- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2005

Screen sex

“Hollywood and Hollywood movies have always revolved, and still revolve, around what men want, expect, demand from women. Of course, such desires aren’t exclusive to Hollywood. … But they have a formative influence in Hollywood, the likes of which are rarely found outside Hollywood, whose products radically shape society. …

“The effect of Hollywood’s portrayal of sex as both the literal and symbolic center of existence is incalculable, especially the political effect. The tacit bargain used to be that working-class and middle-class Americans expected, in exchange for playing by the rules, that the popular culture they turned to for relaxation would reflect back to them positive images of people who played by the rules.

“Or at the very least they wouldn’t be made to feel foolish or excluded for dutifully following the rules. The function of a generation of romantic comedies a la Doris Day, and sitcoms a la ‘The Honeymooners’ or ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ was to ennoble disappointment, limitations, and the postponement — sometimes forever — of gratification.

“There’s scarcely any delay between a wish and its fulfillment in today’s movies, where beautiful-looking people are regularly, and graphically, gratifying themselves with other beautiful-looking people. The decline of the sitcom means that the terms of the old tacit bargain are slowly being ignored on the small screen, too, which is an even more consequential development, given that medium’s domestic immediacy.”

Lee Siegel, writing on “The Moviegoer,” in the Feb. 14 issue of the Nation

Bohemian life

“Bohemians aren’t necessarily preoccupied by artistic endeavors — or the doing or the making of anything. Not all artists are bohemian, though bohemians invariably live as if their lives were art. They live by love affairs and passions, art by other means, and, when affairs go wrong or passions fade, they nurse the maximum regret — the dramatic falling out, the theatrical breaking-up — with red wine or drugs or wanderings, the serious gloom a necessary counterweight to all the overexuberance. …

“With a true bohemian, there’s never a chance of assimilation; life is a condition of permanent resistance to belonging (to place, to family, anything resembling a home), though I’ve always believed they tend to be at their best in New York. It’s a good city for emigres, for those passing through, for the strays and the wayward, the people permanently estranged from home — until New York appears unbearably homely and domesticated, as it can when seen from certain angles.”

Inigo Thomas, writing on “Bohemian New York,” Monday in Slate at www.slate.com

Burden of proof

“Michael Jackson is headed to court. His trial … will not be simply an evaluation of the charges against him. It will also be an indictment of his Peter Pan-like existence — from his Disney-style Neverland Ranch and toy fetish to his preference for the companionship of young boys.

“But being stuck in adolescence is not grounds for conviction, warns Tom Lyon, a University of Southern California law professor and expert in child-molestation cases.

“‘He could be a serial pedophile for all we know. But the fact that he’s kind to children or that he likes to play children’s games doesn’t suggest that he’s going to molest kids,’ said Lyon. ‘That’s more a reflection that stereotypically, men are uninterested in kids.’”

Ashante Infantry, writing on “The End of Innocence,” Sunday in the Toronto Star

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