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Modern Movies, Sex as Performance, and the Fassdong

So, I’ve seen last year’s two big sex flicks.

For some reason, these both included Michael Fassbender.

I don’t know. His is a notorious dong. That’s all I’ve got. His actual appeal sort of eludes me. I suspect I am supposed to find him attractive.

First up: A Dangerous Method.

I would watch Viggo Mortensen in pretty much anything. Scowling at a phonebook. Taking long, bleak walks and grueling rides across desolate landscapes. Speaking with a dreadful Russian accent.

I’ve endured quite a bit to gaze upon The Mortensen.

But, really, this was the worst of the lot. I don’t know if I was lured in with the false promise of Viggo-spankings and now harbor a  grudge, but I can tell you I wasn’t pleased.

This is a movie about people navel-gazing about having sex. It’s not really about the sex. It’s about the navel-gazing. And, it’s not just any kind of navel-gazing. It’s navel-gazing for science. It’s noble.

It’s basically stripped of any and all genuine emotion or essential humanity, and it’s main function is to fuel an intellectual feud between two men. It’s meta sex. In some ways, it’s man-sex by proxy. Kiera Knightly’s character, Sabina, is permitted a bit of leeway in the emoting department, probably because she’s a woman, but mostly because, and this is important: she’s totally batshit insane at the beginning of the movie. Utterly bezerk. Uncontrollable hysteria. Screaming and twitching. The works.

She’s female and crazy.

And, then, once cured, she’s cold and removed, except for the one or two times she gets a rise out of Jung.

Last night, I saw Shame.

Shame, Manscaping Edition

Shame, Manscaping Edition

This is the other big SEX MOVIE from last year. This one is about a cold, emotionally stifled sex addict. He’s hooked on porn and hookers. He’s physically incapable of sex with an intention for emotional connection.

Then his overly emotional, co-dependent sister with serious abandonment issues (aka, “crazy”) gets a rise out of him.

Are you sensing a trend?


Me, too.

So, here we are in 2012, and these movies are supposedly boundary-busting art pieces to be reckoned with.

You can make a high-brow movie about non-committed, non-monogamous sex, but the sex better be at an emotional distance–at best a source of shame and guilt.

And, it had better be related to clinical diagnoses of psychological dysfunction.

Ethical people, in both of these movies, are monogamous, committed, vanilla, and (particularly in Shame) singular in orientation. Non-angry emotional outbursts are largely limited to women who require hospitalization. The men are cut off from the socially-sanctioned and prescribed joy that acceptable sex is “supposed” to bring. (Presumably, improved emotional “closeness” with a partner?)

The audience is more or less cut off from the main characters. We are only supposed to identify with their shame and anguish, and their frustration with women–that’s as deep as it gets. Brandon in Shame is so devoid of warmth that reviews online constantly reference Patrick Bateman and Travis Bickle. In A Dangerous Method Freud (IT’S FREUD, ENOUGH SAID) spends every other scene telling Jung to put a lid on it, lest he have an errant feeling. These are movies about the performance of stoic masculine isolation on an exceptional scale.

The requirement for psychological dysfunction to backlight unacceptable sex practices is nothing new:  the main character in Secretary is a cutter. Cronenberg’s movies have gone over the sex and madness concept over and over and over (Pro-tip, just don’t ever watch Crash.) Hell, look at Christian Gray.

I suppose 2011 is progress, because no one boiled a rabbit or committed murder.

This stuff drives me nuts.

Anyway. Bring on the sexy movies of the future. There’s a world to explore, once we’re all pretty sure we have permission to actually engage with the material.

(I have actually spent a bit of time parsing out what exactly the “ideal” of “healthy” sex is supposed to look like, lately, but that’s another entry for another day. I have already noted that it’s certainly not okay for lonely people to use sex for human contact.)

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  1. Rich
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Totally. I almost never find mainstream (or borderline mainstream) entertainment satisfying because it inevitably has the bias that sex has to have some kind of monogamous element OR it’s somehow pathological. I’m not pathological, but I don’t find the exclusivity of monogamy to be normal or satisfying. Sex at Dawn, has it right.

    If someone has a monogamous relationship and they like it, that’s great for them. If they can get along without hanky panky, okay. No problem. Just don’t label the alternatives some kind of neurosis.

    Oh, but for one good flick that doesn’t mention marriage even once and assumes that a representative sample of the characters are kinky. Oh, but for a love story where the women has to chose between two men and just decides to take both of them, and live happily ever after.

    Now that would be an art film worth its weight in Picassos.

    • Joan
      Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Oh, but for one good flick that doesn’t mention marriage even once and assumes that a representative sample of the characters are kinky. Oh, but for a love story where the women has to chose between two men and just decides to take both of them, and live happily ever after.

      I think these could probably be accomplished in comedic form, but not as something to be take seriously, in the current cultural climate.

      I still need to watch Blue Valentine, but it’s all about a divorce, I think?

  2. Jenny Lyn
    Twitter: jennylynwrites
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I really can’t explain the appeal of Fassbender, other than there’s just something very sexual about him. Does that make sense? I’ve met guys like that before. Not necessarily drop-dead gorgeous but they ooze sex. It sometimes went there too, and I wasn’t disappointed. I get the impression he enjoys women and their bodies. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was bisexual.

    The Fifty Shades movie will probably make your head explode. That’s IF they ever get it made, and IF you even have the stomach to watch it. I threw up in my mouth a little just now thinking about it.

    • Joan
      Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      I find him lizard-like and creepy, but that’s an entirely personal reaction.

      Also, omg, I dunno if I can take the 50 Shades movie, either. I mean… I will have to see it. And, I will probably lose hair.

  3. Jenny Lyn
    Twitter: jennylynwrites
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Also, Viggo-spanking would cause women the world over to lose their minds, me included.

    • Joan
      Posted October 2, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Truth. *nods*

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