Monday, June 18, 2012

Game of Clones

Continuing my practice of connecting nothing with nothing, I actually agree with the Pope:

"How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" said the pope, referring to church staff who abused children.

"It remains a mystery," he said. "Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit."
I agree with the Pope if by "mystery" he means:

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse--
who can understand it?
I the LORD test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10
But let us admit that, in this context, that is a most unfortunate use of the term, and "mystery" sounds more like "Let's move on and not ask any more troublesome questions."

And the other thing much on my mind is sex and film.  Yes, sex and film.  I had the chance to watch a French film the other night, one involving female nudity (and such nudity always connected to sex) but no male nudity at all (how very Gallic!).  Odd film, about a movie maker who wants to make a documentary about women acting out their sexual fantasies, violating their personal taboos in front of the camera.  Exhibitionistic women and porn stars need not apply, he reasons, because their reactions won't be "honest."  It's not a porno because there's actually a plot to it, and a lot of typical Gallic discussions of weighty topics.  Interestingly, as I say, the only people naked in the film are women.  There's also an odd bit about "angels", represented by women dressed in black tank tops and black pants, with their hair tied back in a pony-tail so they all look vaguely similar.  They observe the action, and actually instigate some of it, but can't be seen by the other characters.  More on that in a minute.

Today, coincidentally, I stumbled across a video of all the sex scenes from "Game of Thrones."  I don't subscribe to HBO or any of the other "premium" services for the very reason displayed in this video (find it yourself, it's not that hard to locate).  Let me put it this way:  if "Mad Men" were on HBO, all the sex scenes would be explicit, and Christina Hendricks would have to have shown up nude from the waist up by now, given all the men her character has slept with.  And that wouldn't improve the show a bit; in fact, it would take away from it (nor would she do it, which would mean we'd lose her acting.  More on that in a minute, too.).

I know people love the various series on HBO, but I've found them all to be pretty much the same:  graphic violence or graphic sex are required to justify the price of the cable bill.  The video compilation from "Game of Thrones" proves my point.  It's not erotic (well, not to me) or even entertaining (there are at least two rape scenes.  I get the narrative importance of rape, but the entertainment value?  Do we really need to see it so explicitly to understand it?).  And all of it involves female actors being nude from the waist up (at least), but almost no nudity (nothing you wouldn't see in a bathing suit, if that much) from the males.  In fact, nothing more than a shirtless Clark Gable showed.

Yeah, we've come a long way.

Why do we demand female actors bare their breasts for our entertainment?  It's not because we are so "cool" with nudity, or we'd expect to see Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie doing nude scenes, and frontal nudity, not just from the back.  We all know nudity is only what you do because you need the work, so I began to feel sorry for the actresses in "Game of Thrones" who seemed to be stripped to the waist almost every time they were on screen.  I mean, double standard much?  And even when we see women in full frontal nudity, well, it may be"porn," but don't show a penis, or it's "hard core porn."  Why?

The French movie, "Exterminating Angels." came close to touching on these questions.  The director puts his chosen actresses through sexual encounters that break taboos to see if they will do so with a film crew watching and filming.  It's an excuse in the story for eroticism, if not porn.  But he goes through a number of actresses who decline to be in his film, which is the real point of the story:  that sex is something primal and perhaps even private, and it unleashes, as he says at the end, even violent reactions (that's Ovid waving from the sidelines).  The women who turn him down seem to recognize the danger, or at least realize there are legitimate (and by that I mean not just social) boundaries here.  The director never seems to understand that.  He turns out to foolishly turn away from porn stars, who appear as characters quite comfortable with faking anything for the camera; unfortunately, the three women he chooses can't fake the feelings his tests of them demands.  In fact, he unleashes something, and it's not exhibitionism or voyeurism, it is passion.  It is, of a sort anyway, love.  One actress decides she's a lesbian in love with another actress, who is in love with the director (as is the third actress, it turns out).  Two of them end up quitting the film, which gets made, and at the end a gang of four masked persons (the actresses?  Their friends?) brutally beat the director with a baseball bat, breaking one arm, both legs, and his jaw and teeth, before one of the "angels" stops the beating.  It appears she, too, is in love with the director.  Or perhaps not.  It's all very Gallic at this point, and the director is shown one last time, crumpled in a wheel chair with shattered limbs, his lower face covered with a bandage, and you wonder if he would have been better off dead.  It's still not clear he's solved the mystery of love and sex, but it is very clear he never understood what he was getting himself into.

I wonder if we know, either.  It isn't sex that's involved in the priest abuse scandals, it's rape; and rape is about power, not sex.  And it isn't sex we watch in "Game of Thrones" or any other film where two people simulate (or not) sexual activity, and where women are displayed in ways that make it most obvious they have breasts (usually bending forward at the waist; that seems to be the favored film position).  It's really about our power to get women to disrobe for us.  And we're so liberated we can easily get this on our TeeVees, and anywhere else.

I don't like what the Church is saying about the child abuse scandal; but I'm not crazy about what society is telling us about sex and sexuality.  "Exterminating Angels" is the only film I've seen that tries to examine this question from the point of view of the voyeur and the subject.  It clearly delineates that there are at least three classes of women in this question:  those who refuse to consider performing for the camera, those who separate sex from acting, and those who unlock emotions best kept in check.  It's not exactly Ovid, but it is an examination of the power of desire and the perils of pursuing certain pleasures.  If we don't expect Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie to do nude scenes for our entertainment, it means we understand there are lines that should be drawn, or at least respected.  But when rape becomes an integral part of entertainment, when less famous actresses are expected to regularly bare themselves for the camera and yet we refrain from calling that "pornography," we are doing some very complex things ourselves to label some things as deserving of damnation, and some things as mysteries.

1 comment:

  1. how very Gallic!)

    Well, I've seen entirely more of Depardieu than I would have liked to.

    It is like when you found out all those jokes in Woody Allen's movies weren't jokes but autobiography, once you realize what sex almost always is in movies or TV and all of porn, that it reduces human beings to objects, the very thing that the second feminist wave, the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the abolition movement, etc. struggled against at its most basic level, it's impossible to see it as innocuous. At least that's my experience once I had that insight. And, as pornography is the dominant media image of gay men and gay lives, it is far more insidious than it is for people who grow up with other, non-exploitative, images. It's always shocking to straight people that its possible to be gay and anti-porn.

    Also: Failure to Transgress