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It has been about forty years since Hollywood first took the leap into nude sex scenes in movies, and it may be time to look back on how that has influenced our thinking about such things.  I am going to argue in this article that many of us have been coyed into believing that there was something right and good about the decision to incorporate nude sex scenes into mass entertainment, when, in fact, it actually exposed (and continues to expose) us as naive suckers.

I should acknowledge that nudity in itself is not necessarily the dividing line between good and evil when it comes to entertainment.  There has always been a tendency for entertainment to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Nevertheless, nudity in mainstream cinema has become a turning point in a way that seems to have cheapened sex wherever its influence has spread, and thus altered both human behaviour and how we view ourselves and our bodies.

A term used much over the years has been "gratuitous", but that term is most often used in relation to the violence that comes with so much entertainment these days.  Unfortunately, audiences have often been polarised betwen those who oppose the gratuitous violence and those who oppose the gratuitous sex scenes/nudity, when, I believe, our lives have not been enriched by either.

Art lovers (and those of us who would like to think that we have some measure of art appreciation) have been told that it's all about "art", when it is really all about making money by giving the audience what they want.  Those of us who oppose censorship have accepted that others can watch what they choose to watch, but we have often been caught in the vortex as well, simply because of the all-pervading influence of the Hollywood hard sell.  We want to be able to say that we have seen the latest blockbusters, and so we go along and keep our mouths shut when the smut comes on the screen.

What has, for the most part, made the sexual content of movies different from the many other bad influences and bad role models that sneak into so much entertainment is that the other stuff is acting and special effects, whereas nudity and sex is not.  Sure, the sex scenes are often simulated, but when actors strip off and when they start touching one another, they are, of course, doing things that are a very real part of the sex act.  Their own marriages have suffered as a result.  You and I and those friends and relatives watching the movie with us, would not think of deep kissing, and touching one another there in the room or in the cinema.  We have, in essence, invited into our homes, strangers who will take their clothes off in front of us as a form of entertainment, and we have been made to believe that this is reasonable behaviour for adults.

Even those of us professing to be Christians have tried so hard to convince ourselves and others that we are not prudes, that we have bitten our tongues before speaking out in protest against such ridiculous behaviour.  While some have come to believe that sharing a cinema or loungeroom with a number of other people, all of whom are becoming sexually aroused by what they are viewing, is nothing to be ashamed of, others have had to discipline our minds to pretend the sex scenes are not happening, in order to save ourselves the embarrassment of becoming sexually aroused in sync with a group of friends, relatives, or (in the case of public cinemas) perfect strangers who are viewing the same stimulants.

At this point I want to challenge the prude label.  I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with becoming sexually aroused.  It may even be a matter of conscience as to whether or not it is right to employ someone other than your husband or wife to take their clothes off in order to GET you sexually aroused.  Individuals privately masturbating, or couples having sex in the bedroom are a whole different kettle of fish, however, compared to what goes on when we sit the family down in front of the television, or when we walk into a movie theatre with a bunch of strangers.

As in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, we need some simple childlike wake-up call to tell us that "The actor has no clothes on."  A simple reminder that this is not what the rest of us in the room would do or tolerate in such a public way will reveal to us the truth about the prostitution that we have been cajoled into becoming a part of.

There have been attempts to classify movies so that consumers know what they are getting.  However, those of us who would rather not have the sexual titillation foisted onto us, are often forced to miss out on some of the best movies that Hollywood has to offer, just because they felt it necessary to sprinkle some nudity or sex into the mix.  It seems that they fear losing those members of the audience who want some form of sexual gratification more than they fear losing our patronage.  Because we do not speak up (and, indeed, there seem to be few channels left through which we can speak up) Hollywood has come to believe that they will gain more viewers by dumping a flash of bare flesh in a movie like Forest Gump, than if they were to leave it out.  This is the predicament in which we find ourselves today.

I believe that it is too late to reverse the trend.  I believe that the human race has been so corrupted that it is never going to go away.  We have been almost universally addicted to the tickling influence of Hollywood, and it is making so many billions that the producers are not going to listen to the tiny whisper that might come from even the most militant campaign to change them.  So what is needed are strategies that will, despite the intransigence of Hollywood, maintain the dignity of the tiny minority that still has the good sense to question how brainwashed we have become.

I would suggest that the first step needs to be to stop thinking that we "need" Hollywood's entertainment.  I don't say that we need to stop "using" entertainment as a form of education or relaxation; but I am saying that we need to be capable of considering boycotts as an option before we can come up with strategies that represent our own control over what we watch.

Let's start by asking ourselves, what would be the impact on our lives if we were to simply stop watching all of the movies that we presently watch?  Would we be crippled socially?  Would we become depressing sourpusses?  Would our intelligence suffer?  I'm even talking (at this stage) about missing out on some of the great religious epics.  Would it stunt our spiritual growth?

I think that when we find the answers to those questions, it will empower us to take back control of what we do choose to watch on TV or at the cinemas.  We can survive (and even flourish) without them.  Start by recognising that.

Someone has said that Walt Disney made movies that kids were not ashamed to take their parents to.  Certainly Walt Disney has shown that entertainment does not have to be promoting immorality or promiscuity to be entertaining.  Yet many of us have been conned into thinking that we are not "mature" or "adults" unless we are watching the "hard stuff".  We feel incomplete as human beings if we only browse through the children's section of the video shop.  Many of us don't go there at all, even though such great classics as Lord of the Rings are often put there and only there.

Classifications like "for mature adults" might be more accurate if they used words like "offensive", "suckers", or even "depraved" to describe the people who would choose them over great movies that have not seen a need to add nudity or sex scenes to the plot.

There are so many good movies out there these days, that we should not have to even consider those which show that they have been rated M or R because of the explicit sexual content.  Again, there are things like bad language, use of drugs, and violence that may or may not offend others.  The classifications are there so that you can decide for yourself before you even think to take the video home.  But, in particular, I am talking about real people taking their clothes off and behaving in ways that you would not want or, indeed, even allow anyone else to behave in the presence of those watching the movie with you.  It is a pity that so many good actors have stooped to prostituting themselves in this way, in order to make a name for themselves in Hollywood, but at least we can refuse to support such an industry by not inviting them into our homes.

Some of us have worked on fast-forwarding or covering the screen when the sex scenes come up.  But this is an embarrassingly cumbersome and unworkable process, given that most of us don't know ahead of time when the scenes are going to come up, nor how long they are going to last, and given that there are so many other good movies out there that do NOT have such scenes at all.  In fact, we seem to be acknowledging, by all the fuss that we go through to hide the sex scenes, that we cannot live without the rest of the movie.  I say let's just toss it rather than go to so much effort to do the clean-up job for them.

I have watched so many movies on planes over the years, which have the sex scenes deleted, that I know there are some great movies out that do not need the sex scenes that have been forced into the plot to entice more viewers.  Yet, if the producers insist on putting such stuff in, then in my home, I prefer to cast my consumer vote in favour of those producers who don't think that they need smut to sell their products.

If we do find a shortage of good movies because of such a decision, then that may be when we should start to consider other uses for our time:  family games, discussions with our friends, time on the porch looking at the stars, a good book, etc.  There is so much to do out there in the real world beyond the silver screen.

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