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Let’s Sanitize Our Movies in The Name of Sales!

December 30, 2009 Culture, Film, News, Research 5 Comments

Sex doesn’t sell–we’re too jaded.

That’s what a recent study titled “Sex Doesn’t Sell — nor Impress! Content, Box Office, Critics, and Awards in Mainstream Cinema” is saying, after analyzing the box office success of movies containing explicit sex scenes between 2001 and 2005.

“Sex did not sell, whether in the domestic or international box office, and even after controlling for MPAA rating,” said co-author Dean Keith Simonton, who is also a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. “In other words, even among R movies, less graphic sex is better.”

The study was prompted by an experience almost a decade ago of its co-author, Anemone Cerridwen, who, when taking acting classes, increasingly became uncomfortable with the sexual content in films.

“I assumed sex sold, and wanted to know by how much,” Cerridwen said. “I braced myself for the worst, and got quite the surprise.”


“Nothing is as shocking anymore,” says Craig Detweiler, director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University. “You can see it in Britney Spears’ kiss with Madonna and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance. Things that were a big controversy among some, the next generation kind of yawned at it.”

Detweiler told CNN he bears witness to a revolution by the new generation against those of time past, whose goals are “not doing drugs, not sleeping around and not getting divorced.” He thinks this is why Jane Austen films and the Twilight series are so popular today.

“Those stories are really about sexual separation,” he said. “They are all about wooing, not winning.”

The authors of the study hope that Hollywood keeps the research in mind.

“I do believe that there are a fair number of people in the film industry who want to make better films, and this study may give them some ammunition,” Cerridwen said. “I know that Hollywood has been trying to make more family-friendly films for a while (since the ’90s) and it seems to be helping ticket sales, so my guess is that this research would complement that.”

When did the presence of sex in a film make that film “bad”? Sex is human. It merits representation in our art, and that includes film.

Information from CNN, via Rita Arens.

Avatar Sex

December 28, 2009 Culture, Film, SciFet 6 Comments

Avatar is a PG-13 flick, so I wasn’t expecting to see anyone hooking up. Nevertheless, there were the two main characters, getting down under a magical wish tree in what has to be the ultimate eye-candy flick of the decade.

There being a such a strong theme of connection, uploading and downloading self and history, the scene between the protagonist’s avatar and his native Na’vi counterpart, Neytiri, is intense and surreal. We’re shown nothing, but our imaginations need no further detail–we’re right there.

Although, just in case you’re one of those inquisitive types, director James Cameron isn’t about to leave you hanging.

“That will be something for the special edition DVD, if you want to see how they have sex,” Cameron told a group of journalists doing their due diligence (i.e., asking how the characters have sex).

Here’s the short version: they use their tails.

“It made such perfect sense,” said actress Zoe Saldaña, who portrayed Neytiri. “If you sync to your banshee and you’re syncing to a tree, why not sync into a person? I almost feel like you’ll have the most amazing orgasm.”

Talk about knowing how to sell DVDs.

“It was a very funny scene to shoot,” Saldaña said. “There were so many technical things that sometimes you have to keep in mind that paying attention to all those might disrupt the fluidity of how a scene is supposed to take place. And because Jim was shooting for a PG-13 rating, we couldn’t move in certain directions. The motion would look a little too past the PG-13 rating standards. So it was really funny for Sam [Worthington, who played Jake Sully] and me. We had a lot of giggles there.”

It’s hot, but you have to wonder if it leaves any room for creativity in bed.

Image from Avatar’s official site. Information from the Philadelphia Daily Inquirer.

“Sex and the City 2″? More Like “Friends And The Desert”

December 23, 2009 Culture, Film, Opinion 4 Comments

We’ve seen the Sex and the City 2 trailer and there seems to be no sex in that movie at all. I’m sure Kim Cattrall will rise to the occasion in a scene or two, as her character requires, but for the most part it seems sex is staying in this franchise’s back-burner.

That strikes a nerve with me–and bear in mind I’m going on a limb because I am basing all of this on a trailer that gives us very little information–I think sex is important and the Sex and the City franchise does it a disservice by emphasizing it during the characters’ frantic period of mate-seeking and then diminishing its prominence to zero once the girls have coupled up.

That implies sex is something we do when we’re lonely, something we do to catch a man, something that’s really not as important once we have him. But, oh, it is. Why would more than 50 percent of all married women, at some point, cheat on their mates if it didn’t really matter?

Who are we kidding? Sex is more than just a consummation of the chemical rush that we experience when we meet someone new. We need it to connect, to relax, to be happy, to be healthy, to remain a united front.

While I was married, if ever I confessed to any woman in my life that I was sexually starved, the answer never varied: sex isn’t that important, they told me. There are other things–respect, trust, love, connection.

I don’t know how sex, which once was only condoned after marriage, became divorced from the institution. Respect, trust, love and connection are all made manifest in sex. If anything, sex is the ultimate expression of these things.

The first movie touched on the disconnect between partners with the Steve and Miranda subplot, but it didn’t serve to highlight the importance of sex. “It was just sex,” Steve told Miranda when he tearfully confessed. Just sex.

That’s what they told me. It’s just sex. No one died from lack of sex.

But I did die–only it wasn’t a physical death. It was worse. And it did affect my marriage.

Marriage and relationships are work, they say. I think if we treated their components–all of them, including the sexual aspect–with the same commitment we do our jobs, we’d fare a great deal better.

But to do that, we have to stop saying, “it’s just sex,” and scream, “oh, God! It’s sex! Yes!”

Image from Sex and the City The Movie. Video via MTV.

Melt My Heart With Gore

December 15, 2009 Culture, Film No Comments

zombiesWhether you’re in love or in lust, the movie experience can be treacherous. The idea of forcing someone to sit through a movie beside me when they clearly had no interest–or worse, having to suffer something like Meet The Fockers or The 40 Year Old Virgin–gave me so much angina that when I was married, my ex-husband and I pretty much only shared the car ride to the movie theater, then met after our movies were finished.

(In sickness and in health, in escrow and foreclosure, but hell no, I am not watching another stupid comedy and screw you for not thinking Sin City was rad, falling asleep during 300, and calling La Dolce Vita one of my “little French movies.”)

Of course, just in time to commemorate the finalization of my divorce, there has appeared a movie on the horizon that requires little compromise.

Introducing: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a flick based on the tweaked Jane Austen classic (courtesy of by Seth Grahame-Smith) that infuses the storyline with a nasty zombie invasion.

Due out in 20011, this flick’s odd enough to interest most people, sweet enough to inspire the romantics, and creepy enough to bring out the lovers of ghouls.

Oh, and did I mention Natalie Portman is playing Elizabeth Bennett? If seeing her royal cuteness fighting, all covered in gore isn’t reason enough, I don’t know what is.

Stay tuned for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. You think I’m kidding, don’t you?

Image from the cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, from Quirk Books. Information from CNN.

The Infertility Diaries

The National Infertility Association and EMD Serono, a pharmaceutical company, joined to sponsor In The Know, a short-film competition about couples dealing with infertility.

The winning films are touching–there are Kristin and Wally Acuna, of Clifton, N.J., who dealt with infertility after the birth of their first son, then were able to conceive triplets in vitro fertilization (IVF). There are Jennifer Colletti and Michael Nielsen, of Minneapolis, each with their own infertility issues, who had a son with IVF, but failed to conceive the second child they wanted. And then there are Bridget and Dwayne Friday, who spent a year on the U.S. military waiting list for IVF, only to learn that Dwayne, was being deployed to Iraq on the treatment date. Dwayne left his frozen sperm, and his wife kept the appointment without him, and faced her pregnancy and the loss of one of her twins alone until his return.

Information via Motherlode, on the New York Times Magazine.


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Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.


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