TagSex

Some notes about Hollywood Films

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

“Can’t we just watch it?!”

When watching a movie in class, many of my students complain when I stop it in order to engage in a discussion of what the movie is presenting.  My response to their “Can’t we just watch it?” is always, sure.  “Sure, this Friday night, in your living room.”  But to be truthful, I don’t believe that we should ever “just watch” a movie.

We need to be aware of what they are presenting as truth or reality.

I’ve written about movies before: R Rated Movies, Does Movie Violence Affect the Viewer?, Language, Sex and Violence–What will we Watch?, The Demonic and the Stupid, A Negative Times a Negative Equals a Positive.  Here are some notes that I don’t think I’ve yet posted:

Movies always show a hero who needs something.

  • What they need is often not what they think they need.
  • Friends, trials, even enemies help the hero to realize what they need.
  • In the end, the hero has an opportunity to take it.
  • It’s interesting to analyze movies on the basis of what the storytellers insist the hero needs.
  • In Hollywood it’s almost always romantic love.

Masculinity, Femininity, Love and Sex

  • Male heroes often have a problem with authority–they need freedom?
  • Masculinity in the movies is muscles, emotional restraint, dominance, aggression, sexual prowess and the capacity for violence.
  • Femininity in movies presents the woman as passive and finding her identity in the man. She is expected to be sexually chaste and resist the advances of the male.
  • Sex is a physical expression of romantic love. She was chaste until she realized that she was “in love,” and this is within the rules.
  • Love in Hollywood: Romantic love is passionate, irresistible and able to conquer anything, including barriers of social class, age, race and ethnicity, and personal conflicts.

Hopeful and Materialistic

  • We like things to wrap up nicely and leave us with a sense of hope for the future.
  • Hollywood films must be rational.  We need a knowable, physical cause for everything.

Mom Crashes Sex Ed Class

cocoparisienne / Pixabay

On my way home from a haircut after work last Friday, I heard a brief interview with a woman who had gone to her son’s grade 9 sex ed class. This was in a public school in Michigan. She got angry enough about the perspective being presented that she hollered obscenities at those leading the class.

I agreed with some of her objections to what was being presented to the children.  The view of sex that was being promulgated by the speakers was faulty.  She does not seem to be aware that her position begins with the same faulty premise.

Both the presenters and the angry mom believe there is a profound separation between the spirit and the body.

The Presentation

One of the speakers told his story. He had a challenging past involving an alcoholic father and getting a girl pregnant. He ended up dating and then marrying a different woman who had practiced abstinence.

According to Dreger, the man concluded his talk telling the boys that they should look to marry a girl who says no. Dreger’s was very angry about presenting these conclusions to young people because it shames those girls who say yes–girls that she describes as those who “enjoy sex.”

When we talk about sex with young people we must be careful. The message of abstinence must be delivered without shaming those who are sexually active. It is important to let children know that abstinence is a state to which one can return. I do object to the implication that people who say no to sex, do so because they don’t, or wouldn’t enjoy it–those practicing abstinence have a pretty good idea that sex is enjoyable.

It’s the whole shaming thing that made Dreger lose it. Here too, I agree with Dreger. But she seems to link between advocating abstinence and being ashamed of sex. Of course, these can be linked, but one doesn’t necessarily follow the other.

As a side note, both the interviewer and Dreger seemed to be under the impression, perhaps they are right, that the main (or only) purpose of sex education is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. This strikes me as a very narrow purpose.

Faulty Premise

Ironically, Dreger’s view and that of the presenters which so angered her (at least the way she characterized it), both have similar roots going all the way back to the ancient Greeks–the belief that there is a profound separation of body and spirit.

One view has a negative idea of the spirit and the other has a negative view of the body.

For some, the separation results in the belief that the transcendent is essentially non-existent, thus sex is a solely physical event.

It seems as if Dreger fits into this category, and the presenters in her son’s sex ed class (as she characterizes them) fit into the other–where the separation results in the belief that the body is inferior to the spiritual and therefore a corruption of the spirit. Dreger quite correctly objects to the denial of the inherent goodness of sex which comes with this view, but to view sex as simply physical is also, in my opinion, a degradation of sex.

The Integrity of Body and Soul

There is a third view avoids this degradation, and celebrates both sex and abstinence, by understanding the integrity of body and spirit. It’s the view of sex found in the Bible, and there it’s described using the term “one flesh.”

One flesh is built the understanding that body and soul are one, and it refers to a new entity created by two individuals in the marriage relationship.  Sex is only one piece of the “one flesh” paradigm. It’s much more than a physical–the marriage partners become one in every other way as well.

Once married, all relationships change–with mother and father, with friends, and particularly with every member of the opposite sex. There are changes in the food I eat, the movies I watch and how I spend my time. My money becomes our money. My big TV becomes our big TV. The physical act of sex is representative of this new entity created by marriage.

You can see why many Christians believe in abstinence before marriage, not because sex is something bad, but that it is a part of a much bigger picture. In the Christian mind, you can’t separate the sex from all the rest without degrading the sex. Just as it would be foolish to share all your banking information with someone with whom you have no commitment, it would also be crazy to share a bed with them.

This idea seems strange to our culture. How can my body–the site of the self–not be mine and mine alone? It’s an alien idea because we are so committed to the autonomy of the individual, that we are repulsed by the idea of belonging to another in such a significant way.

If we are nothing more than animals, we might as well enjoy the pleasures of sex when it feels right–it’s only natural. But if are something more than animal, and that everything we do with our body is linked to every other aspect of our being–including a spiritual reality–then we might look at sex a little differently.

This is a Biblical view and those who follow its truth believe that sex is a wonderful thing that is best enjoyed when it is shared along with one’s whole life. Placing sex in this context elevates it from the level of a shameful act, but it also lifts it way beyond the level of a pleasurable, animal act. If you are going to be pro-sex, it seems to me the Biblical approach is the best.

I agree we with Dreger that we should be honest with children about sex. But honesty about sex looks different from different perspectives. For me this means we tell children how good it is and also that it’s a part of giving one’s whole life to another.

The Worst Sin

cocoparisienne / Pixabay

It wasn’t very long ago that all the worst sins were the sexual ones — adultery, homosexuality, abortion. These were the activities, it was thought, in which the worst sinners regularly engaged. For many, the term “immorality” has a sexual connotation.

This is a problem. I think our pastors recognize that placing sexual sins at the top of the hierarchy is not Biblical–a distortion of the gospel. I have heard a lot of sermons over the past few years that contextualize the sexual sins — emphasizing that these are no worse than any other sins, like greed or gluttony.

I was fully on board with this leveling of sins until I came across a quote from C.S. Lewis. He reestablishes a hierarchy.

Not only that, he puts sexual sins on the bottom. Here’s the passage:

If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins…. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

This is all very inconvenient.  I was feeling rather proud of my progress against sexual sin.

We've heard it said that all sins are equal. It turns out that this is not the case; there is one that is worse than all the rest. And it's one of mine.Click To Tweet

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