Friday, January 27, 2012

A Dirty Shame

That's Moisturizer, Right?

This post has nothing at all to do with the disappointing 2004 John Waters' film of the same name.

If you visit the same blogs as Uncle P does, then you've probably already seen the banned Hungarian version of the poster for Steve McQueen's Shame. And while I haven't actually seen the critically acclaimed film, I've heard and read enough about it. Hell, George Clooney made one of the Golden Globes' funniest jokes referring to Michael Fassbender's anatomy in the film. And Fassbender himself has joked that he is contractually obligated to appear naked in every movie he's in.

Many years and about 60 lbs ago, Uncle P briefly appeared naked on stage in the NJ premiere of Terrance McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! It's not an easy thing to do, the first time. Of course, over the six-week run of the show, it just became part of the show; the next thing that happened in the scene. I was naked for all of ten minutes, I think. And most of that was spent lying on my stomach on a 'raft' in a 'lake.' I disrobed; went backstage and got wet in tub of tepid water (I was supposed to be swimming); came back onstage to lie on the 'raft' and then froze as the heat from the lights rapidly evaporated the water on my skin. It was far from sexy (nor was it meant to be). 

Being naked on stage or in film is rarely sexy (at least for the actor). There's lighting and camera angles, staying in character and having to know what to do and say next; all while a bunch of strangers (either audience or crew) sit or stand around, watching. I imagine it was just as unsexy for Fassbender; especially given the nature of the movie and his character, an unfulfilled sex-addict who derives less and less pleasure from sex, even though he is compelled to seek it out more and more. And while McQueen's film has been a critical darling since it premiered at Cannes last fall, it failed to garner a single Oscar nomination. And I suspect it's because it was released with an NC17 rating. But more on that in a moment.

Of course, if I had a body like Michael Fassbender's, I'd be naked as often as possible. But let's be honest, so few us have bodies like Fassbender's. Or Chris Evans', Ryan Reynolds', Ryan Gosling's or even George Clooney's. And I can certainly understand why that poster was banned in still socially conservative Hungary. Of course, most of the Hungarian Americans I know are as liberal as I am, which I guess says something about the difference between the formerly communist nation and the U.S. And I won't even go into the inordinate number of gay porn stars who claim to be Hungarian - that's a post for someone else's blog. 

Still, I don't understand Americans' squeamishness when it comes to sex. American audiences think nothing of violent murders and closeups of autopsies in films or on TV, but heaven forfend we should glimpse a nipple during the Superbowl half-time show or show a penis on a movie screen. 

Many, many years ago, Uncle P traveled to France with his high-school French club. While in Paris, our teachers thought it would be a good thing to take us to a real French movie. So our tour guide recommended the number one film at the time, L'amour viole (Violated Love). It told the story of a marriage that fell apart after the wife was raped. The rape in question was very graphically depicted and our teachers were visibly upset by the scene and asked the group of 16 and 17 year-olds (who were actually horrified by the scene) not to tell our parents they had taken us to see it. They didn't get that we were far more upset by the film's violence that the sex. 

And that's what I don't understand about American audiences today. Why is it okay to see someone's eye's gouged out or someone get beheaded, but not a woman's breast or a man's penis? Why is alright to watch an unnatural murder, but not a natural act of love? Have our psyches been so pervaded by our Puritan and Victorian ancestors that we can accept blood and death but not love and semen? Obviously, porn is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet most folks will admit to watching Conan the Barbarian before admitting to watching Debbie Does Dallas. There's a strange disconnect there, don't you think? 

Even worse, as provocative and graphic as Shame may be, director McQueen still shies his camera away during the film's one male same-sex encounter, which speaks volumes to how uncomfortable most people are when it comes to that subject. And while queer director Greg Araki proves the exception to that rule, his films have hardly the same high profile as McQueen's.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm one of those few people who actually find sex to be a beautiful, natural and magical thing. Oh, don't get me wrong - I like imaginary violence and murder just as much as the next Horror fan. I just know the difference between the two.

More, anon.

1 comment:

Pam Solomon said...

Great read as usual. I don't like graphic violence or degrading sexual acts depicted on screen, not a horror movie fan at all. I also don't like movies that look dark and dingy and depressing. Romantic straight or gay sex or truly frightening suspense done well is fine with me, but I don't need to see all the gory details.
Bravo for appearing nude on stage.