Thursday, May 24, 2007

The “M” is for “Machiavellian”: The MPAA Rating System

A couple nights ago my husband and I watched the fascinating Kirby Dick documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated.” Let me just say, the MPAA has established a completely un-American, unconstitutional form of policing the film industry that just blew our minds. Rent the DVD and find out the whole crazy story. (But not from Blockbuster: their MPAA policy means they won’t carry it...yet another reason to sign up for Netflix!)

For the purposes of this post, I’ll just discuss one aspect of the documentary, its revelation of the interesting standards of the MPAA’s raters when it comes to sex. (Insofar as one can determine any standards, for this bunch is as whimsical as it comes.) First of all, it’s amazing the extent of violence a film can get away with and still merit an R rather than an NC-17, compared to the level of sex. Anyone who’s seen “Saw 3” has to wonder why the raters thought that movie was acceptable for teen viewing. On the other hand, the 2003 film “The Cooler” was given an NC-17 for the mere reason that one love scene permitted a glimpse of Maria Bello’s pubic hair (and it was a tender scene between two people in love, not anything purely gratuitous like that infamous Sharon Stone shot). Maria Bello won a Satellite and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, by the way.

The documentary also demonstrates pretty convincingly that the same scene performed by heterosexuals will pass for R, whereas if performed by gays or lesbians it gets an NC-17. I suppose in view of popular public mores, I’m not surprised by that (although I’m not pleased either). But what irked me the most was that in more than one instance, the raters slapped an NC-17 on a film because the women simply had too long of orgasms.


Truly, they appear to have a beef with women having too much fun. Mind you, the camera is on the woman’s face here. Nudity or explicitness or penetration are not the issue. The problem is the obviousness of the woman’s pleasure.

Now I just had to wonder what kind of society judges the age-appropriateness of its entertainment on these sorts of standards. Women can be beaten, raped, and murdered by psycho-slashers, and we’ll let our teens see that, but if the ladies enjoy themselves in bed, that’s right out.

This really scares me.

Kirby Dick asked director Kevin Smith (one of my personal heroes) if he were in charge of the firm rating system, what sort of standards he would use. Kevin said he would most harshly judge those films that showed the violent humiliation of women. The documentary showed a quick montage of scenes from R-rated films guilty of this charge, and it was a slice of cinematic horror.

Meanwhile, interestingly, I most of the scenes the MPAA objected to which were shown in the documentary to be examples of thoughtful, artistic cinema. I truly felt for the directors interviewed, as they struggled with the absurdity of the MPAA requirements that nevertheless they were forced to address, lest their films suffer certain box office death. (Under today’s film distribution and marketing systems, NC-17 is indeed the kiss of death.) And monetary considerations aside, these filmmakers simply did not want huge portions of their potential audience led to believe the message and/or content of their films was prurient.

As a writer of fiction with erotic content, I thank my lucky stars I’m free to create, release and promote my work without a watchdog like the MPAA breathing down my neck. And the fact that the members of the ratings and appeals boards are kept secret, not monitored by any body outside themselves, and accountable to no one is downright Machiavellian.

And lastly, how sex got such a bad rap with these people is simply beyond my comprehension.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Best Non Sexy-Guy Show on TV: Scrubs

Television programming is usually sensitive to providing some male hotness in every show; it’s certainly true of dramas and often of comedies as well. The remarkable thing about my second-favorite sit com, NBC’s “Scrubs,” is that there are a few damn good-looking men on the show, but not a one is exactly sexy.

Both J.D. (Zack Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) are hot guys in their own right, but they are so adorable and silly you can’t really concoct a credible sex fantasy about either one. J.D. drinks appletini’s, and Turk lets his best friend call him choco-bear and likes it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t happily cuddle with either one (or even both at once, which would probably work for them too, as secure as they are in their manhood). But I can’t get hot and bothered about them, I’m afraid.

The closest I can come to that is Dr. Cox (John McGinley) and that’s just me. I’m madly in love with his sardonic wit and bizarre intonation. But the guy has sported a half dozen different versions of head hair, none of which work really well, and he’s, well, off-putting. The Janitor (Neil Flynn) occasionally sends me as well, but again, he’s determined to be off-putting too, except to Blond Doctor.

The Todd is handsome enough and has a great body, but he’s the Todd! Ugh! He’s his own worst enemy when it comes to sex-appeal, since 24/7 he’s working on having it. Doug down in the morgue is also a real cutie, but he works in the morgue and it seems a good fit for the guy. I like Lloyd the UPS Guy when he plays death speed metal air guitar, and Ted the Lawyer when he sings barbershop, but it stops there.

Dr. Kelso? Shudder. I know way more than I want to about that guy’s sex life.

The show hit the nail on the head a couple episodes ago when Dr. Cox demonstrated to Elliott why she ended up engaged to Keith: take away all the unappealing men at Sacred Heart and you’re left with Keith! Who, unfortunately, isn’t my type.

Ironically, there’s only one Dr. McDreamy here: the OB/GYN that occasionally makes appearances. That guy is off the chart. Unfortunately, it’s a little weird for a woman to fantasize about an OB/GYN. Makes me wonder, are the writers deliberately trying to torture us?

Meanwhile, however, there are gorgeous women all over the place, both regulars and guest stars, and they occasionally manage to be sexy as well as funny. And it’s remarkable how much of this show is about sex; I sometimes wonder if it’s on TV a little too early in the evening! In spite of these erotic elements, “Scrubs” excels in keeping its male characters not sexy.

That said, the fascinating thing is that I would just LOVE to spend time with absolutely any male character on this show. Yes, even Dr. Kelso! They are all fascinating, hilarious, adorable characters. Sign me up for playing hide and seek with J.D., watching movies with Turk, pulling pranks with Janitor, and especially just shooting the shit with Dr. Cox. For all it’s ups and downs, I’d love to work at Sacred Heart and hang out with this crowd.

Which just goes to show you, sex isn’t everything. My other favorite aspect of life is imagination, and “Scrubs” and its characters have that in spades. Not since “Ally McBeal” has their been a show that indulged the imagination of its characters so much. (How I miss those dancing scenes in the unisex bathroom!) Every single guy on this show has wild and crazy fantasies, and that’s a quality I find mighty endearing.

Wait...we haven’t seen any fantasies from the head of the hot OB/GYN. I knew there was something about that guy that needed improvement....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Women I Would Do/Be

My husband (like all men) wonders how many women would be willing to have lesbian sex, even if only once. I personally find it hard to believe that the figure wouldn’t be nearly universal. My daughters and I are all three firmly in the hetero camp (two of us life-long boy crazy goofballs), but we all admit to girl-girl crushes from time to time.

I’m not too shy to fess up to my total availability to certain members of my gender, and you can bet I’d have David’s blessing on it too! To back that up, I’m providing here for you my current Top Ten List of Women I Would Do, in no particular order (or all at once! just kidding):

  • Natalie Portman
  • Keira Knightly
  • Halle Berry
  • Heather Locklear
  • Evangeline Lilly
  • Morena Baccarin (Inara Serra from “Firefly”)
  • Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet Burke from “Lost”)
  • Mary McDonnell (Laura Roslin from “Battlestar Galactica”)
  • Neve Campbell
  • Alyson Hannigan
  • Tilda Swinton (The White Witch from “Chronicles of Narnia”)

Now, while coming up with this list, I thought of a number of women who I also find very attractive but for some reason wouldn’t feel quite right putting on the other list. I would just love to be any of these ladies. Here are ten of them for your perusal too:

  • Kirsten Dunst
  • Meg Ryan
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Julie Bowen
  • Renee Zellweger
  • Kate Winslet
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Emma Thompson
  • Kathleen Turner

Go figure. If any of the first ten propositioned me, I would be all over her like white on rice. But if any of the second ten raised the suggestion, I would go, “Eek, uh, no! But could I borrow your face and body for a few days and use then to flirt with men?”

Now isn’t that interesting?

I’ll be danged if I can find any explanation for why a woman falls into one category or the other. First I thought maybe it was a case of if I can identify too much with the woman, I feel weird thinking about sex with her. But I’ve certainly identified with Juliet on “Lost,” and with Willow on “Buffy.” Then I thought it was just the sexiness factor, like maybe the women on the “Be” list were more beautiful rather than sexy. Problem is, nearly all of them have seemed very sexy to me on many occasions (Kathleen Turner, when is she not?). Hair color? Well, the “Do” list is 70% brunette and the “Be” list is 70% blonde. Humph.

Okay, how about the idea that I’m turned on more by the type who is overly seductive? That makes sense since I would certainly be more the submissive one in such a situation. Except half the “Do” List are actresses who nearly always play sweet, innocent types. Or maybe it’s strictly physical appeal? Except Mary McDonnell is mature and hardly supermodel material, and she’s a “Do,” while Julie Bowen is one of the most gorgeous women ever born, and she’s a “Be.”

I guess this just proves some aspects of the erotic in life remain inexplicable even to me, who usually claims to have it all figured out.

Hey ladies, please post your “Do’s” and “Be’s,” I’m so curious to see how other women feel on this issue!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Heroes: The Mind-Blowing Peter Petrelli

Every now and then I just have to post some recognition for a character or celebrity who manages to achieve nearly universal sex appeal. So here’s my latest “Sexy to Practically Every Female” Award: to Peter Petrelli on “Heroes,” portrayed by Milo Ventimiglia.

Even more interesting, Peter didn’t achieve this status until this week’s episode, “Five Years Gone.” Up until now, he was a good-hearted but irresolute hospice nurse, a guy only beginning to realize the extent of his “special gifts” and not at all sure what to make of them. You could like him for being a nice guy, but he was too confused and unsure to live up to his sexy-superhero potential. The closest he came was when he narrowly managed to Save the Cheerleader from the all-powerful and purely-evil Sylar.

Well, in this week’s episode we were rocketed five years into the future, and apparently in the interim, Peter came into his own. He had already begun to realize he was different from the other “Heroes” in that he had every single superpower in the book, but it seems in the intervening years he learned to use all of them. Meanwhile, his guilt over not stopping (and apparently actually committing) the destruction of half of New York City has left him grim and cynical.

Therefore, we get to see an instant and astonishing transformation. Peter, who used to be a sort of na├»ve, bewildered hero like Peter Parker aka Spiderman, is a whole nother animal now. Now he has all the brooding emotional complexity of Batman, combined with the nearly godlike power of Neo from “The Matrix.” He flips in and out of invisibility with more carelessness than casting off a cape. He blasts people across rooms with the flick of a finger. And coolest of all, he’s the equal of Sylar.

My husband tolerated cheerfully my squeals of awe over Peter, recognizing him as an uberman who impresses people regardless of gender. Across town, my daughters were flipping out exactly as I was; Peter soared to Katie’s-favorite-Heroes-character status, while even more amazingly, he won equal approval from Manzi, who up until now had eyes for no one but Sylar (yeah, it’s interesting).

This whole little escapade provided clear evidence of what we already know: Nothing in a man appeals more to women than his being capable. Peter’s abrupt revelation as utterly, nonchalantly masterful simply takes a female’s breath away, literally. Forget that he’s good-looking (he’s always been that), forget that he’s nice, the thing is…there’s absolutely nothing he can’t do. He doesn’t need charming words or kisses to seduce you; it doesn’t matter what he wears or how he looks (although the scar across his face is pretty cool). You just want to watch him materialize at lightning speed, throw people around effortlessly, and shoot fire from his hands.

What man wouldn’t want to be this guy, and what woman wouldn’t want to date him?

Sidebar: I can’t write about “Heroes” without discussing the fellow who is the true heart of the show, Hiro Nakamura. The childlike, funny, pure-of-heart comics geek is still my true favorite. And meanwhile, his future incarnation deserves honorable mention in the sexiness category, for he too is a radical revision: the serious, angst-ridden samurai version of today’s Hiro, dignified and awe-inspiring in his own right.

Well, next week it’s back to the present for “Heroes” fans, and back to Regular Peter and Hiro. As much as we’re hoping the Heroes can do what’s necessary to save New York, I think we’re all wishing too that we haven’t seen the last of these guys as they were five years into the harrowing future. Their trials and tribulations were our gain, erotically speaking.