I’ve known a few Hollywood cameramen in my time. I can assure you both they and the other dozen or so crew members on the set will agree: During those sweaty bedroom scenes, we’re almost as embarrassed as the stars. And yet movies, like everything else, reflect their times. Like it or not.
The times usually go by the name “culture.” By which is meant a particular form or stage of civilization. In America we give them names: The Colonial Age…The Gilded Age…The Jazz Age…The Age of Anxiety. We haven’t agreed yet on a label for the early 21st C. How about The Animal Age? A time when all those old post-Victorian repressions have been swept away by the post-Freudian Sixties: If it feels right, how can it be wrong!
Now here’s what’s so ironic. Currently the Victorian novels of the Brontes, Jane Austen and Mary Shelley are once again selling briskly. PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre features their works along with the Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey, and Sherlock Holmes series to high praise and viewership.
What’s going on here?
Perchance our sweaty how-can-it-be-wrong culture can’t entirely resist the charm of the form-and-formality of another and nattier time. No, the young generation is not about to adopt bustles and spats. Maybe just take a curious peek at a previous culture which has taken on the charm that many previous times do. Like watching the Oscars when a string of gutsy guttural winners are followed at the microphone by the sudden eloquence of a Helen Mirren or a Christopher Plummer.
Oh My God….! Do people still dress and speak and bear themselves with such articulate dignity? Yes, yes they do.
So….! Just maybe the old movie fade-outs in the bedroom were more MRI-exciting than keeping the cameras rolling while naked limbs and breasts flop and grunt in their own heavy-breathing sweat. Thin here the pulsed-up thrill of a bikini undulating down the beach versus seeing her buck naked in the nearby shower stall. It’s the tease not the totality. The hint not the pubic hair. The technicolor dream of a Renaissance nude versus the black-and-white reality of an actual nude.
But then I am so old-fashioned Victorian that I suspect Victoria’s Secret’s real secret is not laughing at the old Victorians….it’s their size-6 models laughing at all those size-16 buyers who actually believe these exotic items are going to make them look exotic too.
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