Monthly provocative, drunken, idiotic ramblings from the North...
...Speaking of sex...
"What is peculiar to modern societies is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret." -- Michel Foucault
In Philip Roth's book, The Human Stain, he talks about the Clinton scandal and how it brought out "the righteous, grandstanding creeps, crazy to blame, deplore, and punish, [who] were everywhere out moralizing to beat the band." This is an era when cocksucking offends people more than the sale of weapons to Taiwan or the increasing fragility of global peace in the hands of G.W. Bush.
The Clinton affair not only reminds us how hypocritical our society is, but also how repressed we are. We are all intimate with illicit sex in some form or other, yet we keep it under lock and key because we are told it is indecent and taboo. This is a prime example of how many of us take history for granted. We assume something is natural when it is indeed linked to power and authority. Besides if it isn't repressed why do we need to talk about it all the time? Why are the Presidents (Jefferson, Kennedy and Clinton to name a few) of the 'free world' doin' other women? Why is there an increase in sex crimes, divorces and adultery? Why is sex used to seduce consumers? Why does Vince McMahon use barely dressed women to sell football? That I even notice this stuff and talk about it shows how ingrained we are with Victorian codes of sex.
French egghead, Michel Foucault, links this stifling view of sex back to the 17th century. There was a time, he says, when "sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit." (Notice how even Foucault uses the safe words 'practices,' 'things,' 'words,' 'the illicit.') Then came the Victorians. Sex was confined to the home under the custody of the family and specifically the heterosexual couple. Sex as pleasure was replaced by sex as a function of reproduction. Sex outside of this accepted realm was deemed taboo. It became silenced or moved to acceptable, confined places like mental hospitals and brothels.
How does this relate to animation? Since I became a dad, I've been watching a lot of kid's animation and specifically Disney films. I've watched Toy Story 2 about thirty times and the other day I noticed something: coupling, specifically heterosexual coupling. From Snow White on down the line, we are inundated with the implied romantic pairing of a man and woman. Almost every film ends with the union of a heterosexual couple. The funny thing is that these are relationships formed primarily on superficial attractions. Check it out. In Jungle Book, the kid abandons his friends for a girl he doesn't even know. John Smith just wants to poke her hontas...and Toy Story 2 just baffles me. It's a buddy movie. There is no need for a damn couple, yet there it is at the end. We have a nice little family gathering with Woody and Mary (no lambs) and Buzz and Jessie. It doesn't make any sense. If anything, Woody and Buzz should be lovers. They've spent a lot of time with each other and got to know each other intimately, but no, the message we want to give our children is the one reflected in Buzz's erect wings after seeing Jessie show her stuntgirl side. I mean Buzz wants to do Jessie. All this nonsense about how he likes her yarn of hair, etc... He's fumbling with the words cause he doesn't give a shit about her hair. He wants some lovin', that's it, that's all. And that's okay, but why hide SEX? If I have to watch Al eat and burp, why can't I watch Jessie and Buzz do da deed (our obsession with using animals and toys as human replacements is for another time)? Snow White is maybe the worst example. The dwarves, despite having dedicated themselves to helping and protecting Snow White, are rejected because they are ugly, poor and "deformed." All this for a damn prince with mullah...a man ol' White has never met.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I hear you all shouting, "They're kid's films, Mr. Pimp, don't take them so seriously." Ok. I can dig that. But first off, why should sex be kept from children? "Because they're not interested!" "Because they're kids!" Bullshit. That's an inherited assumption. We are a society that treats children like simpletons. We should be treating them like little adults. But hey...that's another argument. Let's go back to the kid's film bit. So you're gonna tell me that having Snow White leave the dwarves for money is a good message? These films are telling children that romance is based on superficial attractions. That what is normal is a man and a woman being together. It doesn't matter if they know each other. What matters is how good they look. Is that what we should be telling the children? We are defining what is right and wrong without even being aware of it. We are so ingrained with codes of sex that we are not even aware that these films ARE actually talking about sex by virtue of keeping silent.
Sex is connected with power. A power so complex and intricate that we are rarely aware of its influence. Sex is a function of reproduction that ensures population, which in turn maintains a labour force, which in turn maintains the social structure. Sex is an economic and political tool used to maintain and reinforce the power structure. Marriage is merely a system for governing sex.
Film, cinema, movies, animation, whatever you want to call it, is all about sex. Since Edison's The Kiss, cinema has become a projection of, and haven for, our desires; a voyeuristic pleasure. Yet paradoxically, Hollywood cinema also projects acceptable codes back onto us, so at once we are escaping into a controlled world of fantasy that we believe is our own but is really a controlled world dictated by relations of power. (Basically...it's like this concept of 'designated' protest areas. I mean how absurd and contradictory is that?) The pleasures (eg. Woody and Mary) being projected into our minds are those that reinforce codes rooted in the Victorian age. Our desire to see these heterosexual couplings stem from a system of beliefs and are not, as we often believe, necessarily a Truth. As the dead egghead says: "The obligation to confess is now relayed through so many different points, is so deeply ingrained in us, that we no longer perceive it as the effect of a power that constrains us."
Well...I'm gonna go and jerk off.
Hottie Animators o' da Month
Heather Kenyon and Dan Sarto for being humans as they clash with the mundane powers that be.
Next Month: Speaking of Sex, Part 2: The bizarre sexual politics of Shrek.
Chris Robinson is a writer, festival director, programmer, junky and has been called the John Woo of diplomacy. His hobbies include horseback riding, pudpulling, canoeing and goat thumping.