Flying over the Cuckoo's Nest

One would think that enough has been said about Harvey the Hutt, Kevin Spacey, and the general debauchery that is Hollywood and the halls of American power, but I find myself amazed that a couple of issues still remain unsaid, unexplored, and therefore unsettled.

I am, for one, amazed and horrified that we are amazed and horrified. This realization hit me a few evenings ago when we turned on the TV and decided to start watching a series we had recorded, but had never turned on.  It’s a series ironically called Good Behavior. Halfway through the first episode we were hit with a sex scene between two total strangers. The main character, a young woman, knew only one thing about her partner –- that he had been hired to kill a man’s wife –- an interesting resumé bullet point. The sex scene was long and extremely athletic –- almost violent. I’ve never thought of myself as a prude, but I had to turn away; I couldn’t watch it all.

It was then I realized the irony. Most movies these days include a sex scene (and this show we were watching was only a TV series meant to be viewed in one’s living room, presumably while the children slept a few doors away). I wonder if these actors and actresses have to do specific auditions for those parts, and I wonder why we’re all exercised over the sexual demands of movie producers and directors when we, as an audience evidently demand the voyeur’s equivalent on the screen.

Why are we all feigning surprise that those who produce a product that is only a hair’s breadth (pardon the comparison) from pornography, are busy being pornographic themselves? Why do we expect a producer to treat his leading “ladies” like ladies when these women are willing to let the whole world watch them writhe nakedly about a tangled bed, groaning and grimacing, faking orgasms while inventing new and astounding yoga poses? 

I’m not speaking out in defense of Weinstein or Spacey or any of these sex-obsessed people; what they have been doing is indefensible. Nor am I pointing accusing fingers at the actors and actresses -– I’m not implying a direct correlation between the metoo’s and involvement in sexual screen moments. What I am saying is that the American public bears some of this guilt. We are willing to pay money at the theaters to watch such scenes –- almost always played out between characters barely known to each other. Have you ever seen a rambunctious, passionate sex scene between married characters? Of course not –- evidently the stranger-danger element is a prerequisite.

Back in the June 1967 issue of Esquire magazine Tom Wolfe published an essay titled "Pornoviolence" in which he decried the latest trend in the movie/TV business -- an almost pornographic need for violent scenes. He was right even though his examples were shows like Gunsmoke (!). Now, we not only have the required expenditure of thousands of rounds of ammunition, we have full-on torture scenes. Back when Wolfe wrote this article, television shows couldn’t/wouldn’t have shown a man and woman in bed together, let alone engaged in anything openly sexual. The fact is that Hollywood has made a fortune feeding the American public in a manner similar to the way Roman Caesars fed their constituencies –- with sex and blood.  How is it that we are nonplused by those, who produce such entertainment, choosing to partake themselves? And buried in our national psyche is the notion of the casting couch -– it’s never been a secret that many a starlet became a star while in a horizontal position.

Granted Weinstein is no romantic figure –- repulsive, even -- so I can grasp the revulsion, but note that the complainants got what they were after.

On the other hand, Kevin Spacey is an attractive man, but gees –- 14-year-old boys?!  But then, who was feeding their children into the Hollywood maw? Where were the parents? It’s no wonder that child stars so often have tragic ends if this is what they’re exposed to. And yet we all love movies featuring attractive youth –- at what cost to those kids?

Secondly, I’m concerned about overkill. The Metoo campaign is understandable, but it’s blowing the abuse balloon up so tightly that is going to pop and the whole mess will just vanish.

For one thing, we have defined down sexual harassment to mean any unwanted advances at all.  Now that’s a given when children are involved –- any overture is out of line. But between two adults? Come on now. The level of harassment and outrage seems directly proportionate to the unattractiveness of the man making the advances. I get that –- even a leering look from the likes of Harvey Weinstein would be offensive –- but we women are making a big mistake if we make a mountain of even a giant molehill.  If everyone piles on, the hysteria serves as a smokescreen that obliterates the actual rape incidents and makes any kind of justice impossible.

Basically, women just want to be treated like ladies. Children should be treated like the precious future that they are. But that gets me back to my original point –- that if women are willing to act otherwise, and do so for the whole world to watch, we shouldn’t be surprised at the result. If parents are willing to leave their children in the hands of rich, self-indulgent, powerful people, then we shouldn’t be surprised at that result, either. More importantly, we need to check our own appetite for sexual material on the screen.  We need to be less willing to see movies featuring child actors. That’s a tough prescription, but what do we value more –- entertainment or decency, respect, and safety for our children? We’ve been enjoying flying over the cuckoo’s nest – we shouldn’t be so horrified to find that it’s being run by crazy, dangerous people.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon.  She teaches writing and public speaking.

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