damn good adventure story.

But let's get back to what's important: sex. Recently, I've been watching a lot of vintage action movies, such Black Caesar and Get Carter (the original, with Michael Caine). What constantly surprises me is just how much sex/nudity there is in these films and how tangential it is to the plot.

Which isn't to say that the sex is gratuitous. Sometimes, it plays an important role in character development. Nonetheless, I don't think it would've been hard to alter the cinematography just a little in order to bring the film down from an 'R' rating to a 'PG-13'.

[UPDATE: Eminent scholar Jacob T. Levy observes (via e-mail):
Ah, youth.

There warn't no such thing as a PG-13 back in 1982, sonny.

I think the advent of PG-13 is actually part of your story-- it created a box-office-friendly category that allowed more violence than a traditional PG, at the price of less nudity than a traditional R. So movies that would once have been made gore-and-nudity fests were now made just a touch less gory and a lot less nudity-filled, in order to bring in pre-17 teenagers.
Yup. I'd say the good professor has a point.]

So what's going on here? Have we simply grown less tolerant of buttocks and breasts? That seems unlikely, given the proliferation of porn on the internet. But on the silver screen, we seem to have become more judicious. On television, however, the edgier programs are beginning to show the kind of things that used to be rated 'R'.

Frankly, it's quite hard to reconcile all of these trend lines running in opposite directions. But let me take a stab at it: We have become less tolerant of sexuality in public forums, such as movie theaters, but more tolerant of it in the private settings where we watch TV and surf the net.

What account for this semi-contradiction? My sense is that concern about the degradation of American culture has led to greater restrictions on what is said and done in public. Yet in private, Americans are taking advantage of the opportunities presented by fiber optic technology.

Clearly, the story is more complex than that. Technology has nothing do with the emergence of the explicit lyrics of gangsta rap. Yet whereas millions of Americans buy such albums and listen to them in private, you won't hear those songs on the radio. Something strange is going on here, and it bears thinking about.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments: Post a Comment