Sex and the Cinema


I'm becoming quite fascinated by the role of the mass media in shaping and changing culture and beliefs. The above scene is taken from a delightful Italian movie called Cinema Paradiso. It charts the rise and demise of a local cinema in an Italian town. In the classic scene above, a Priest goes to the cinema to watch a movie and rings a bell to make it known to the projectionist that a scene has arrived which could injure his purity. The projectionist duly acknowledges this and censors the scene.

Of course, the scene makes the Priest look a bit ridiculous because, after all, 'its only a kiss'. It's all too easy for us to forget, however, that public standards of decency and modesty were very different to those of today. Purity was esteemed, or at least valued, the Church's place in society then more secure. The film tells well the story of cinema and how the media has been a vehicle over the course of the recent past, to mollify,  modify, loosen or change public attitudes to sex and sexuality among other issues.

There's something rather prophetic about the Catholic priest ringing the alarm bell over scenes which could injure purity and lead souls astray, even when they appear innocuous, certainly in the movie and for our sex-soaked modern media reality. The longer the film goes on, the more debauched become the films shown and the behaviour of those in the cinema. Soon enough the town cinema has become a semi-brothel with young men masturbating over a Hollywood starlet, the town bike taking men into a back-room for sex and couples discreetly shagging in the noisy, sweaty, smoke-filled movie theatre. By the end, the town watch it being demolished, its work, in a sense, done. By that time, people have video players and can watch movies at home on TV.

What started out as a place of light entertainment quickly degenerates into something else, the Devil taking something good and twisting it into something contrary to good. Then, you fast forward to today, in 2012, when sex and sexuality are discussed, portrayed and even The Archers (The Archers, for Heaven's sake - it's a radio drama!) receives criticism for being too racy. You hear that children are growing up addicted to internet porn, the cat well and truly out of the bag.

Part of the liberal agenda over the past two centuries has been about the destruction of taboo and the flourishing of sex and sexuality in the public sphere. Hollywood has been and still very much is a driving force, a catalyst in releasing the glorification of unbridled sex and sexuality in the West, divorced, as it near always is, from the sacred union of marriage. If Hollywood tries to make a film about marriage, it would be about a marriage that breaks up because of a steamy adulterous affair because the sex is just so much more exciting and better than in a marriage. How will Hollywood tackle 'gay marriage', I wonder? Loads of Hollywood actors are in favour of gay marriage, of course, but few big names seem to want to damage their own reputations, careers or finances by speaking honestly of their real attraction.

We're so far gone in the sexual revolution - who knows what phase we are currently in and where it will end? - that we often think of it as something that just happened. We think it was something that was bound to happen because sex is so bound and and rooted in our human nature. But that cannot be true because marriage and the family has served humanity so well in terms of real happiness for so long. The revolution that has led us to where we are today - with the Church pilloried and despised - didn't take place in a vacuum. The public in the West has been bombarded by sex and had its attitudes to it changed by a steady stream of images, video, visuals, sounds, music, cinema, books, TV programmes and now internet sites. Watching Cinema Paradiso, I was reminded that public attitudes to sex and sexuality, morality, public decency and the rest were changed dramatically by a powerful force in society, in which cinema had its place. The Mass Media. The media is now so all pervasive that were society to reject it entirely, you wonder what any State would do.

Comments

shadowlands said…
'the town bike taking men into a back-room for sex '

If you, as a Catholic objectify a human being in this way, we can hardly be surprised if the rest of the 'unsaved' world follow suit.
The Bones said…
Good grief, lighten up! I'm describing a movie.
Omphalomancer said…
Where will it all end? Divorce once unthinkable is now a compassionate response to complex human situations; remarriage is now facilitated by "sophisticated interpretations of human sexuality and psychology." even contraception is now not seen as anything more than regulation honoured in the breech rather than the observance.
For fifty years, there has been an increasingly frail voice in the parishes defending the truth of human relationships. Humane Vitae greeted if at all with uncomfortable public silence and private cocktail catechesis that this embarrassment would soon be corrected. Yet is is the very nature of this most intimate expression of marriage that lies at the root of the spreading disorder of human relationships. This moment is not sanctified but abused and not merely in contraception but even in fertility treatments; it is not venerated but rather brutalised and from this falls every other rotten fruit of sexual liberation; the rotten fruits of abortion; infidelity; broken homes; child abuse; divorce; civil partnerships and the demand for a revision of what marriage actually is.
Catholic parents defend their inability to stop their children copulating with friends by saying things such as,"I don't want to drive them away," or, "all their friends are doing it." the value of chastity is eroded. The time to talk is before the bedroom door!
I feel very defeatist. The time to make a stand was fifty years ago; Paul VI wrote eloquently and persuasively and the world ignored him and worse it judged him but worst of all his own priests and bishops ignored him.
And now when some do make a stand, who stands with them and who wants to stand with them when one leader of that campaign calls people grotesque and the other landers to blasphemy and obscenity of gay lesbian bisexual and transgender pressure groups offending public decency and mutilating morality in Soho Churches.
God help us!
The Bones said…
Shadowlands, sorry to hear that.
shadowlands said…
Thanks Bones. This too shall pass. Hopefully