Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Movie-Watching That Would Shock Your Grandmother

I once pondered whether there will ever be a fully explicit blow job shot in a mainstream movie – not because I cared about that, per se, but because I am interested in how our perceptions change. As time goes by, sexually explicit and graphically violent movie scenes that would have been thought to be unacceptable in the past eventually become permissible as standards change – so just how far are we going to go?

To a 1930s audience, films in the 1970s like The Wild Bunch, Deliverance and Last Tango In Paris would have been shocking. To a 1970s audience, films in the 1990s like Basic Instinct, Reservoir Dogs and Natural Born Killers probably would have been a step too far.  And I doubt a 1990s audience would have been quite ready for recent shockers like Saw, Hostel, The Human Centripede and A Serbian Film.

This leads me to wonder; what will be occurring in future films that will shock our current generation? If we've become more indecent and sexually explicit as we've gone from The Seven Year Itch to Belle De Jour to Last Tango In Paris to The Postman Always Rings Twice to 9 1/2 Weeks to Basic Instinct to Kids to dreadfully horrible films like Hostel and Antichrist - whatever will the future films that shock this current generation be like?  Most people nowadays are so inured to the kind of explicit sex scenes that once shocked us in films like Basic Instinct that we see similar levels of explicitness in pretty much every film that contains sex scenes (some as low as 15 certificate).

What's ironic is that people complaining about the increased sex and violence in films, music videos and computer games nowadays were once the people taking forays into similar risqué things themselves in their youth. In other words, many of the parents complaining today were once kids being complained about by their parents. The parents complaining about Miley Cyrus* today were once youngsters taking bold steps forward about when they were teenagers watching Madonna's semi-erotic music videos and concerts. The parents complaining about Madonna were once youngsters taking bold steps into the decadent world of punk music or glam rock or heavy metal. The parents complaining about punk, glam and heavy metal were once youngsters getting turned on by Elvis's swinging pelvis - and in each of those cases, that which shocked the parents would have been tame in comparison to that which went on to shock their progeny.

Times change – and the standards continue to be loosened and relaxed as we become more liberal about sex, violence and the other ways humans can push the boundaries further back. I'd say one of two things will happen in the future; either we'll reach a point at which the consensus deems us to have pushed the boundaries back as far as we reasonably dare; or else we'll continue to become more explicitly immodest and daringly salacious until blow jobs are pretty commonplace in mainstream movies.

And if you can't imagine us going that far, well just remember that the people watching The Seven Year Itch when it came out would have never imagined that one day we'd be watching films like Basic Instinct. As is often the case, the past serves to warn us about the future - but as is also so often the case, we don't learn from it, and we find how freely the chickens (or should that be cocks?) come home to roost.

As Antonio and Sebastian found in Shakespeare's The Tempest when conspiring to kill Alonso the King of Naples - "What's past is prologue". But just as Antonio and Sebastian were thwarted by Ariel - I hope that the boundaries that we have pushed so far back do not become past prologues to a future in music and film that sends us into a state in which modesty, decency, propriety and decorum have been all but lost. It may not be too late to save ourselves if we are alert to the danger of the past becoming the prologue, and remain ready to let past mistakes act as a corrective for future endeavours.

* I'd never even heard of Miley Cyrus until Sunday, when a debate about her raunchy videos and the example they set her young fans occurred on the BBC.

** Photo courtesy of romantiqueandrebel.com