Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 192 - Saddle Up Boys!

            I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon in a lot of the westerns I’ve been watching with Nelson. Almost every movie we’ve watched in the last two weeks features a rape scene. First of all I don’t remember westerns being like that. Certainly the ones I watched growing up were pretty tame by comparison. They even used to make jokes about the cowboy hero being more attached to his horse than he was to the appreciative damsels he’d rescued from the guys in the black hats.
Apparently though there was a period from the late sixties to the early eighties where the producers felt that they had bump up the sexual content of the few westerns they made in order to compete at the box office with the non-western fare. I don’t know why this translates into a lot of rape scenes. You’d think that they would be able to get some sex into a movie without creating what surely must be a distorted picture of the unbridled randiness of the American cowboy, but there it was for Neslon’s and my viewing pleasure—ten movies, ten rapes.
          You have to appreciate that this is more than a little disconcerting to Nelson. He’s not a prude, and he’s certainly not above using some fairly explicit language when the occasion warrants, but on balance Nelson has always been a true Southern gentleman. He lived in a house with his wife and four daughters. He has always gone to great lengths to protect those women from the rougher and more unseemly edges of male society. He won’t ever use bad language in front of his girls, nor will he suffer anybody else to do it.
Anne tells the story of playing many rounds of golf with her dad at a municipal course in their hometown in Kentucky. After she got married and her new husband had had the opportunity to go a couple of rounds with Nelson, her husband asked Anne how she could stand to play golf with her dad.
          “What do you mean?” she asked.
          “How do you stand all the cussing?”
          She had no idea. Nelson’s game was completely different when Anne played with him. I wonder which kind of round was the most satisfying to Nelson, the rude or the genteel.
          At the end of our two weeks of uninterrupted raping we found a movie with Candice Bergen. It was made when she was quite young and very pretty. I was pretty sure that she was going to play a classy role, and we were going to get a break from all the rapes. I was wrong. About 20 minutes into the film, Oliver Reed is forcing himself on her, ripping her clothes off, and engaging in fairly violent sex.
“Isn’t that Edgar Bergen’s little girl?” Neslon asked.
“Yes it is,” I said.
“It’s a good thing your wife isn’t here to see this,” he said. “If she comes out, you need to turn this off.”
My wife was busy in her office. She didn’t come out so we continued to watch. Apparently Candice Bergen’s character liked the rough sex because it wasn’t very long and she was head over heels in love with Reed—another thing I’ll never understand about the movies. Guys in the movies get away with stuff the rest of us would be thrown in jail for. You have to wonder how many men—women too—model their behavior towards the opposite sex on stuff they see in the movies and on TV—more than we’d care to know, I’d guess. That sure would explain a lot though, wouldn’t it?
Candice Bergen isn’t the only ingĂ©nue I’ve seen in the movies who becomes smitten with a guy who forces his attention upon her. There’s a lot of this kind of crap in the movies that just flat doesn’t square up with real life. I guess you could excuse it because, after all, it’s just the movies, but I have to think that a lot of impressionable people are taking a skewed view of the universe away from the movies and trying to put it into practice in places where it doesn’t work out very well.
For instance, I wonder how many MBAs toiling in the analysis trenches of big hedge funds got their fundamental attitudes about mergers and acquisitions from watching Danny DeVito in “Other People's Money” or Jonathan Pryce as Henry Kravis in “Barbarians at the Gate?” Or how many sales guys learned closing techniques from “The Boiler Room” or “Glengarry Glen Ross?”
This is not far fetched at all. There is actually a website that uses motion pictures to teach principles of management. Can you imagine learning management skills from “The Wizard of Oz”, or “The Godfather”? If not then you need to visit Management Goes to the Movies at www.moviesforbusiness.com and register yourself for a Hollywood MBA.
That’s business advice. I went there because that’s what I’ve been thinking about today. The movies I’m watching with Nelson are all about relationship advice—specifically how to manage your women.
Nelson and I both get tickled over the kissing phenomenon in films. Hero and heroine usually start out having some kind of conflict—big egos, big hat, big hair, big breasts, and big horse all seem to add up to sexual tension and personal friction—until the big kiss that is.
There always comes a moment when, in the heat of arguing over minutia, the hero and heroine suddenly have nothing left to say to one another. Clearly things are not working out between them. This is when they stare into one another’s eyes, fall into one another’s arms, and kiss. Something amazing happens during this kiss, to be revealed as the kiss ends and the heroine is suddenly vulnerable, docile, and compliant while the hero is noble, sensitive, and protective. 
This is the point in a movie when Nelson invariably remarks, “That guy must be a really good kisser, don’t you think?”
Love has bloomed before our eyes and in the space of several seconds. Not just any love either, but perfect movie love. Love, the dynamic of which appeals to the lowest common denominator in each of us and satisfies the simplistic expectations we were given as children by fairy tales and heavily edited family histories. People believe this crap because they want to, and seeing it over and over again in film after film reinforces it and makes it part or our cultural legacy. Fortunately, at least so far as the Western rapes are concerned, only Nelson and I seem to be watching.

2 comments:

  1. I've managed to miss this phenomenon in westerns...I did, however, recently come to the concolusion that it is a bit ridiculous that, in movies, just about every bad guy who is ever alone with a pretty woman suddenly turns out to be a rapist. Granted, these are bad guys. They have often just robbed someone, killed someone, hijacked something, or blown something up. But this would seem (in my head anyway) to be a big difference between the criminal mind willing to plan and execute a kidnapping for ransom and the psychopathic moral emptyness that results in forced sex. But there it is, in movie after movie...as soon as the attractive girl is alone with a villain (rank does not seem to play a role...henchment and masterminds alike seem to be rapists), we see that look in his eye, and shortly thereafter, a blouse or stocking or something is torn.
    I undertsand that perhaps the director or writer is attempting to show us how morally depraved the bad guy in question is. But, at this point, it has become a trope. Like any cliche, it no longer has as much impact. If the audience rolls their eyes when a scene begins to play out...why bother?
    Anyway, in my examples, and in your Western examples (especially in the cases of the damsle then falling for the jerk), it begs the question...with rape being one of the most horrific crimes, why are so many people involved in the production of movies willing to make light of it?

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  2. Exactly, Tim. Thanks for your comment. Very generous of you to lay the phenomenon off to character development, though. I assumed it was just a grab for a larger audience.

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