We live in a strange time right now. Our massified, consumeristic culture has made it so that our senses are saturated by hedonism and sexuality on a daily basis. I still haven't decided whether to be horrified or enthralled. After all, the way we have mastered the manufacture of transitory pleasures really is incredible. But while I do buy into our sexualised culture as much as any other 22-year old does, I also have a habit of buying into the outrage that surrounds it. I, and I think a lot of other people, like to look back on earlier entertainment cultures as if they were less sexualised than 21st century media.
Nevertheless, sometimes I get a reality check and realise that this might not be an entirely fair assessment. Things used to pass the censors back in the day that would surely never make it today. Check out the S&M love scene in my favourite childhood movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:
The one thing that saves this scene from being completely disturbing is that the Baroness of Vulgaria appears to feel neutral or maybe slightly concerned by her husband's attempts to kill her, rather than enthused and aroused by them, so she's probably not actually masochistic. But that's about it. She parades around in fetish wear, while he attacks her with glee, and all the while they are singing about how much they love each other. Stanley Rumm gives an interesting interpretation of this, although his squeamishness regarding the phrase, "casual sex," does lead him to employ an astounding array of awkward euphemisms.
"It’s not outlandish to believe that the Baron married her after falling for her as “a bit of stuff”. Their relationship has always been about “play” (ie. ‘howsyerfather’). They are not capable of having a proper discussion about anything. They’re stuck in “cutesy speak”. As long as she can still make him happy “playing” he can’t broach anything of a serious matter with her.
So if he wants her dead, why not just have her executed?
Have you ever wanted to fight or argue with someone, but they just “wouldn’t let you”? …It’s hard to have that fight when the other person is saying nice things to you and making you dinner and playing with you (in a nice way) all the time. She is the queen of tarts… she got to where she is by using her “female charms”. She seduced the older, powerful man. Now she is stuck in that role but cannot “progress” it to the next level -ie. she cannot be “the mother of the heir”."
I watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on video innumerable times as a child, and yet somehow this S&M scene didn't leave me poorly adjusted to the facts of life. If I'm right in thinking that this sort of thing would never be allowed in a children's film today, perhaps that says a lot about the way we over-worry about media content sometimes.