Oversexed? A Prude Laments Cinema's Loss of Innocence; but Dann Says Sex Is Good - If Done Properly

Article excerpt

Byline: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic

The letter arrived by snail mail.

The address on the envelope had been handwritten. The letter began simply and sincerely.

"Hi, Dann. I am a prude. I'm very proud to admit to that title. If there were more of us, yes, it would be a better world."

Catchy beginning.

I noticed the envelope contained several newspaper clippings of movie capsules. They included ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America and the reasons for those ratings.

"I picked out just a handful of movie reviews in various newspapers, not only yours," the letter's writer explained. "Sexuality, language, sexual content, strong language, drug use. Isn't that wonderful entertainment?"

I instantly assumed this would be just another feckless fist- shaking sermon by a reader raging against the declining morality of the American movie medium.

"What do we have, 25- or 30-year-old script writers who think nothing of good, clean behavior? They all believe that sex scenes and (obscene) talk are cool and realistic and exciting and popular. Wrong!"

Yep, I thought, another feckless fist-shaker for sure. But then, the more I read, the more I began to empathize with the writer's lamented loss of safety and innocence in a culture increasingly inundated by waves of sex and cursing.

"Because of the filth being thrown in our laps, I don't frequent today's theaters," wrote Chuck Rosene of Elgin. "I even try to pick out a few DVDs at our local library, knowing they wouldn't place unsavory ones on the shelves for the public. Wrong again.

"Michael Douglas, Steve Martin, Glenn Close have all done good, clean works in the past. So, when I saw a few movies starring them, I chose those. I didn't have to watch very long before the F-word and sex scenes started to erupt. I stopped right there and removed the discs. I'm not a hypocrite who will say something but then watch it anyway."

I wanted to tell Chuck this is how it is in today's world.

"Please don't tell me this is how it is in today's world," the letter continued. "Not mine. Do your fellow associates talk or act this way? I am retired now, but I never heard language like this at my workplace. So it's not realistic or 'how it is' today."

I looked at the movie capsule descriptions Chuck had placed in the envelope. They included "The Weather Man," "Prime," "Jarhead" and "The Squid and the Whale."

"I'm sad to say that the enclosed movies will all bring in millions of dollars, won't they?" Chuck wrote. "Not one penny will come from me. 'Cocoon,' 'Forrest Gump,' 'Kramer vs. Kramer' are just a few that I enjoyed. No sexual innuendo, no bad language, just a good story line.

"I realize these (offensive movies) will continue as long as tickets are bought and Hollywood remains liberal and without censorship. If it changed once, it can return also."

Then the letter turned sadly philosophical and began to wonder when and how the movies all went wrong.

"Where was the turning point?" he asked. "The Vietnam War and protests and free love, do you think? What was the first R-rated movie? Which one got past the censors?"

Good question. Not even a researcher at the MPAA's Los Angeles office could determine which of the 17 movies rated R on Nov. 1, 1968 - the birthday of the ratings administration - came first. Apparently, no single movie "got past the censors." Seventeen did.

"Before this, we had clean TV programs: 'The Andy Griffith Show,' 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' 'Father Knows Best,' 'Leave It to Beaver,'" Chuck wrote. "I don't care how corny they sound today. All ages could watch and listen to the words being spoken."

Chuck wrapped up his letter with a plea.

"I'm interested in your viewpoint, something from your heart, not only what's down in print in the paper."

Something from my heart? …