Just watched a documentary about Cleanflix, a Mormon guided movie editing service that edits all the violence, blood, and sex from films for people to rent. The company had a one-to-one buying and renting policy, that meant that for every edited copy they made they had to have a purchased copy to back it. The thinking being that they are still paying Hollywood, and controlling what they want to see.
For clarity I'm not a prude; I swear, make vulgar jokes, have violence in my own novels with implied sex scenes, and put my foot in my mouth all the time.
(I want to take this portion to explain my own feelings towards sex and violence in movies. I watch moveis that have sex and violence. I hate it sometimes. I don't need to see a person murdered, this just inures me to violence, and I am already inured to many peoples emotions, I shouldn't be numb to the horror and disgusting act of the murder of another person, even in a fictional setting. One of the films I like is Equilibrium, a very violent movie. You are supposed to be disgusted by the violence, not entertained by it, because one of the messages of the film is how when a person is emotionally numb they are more prone to acts of inhumanity.
I find almost all sex scenes in movies pointless, even rape, almost especially rape because of the component of violence against women. If a woman is raped in a film, I don't want to see it. This is a horrible act and it doesn't need to be shown in detail. It also bothers me to know that there are rapists out there who might watch something like this and enjoy it.
Love and sex have different motivations, and when it is shown in film it often has nothing to do with character arcs or to progress the plot. I can think of only a handful of movies where a sex scene actually furthered the plot, and wasn't about rape; In Crank “Chelios” needs to keep his adrenaline high and so he has sex an a very lurid way that excited him more than just sexually. In Wedding Crashers the endless parade of sexual partners causes Owen Wilson's character to question what he values and starts his search for love. In Dreamscape a sex scene is shown to underline a characters fears and insecutities by examining a dream about his wife cheating.
In It's a Wonderful Life I don't need to see George Baily get a hummer from Mary to know that they love each other. Does Highlander really need a sex scene to prove Connor loves Brenda? Is time control and villain overthrow easier after you get laid in Prince of Persia?
I don't count films like 9 1/2 weeks, or Secretary in the “sex isn't necessary” belief because to me these films are just porno's released by Hollywood under the rubric of art. The main viewers of films like that are going to be men and they aren't really going to be judging Kim Basingers acting, they're going to be staring at her tits and drooling over her stuffing food in her mouth. These, for me, are at best, character explorations of one dimensional people. You are so much more than who you f*ck.)
(See what I did there? I used censorship to actually give what I wrote more punch, not less.)
How necessary are explicit sex scenes in movies? In The Brown Bunny, why the need to depict a blowjob so graphically? Why trespass the limits between mainstream and porn? If you were making a movie, how do you justify an actor or actress the need not only to simulate the sex activity (oral, intercourse, whatever) is happening, but to do it for real?
If you want to tell your audience that the character is enjoying a fellatio, ask Brian DePalma how he did in Carrie. That's fair enough. On the other hand, ask Vincent Gallo why he kept the character for himself, and why didn't he give it to a fellow actor.
I think Basic Instinct is a well-crafted thriller, its nature is sensual/sexual and the Sharon Stone excesses are justified being a manipulator. But Paul Verhoeven is a director who uses to introduce suspiciously gratuitous sex scenes. Consider Hollow Man and Starship Troopers. And he's not the only one.
I know when they're doing sex on screen there is no real intercourse, but then, you can save the most graphic way if you want to communicate they had sex. Unless you want to sexually excite the spectator and/or sell more tickets.
If you want to make a movie about sex, you can make it in a good taste and design sex scenes that never reach the state of (not only hardcore, but) softcore. Still, there would be sex scenes. But don't tell me you have to show the audience how it is a blowjob, as if they don't know. If you pretend to justify your very explicit scenes with that argument, smart moviegoers would almost consider it an insult to intelligence.
Is it legit to say that most of sex scenes in mainstream movies are unnecessary?
I don't care for gratuitous violence either. Car chases bore me (I fell asleep during the Matrix:Reloaded highway scene). There are movies out there that show violence without any purpose or relation to the storyline at all. It shows grotesque graphics and images just so the filmmaker could prove to the audience that they’ve crossed the boundaries. At the same time it is necessary for certain films to have such high level of violence in order to serve the audiences that love that sort of thing. It’s their niche and it’s all about satisfying that target market. George Romero will keep on making zombie movies ’til the day he dies… and becomes a zombie.
When I talk to people about my interest in science fiction I run into trouble when we start talking about movies. Do I like Star Wars? No, but outside any sort of argument of whether it is or is not actual science fiction, the thing about Star Wars that bugs me is the same thing that has been bothering a lot of SF fans for several decades now. Though entertaining, Star Wars created a slew of monsters: science fiction movies that are mostly shoot-em’-up blockbusters full of mindless action violence.
Torture films like the Saw series are incredibly popular, as are a host of other movies about killers and murders. And the majority of high-profile science fiction films from the last decade alone are replete with violence and Hollywood-style action. From the groan-inducing Transformers (Love it. It's aweful) to trashy violence like Repo-Men, these painfully bad movies require action and violence to get through their “plots” because ultimately the stories are built around such sequences.
But these kinds of movies are probably a little too easy to go after, because, supposedly, we all know what we’re getting into. (Though the excuse that something was “just a popcorn flick” is getting a little stale at the point of which the vast majority of films in the SF genre seem to be of this ilk.)
Because movies likeTransformers or Repo-Men don’t really have good premises or stimulating science fiction ideas, these movies weren’t really “ruined” by all the violence or action. However, many other movies, which seem to be made for thinking people are brought down by violence. I think District 9 is a good example. You could argue that there is a necessity to depict the brutality of what is going on in order to make the audience sympathize, but I’m confident an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Doctor Who could have pulled off the same philosophical quandary without so many guns.
Similarly, the incredibly popular Matrix trilogy has at its core a very inventive concept concerning a real world versus a digital one. Which one is more preferable? Do we really have free will? But these cool ideas ultimately take the form of ridiculously trite speeches exposed by characters whose only real personality traits are their ability to shoot/chop at people. The problem of the action/violence in the Matrix movies is compounded by the fact that the stakes of said violence are dubious. When characters are granted physical powers previously reserved for video game characters, not only does the action/violence cease to be interesting, it betrays what its real purpose is: violence for violence’s sake. Is this brand of violence any different than the goal of pornography? Should you stand for it in your science fiction?
Well sometimes, yes. Superhero movies are about heroes and villains, so it makes sense there will be some action/violence there. It’s not like the new X-Men: First Class movie should be all about Professor X and Magneto going to psychotherapy and figuring out what’s going on in with their addiction to caffeine pills. (Though honestly, I would be more interested in seeing that kind of movie than the one that’s forthcoming.)
The violence of Kick-Ass incensed a lot of people, but ultimately was making a very specific point about just how dangerous and gruesome being a real-life superhero would be. Kick-Ass is meta-fictional and not delivering violence to people who crave violence in their films. (Though those people will probably like it too, so I suppose that helps with ticket sales.) Either way, these movies do violence and action right, they show it as something deplorable and harsh, not wonderful and amazingly full of joy and love like in Bad Boys 1 & 2.
In Canada we are consistently taught at a young age that violence is not acceptable under any circumstance. This is why you see a zero tolerance toward any violence public schools. I understand the point, however, it negates reality. Nothing is that simple. Violence is a tool, one that often has serious consequences but is sometimes necessary.
I think we as society value it in television and film because these characters not only make violence look good, but also because they do things most people think about can’t or won’t do. The reality of violence is not like television. People hear this all the time, but it is something you can’t really understand until you’ve witnessed it. There are consequences for violence. No matter how good you are at fighting, there is always someone better, stronger, and faster. Unfortunately, in popular culture, particularly in American media, violence is used as the main gauge to show strength, independence and manliness. People want to be strong, powerful, and secure. Media shows that this happens through violence. Life does not operate on the rules that Hollywood dictates. It is called entertainment for a reason.
As adults we can choose what we want to see and what we don't. Like in sports, films influence will depend on education. If a parent explains and teaches their children about how violence in movies is simply entertainment and not acceptable behaviour, they are far less likely to be influenced by it. If someone is to sit their child down to watch a Tarantino movie without a discussion about what they are seeing on the screen, then of course an impressionable person is liable to be influenced in a negative manner. This is not the fault of the entertainment, it is a fault of the supervision. Entertainment is given classifications and a parents ability to shield their children from certain games, movies or TV shows is their responsibility alone.
That is what parents were trying to do with companies like Cleanflix. And while directors and other “artists” got up in arms about censorship and “messing with their art, their intellectual property”, television stations and airlines have been doing this from the very beginning, and Hollywood didn't complain then.
I think it's hypocritical to say that people can choose to eliminate for themselves what they find offensive, and then tell them that they are not allowed to eliminate what they find offensive. Hollywood would make a lot more money if they released “Family Friendly” versions of movies.
But the next time someone gets all up in arms about censorship, and how it's unethical, and undermines their creative efforts I want them to show Battle Royale,Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit On Your Grave (1978), and 2 girls 1 cup to either their child or a relatives child.
Somehow I don't think they will.
Here's a very special SFW censored video for you all to enjoy!