COMICS

Above the Headlines: Hollywood cheesecake sells papers

The cheezy people who put big-titted Hollywood stars atop the cover of the Sun, Province and National Post may believe in their heart of hearts that they are simply selling out. Asses for the masses. Boobs for the rubes. But their simple minds are sloshing around some high-level concepts and forging a revolutionary doctrine - albeit by accident.

There's opportunity for radical discussion is in this chauvinist honesty. A New Orleans filmmaker once said that nudity is the cheapest special effect, but he was wrong for two reasons. One is that shaky camera is actually the cheapest special effect, but more to the point, nudity is not a special effect. Nudity is real. When people appear naked on camera, we are actually seeing them naked. Lighting, makeup, surgery, etc, all have an effect, but the bottom line is that there is a documentary basis to all pornography and that is what Hollywood flirts with.

We cringe at the violence in films because our imagination runs wild. But, when a man (or whoever) kisses a woman (or whomever) on screen, they are actually kissing. The social boundaries they cross - intimate touching, kissing, nudity - are integral to our definition of sexuality and so the fact that they are actors in a drama is only half the story.

In Pakistan, I went to see a lot of films. They were sort of like student versions of Indian films, low budget dance / fighting / romance / comedy / family dramas. In fact, films were considered something of an extension of prostitution, because in the conservative atmosphere of Pakistan the red-light districts are merely places where men, usually in groups, can illicitly hire women to dance for them.

In one film, there was a scene in which a character touched his daughter's hand. The audience jumped and shouted like schoolboys. My friend explained that this was because the man had touched the woman, and everyone knew that she wasn't his daughter in reality. The documentary element - the fact that we are actually seeing real people, though they are playing characters at the same time - is a fundamental fact which we only obliquely acknowledge.

Why do the mass media cloak their cinematic sexual obsessions? If they were to take on these questions, and openly interrogate the relationship of male and female audience members to the male and female sex objects... what then? If the reporters were to lustfully describe their sexual fantasies about Tyra Banks, and then list moments in the films in which their imaginations were most fruitfully fed, we could begin some real film analysis.

David Mamet wrote in On Directing Film that the only result of showing sex on screen was to force the audience to ask, "Are they really doing it?" and thus distract from the story. I agree with his question but not his answer. As I've said, they are really doing it. But what are they doing?

What more perfect fusion of documentary and drama is there than pornography? The crude gynecological closeups prove the authenticity of the act, despite false dialogue and self-consciously innappropriate music.

Eyes Wide Shut was touted as an intense sexual drama of a real-life couple, and there was immense public interest in this documentary element. But all the film contained was ridiculous charicatures of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, wandering around aimlessly and blabbing bad dialogue at one another in poor imitations of intoxication and lust.

I would really love to see a film in which the two of them have real sex! Are they gay? Are they straight? What's their favourite position? Do they make really stupid but endearing sex banter like, "harder harder" or "do me baby?"

If we are really sexually interested in Hollywood stars, and sex really fuels Hollywood blockbusters, then let's demand real sex, not body doubles, not simulation. Because Hollywood would be all the better for shedding its insincerity, it would make more money, and it would create visceral community in the mass public. There's more to be done besides this - issues of race, class, consumerism, spirituality, violence, ethnocentrism, history, and all kinds of others are obvious - but if sex sells best, maybe it's the place to start.

Just imagine the global audience of Titanic or Jurassic Park bound together by bonds as strong as those of the skulkers at the Fox Cinema! What feat of audientiality could they not accomplish?!