Monday, August 24, 2009

An argument for the future of TV

Today's entry is about Television. I've been mostly dissatisfied with Television for many years now. Until recently, the only shows that I still watched were South Park and The Daily Show. It's not so much that I think there's nothing but crap on TV (though that's mostly true), but it is very similar to why I don't play many video games: I, like most people, want to feel like the things I do with my time are worth the time spent on them. To some people, playing video games for hours on end achieves that goal nicely. For me, it's movies.

I think it's related to why I'm finding it more and more difficult to draw the line between entertainment and art. If art is defined as a creative piece of work intended to inspire and change us through its beauty and expression, can't we also find that in things that only set out to entertain us? No one who goes to see a hypnotist perform on stage for the first time can truly walk away from it thinking the same way about human psychology, yet those shows are strictly for entertainment purposes only. You need not look further than Buster Keaton, Donkey Kong, Star Wars and Domino's pizza to see just how much simple entertainment can become a part of who we are.

And so in the end, is it just a matter of taste? A preference for one escapism over another? In my opinion, the difference is this: Art seeks to stimulate creativity, while entertainment only provides the experience of it. It's like going to an amusement park and seeing all there is to see. It's all made for you. There's no dialogue, just buckle in and enjoy the ride. In a way, it stimulates the inherent sense of wonder and thrill that we all have within us. No one goes to an amusement park expecting to respond to its sights by making an amusement park of their own (unless you're Michael Jackson), and in their own way. You're not being asked to comment on anything deep or meaningful or emotional, except maybe to yourself. You're giving up the reigns on your imaginative white horse, and riding in the stagecoach for once.

TV and film are both technically passive - neither have its participant actively engaged like video games or participatory culture. But an artistic movie or show is a lot like an essay, putting forth an argument for how it sees the world, and does beg the question, "do you agree, or disagree?" Rather than responding with, "remember that one part where X thing happened to Y guy?", a viewer might instead ask something like, "how does this compare with or conflict with my worldview?" "If I had made that movie, I would have done X, because X is what I believe." "I wonder if we could have/avoid a world like in that movie." A thrill-seeking movie would not inspire such questions.

You might have already realized that according to what I've said, few films are either/or. Most films are artistic AND entertaining. As for TV, I sort of got used to the idea that they ALL must be entertaining. If they aren't, they wouldn't get as high of ratings, which is the bread and butter of television. It is due to this emphasis on entertaining that the natural tendency for a network is to lean towards shows of a formulaic and simple nature. Anything that will get the masses to tune in. The trend, it would seem, is getting far worse, given that one only needs to turn on the TV and find five hundred channels with rarely anything good on. They all follow a formula. This show's got a gimmick. That show has a gimmick.

I didn't realize that many of the shows I watched growing up, like Roseanne, All in the Family, The Simpsons, Fresh Prince and Ren & Stimpy, are all fairly formulaic (and good). Something changed in me, I suppose, to reflect that formulas are bad. It's not true, though.

I suppose it was somewhere around my senior year of high school that I was completely turned off altogether. I was still into a few shows, but I watch them online, and to this day do not own cable.

This feeling started to change dramatically last summer when my friend gave me the entire series of Deep Space Nine. I didn't have anything to lose except exorbitant amounts of time, so I started on the first season. I was pleasantly surprised with the results, and so began season two shortly thereafter. I ended up finishing the entire series that summer. Having voraciously devoured every single episode (with a few exceptions, of which fans know I don't have to speak), I felt like I had experienced the awesome power that long-form cinematic storytelling can have when done right. It is so rare to find a show filled with such interesting characters, incredible situations and ideas, and high production quality. And to continue to put out such great quality consistently is where most shows fall apart. It's hard to keep a good thing going in TV land. Even the best shows fall apart if no one's careful (see Roseanne).

But when a good thing does happen, TV networks don't just sit around and go "look at the pretty birdie" with a thumb up their asses. They take to the streets and monopolize every paper boy from here to Timbucktoo and get them the go meet every single person in the civilized world and tell them "you MUST watch ER NOW!" until finally, they say to themselves "well, Boss, I just don't know why no one's watching the 15th season. I guess it's time to abort." At this point, though, there will be 10 other fetuses to abort too (see Medical Investigation, Third Watch, 3lbs, Inconcievable, Heartland, Saved, and a score of others that are probably going to get the plug pulled soon).

TV likes formulas. They are safe. Got a good crime drama? Let's here it. "Well, it's like all the others, except the guy in this one's kinda different." Alright, Monk. Sold. Next. Got a new sitcom? Famous comedian whose life becomes the subject of a sitcom? That's safe enough for us. According to Jim it is. Next. We want something gritty and raw. Yeaaaah. Let's do NYPD Blue for the umpteenth time. In fact, let's create a network called F/X, which will be like our own little sandbox. We can have all the toys we want, because we have father Murdoch's plastic and permission to make all kinds of pseudo-edgy controversial shows (which is, in fact, OUR formula).

It's a joke, mostly. But that's how it works. Nevertheless, sometimes a show comes along that peaks, amidst all of this tele-political nonsense. Buffy, for example, was quite original when it came along and, for the most part, remained fresh all the way until the end. It had its own share of beauracratic nonsense, having to switch networks of all things, but finished on a good note. Along the way it developed a fan base which could only conceivably be rivaled by Star Trek and X-Files. And it turned a pretty good profit as well, while helping to launch the careers of several of its key players. A pretty successful show all around.

That sort of thing is long gone, though. Today's audience is far too manic and hyperactive to stay tuned in to anything for long. If every show is not grab-you-by-the-balls amazing, there is surely ten other things you could be watching instead. There's just TOO DAMN MUCH on TV these days to be this choosy.

THEN, there's HBO and Showtime. They don't have to answer to advertisers or affiliates. There is no concern about FCC violations or some parent who doesn't want her child seeing this or that. They really ARE free to experiment, and they are not economically beholden to anyone else than their own shareholders. No show's fate hangs in the balance of those who might be offended. There is viewer reception, sure, but none of the unreasonable cancellations instigated by random Baptist ministers in Buttfuck Arkansas (see Book of Daniel). They are free to be more artistic.

Also, because they are paid by subscribers, they can afford to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their programming. Though I'm still not entirely fluent in how it all works with those networks, needless to say, they've got a good theory in play, and it's working for them.

My whole point in writing this article is to say one thing: what keeps networks like HBO and Showtime in the up-and-up these days is likely going to reflect the future of television's economic viability and sustainability. All of the other networks have learned that their shows are inevitably going to become available on the internet, and so are making steps to provide their own outlets via sites like Hulu. ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX have really no choice at all. There is becoming no way for them to make money anymore, since viewers are circumventing every advertising-sponsored medium by means of things like DVR and downloads. Their stuff HAS to be free, or else no one will watch it.

With HBO, it's assumed that you're getting what you paid for. Even if there are ways to find it online, the point is to make people want to come to YOU and watch what you have to offer. They are not producing a product to be passed around willy-nilly. They raise the bar, because it is an evolutionary necessity for TV's survival. The old scheduled-programming-and-paid-for-by-advertisers formula isn't working anymore. It isn't enough. And the premium programming works.

It is this that has partly restored my faith in the television format. There are some economic and aesthetic finetuning demanded by such a format. Most shows on premium networks are not very long. They are short and sweet, usually 13 episodes per season. A whole season is more like a miniseries, with a much more well-rounded arc. There are fewer throwaway episodes, or filler episodes. They are less likely to stagnate, as formula-driven basic television is prone to doing for the benefit of the network's ratings. The incentive is to be bold and experimental, not like Starbucks, where every cup of joe is what you'd expect it to be. Basic and Broadcast networks make their money in syndication (advertising is more like startup capital), and so a show with 24 episodes has stronger "legs" (syndication value) than a shorter show. This pressure for elongated programming is a hindrence if the story would not be helped by doing so. Some stories needn't be that long. Lost is a good example of this, and they know it now, since the final seasons will be and have been made shorter.

The shows I've recently watched included both seasons of Dead Like Me, the first season of True Blood, and half a season of Six Feet Under. Of these, Six Feet Under is far and away the best. I'm loving the experience of watching premium television so much, that I want to document my experiences in a new blog.

I'm not saying HBO and Showtime are perfect. I certainly think they, too, have a tendency to be a little too conspicuously bold, if you know what I mean. Just because you CAN show what you want, doesn't mean you always need to. But, that complaint is far easier to deal with than that of a 7th Heaven-style sedation of free thought. Not everything is roses.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

6 June 2009

When I say that June 6, 2009 was one of the most important days in my life, I don't mean it lightly. I normally write for this blog as though it was a collection of essays regarding random thoughts and ramblings about my perspectives and philosophy on life. I rarely tell stories or anecdotes about my actual life, and I usually don't mention names. I suppose this fact is telling, which is what I came to learn on this very special day. I am now going to break some of those rules.

It actually began at 4PM on Friday, the night before. I woke up when my friend Ben came over, as planned, and my roommate, Brad, he and I went to Bumsted's for some dinner and some drinks. We drove on over to the swap meet (the last remnants of pure capitalism left in this world) and spent what little time we could there before I had to go to work at 8. And after working an 8 hour shift, I went home and watched a movie and waited for my roommate to wake up. We normally chat for a good hour or more about any dreams he and I may or may not have had, and about random conspiracies and sometimes groceries and bills, too.

We ordered a pizza and watched a movie, and then, something magical happened.

I picked up his guitar and began playing a few chords. I had only gotten my first real lesson just two days prior, and having a good idea of the basics, began putting chords together into a progression. I played with it for a little while longer until Brad became so enamored with what I had been playing, that he tried something. He began playing the chords I had chosen, but with extra notes, picking strings here and there, and adding nuances. He created an actual song. Then he began to sing words as well, writing the lyrics freestyle. We had effectively written a song together.

At this point, I was all jazzed up and ready to keep going. My fingers were crying out in pain because they weren't used to playing, but I didn't care. I was in good spirits. It was then that my friend Hallie called me. It was her birthday, and taking me up on my offer to hang out when she was free, she came over for a little while.

She played some music, too. She only knew one song that an old friend wrote, but she played it well, and Brad enjoyed jamming along with it. I was seeing music-making in a whole new light, and one that I oddly enough thought I had already seen before. It felt like I had discovered some new never-before seen color.

I had hardly realized by five o'clock that I had been up for more than 24 hours, but I oddly didn't feel that tired. I felt something on the verge of tire, but not quite there yet. And that is why, when Hallie told us her very peculiar idea for the night ahead, I leapt at it.

Hallie had a plan for the evening, and it was something resembling a mission. Only, like a mirage, the closer you get to it, the less clear it seems. It involved purification of some sort, I thought, and although I don't quite recall how she explained it or how I failed to understand it, I was attracted to the oddity of it. So she left to have dinner with her folks and we waited. We had some time to play a little more music, and I realized just how much more work would go into our little song than I had originally thought, and then got ready.

By 9, she hadn't called and I was beginning to wonder if she would. This planted the seed in my head that perhaps I should heed my body's growing call of sleep and pass this opportunity by. I began to think of every Saturday I've spent for the last few weeks. It being my day off and all, I usually return home upon finishing my Friday shift and sleep some 16 hours away, and before I know it, my whole day off is gone before it happened. I thought of what wouldn't have been possible if I had slept in today, and so I decided I wasn't about to stop while I was ahead. I called her myself. Twenty minutes later, we were taking our startup shots of Cognac at her place.

The first destination was Che's Lounge on Fourth. She explained along the way that there were a series of bars and clubs which, for one reason or another, she was going to enter for the last time. Che's ended up being a sort of footnote on the journey, though. But when we got to Hotel Congress, it all changed.

Now I'm not huge on the nightclub scene, but this part of the night was just fucking fun. And the old me would not have been down for it, I'll tell you that much. When we got our drinks and they decided to go dancing, I found a spot off to the side like I always do, just chillin' and sippin' my fruity-ass little cocktail. But she wasn't having it! It wasn't two minutes before she came and grabbed me and pulled me onto the dance floor.

Maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was her, or maybe it was the music, or maybe it was any one of a million reasons why the universe told me to go with the flow that night, but something inside me crept up and said "fuck it!" And that was it. And with her patience and knack for the art of dance, two hours and three cocktails later I was movin' and groovin' and I didn’t care how bad it looked. It might have been a most unholy emission to witness, but by god it was fun as hell.

As we were cooling off outside, we had a most hilarious conversation. I don't really remember what it was about, and it's probably because it was a mix of free expression and complete and utter nonsense. Because, there is one element of the evening which I have forgotten to mention and it ended up becoming a sort of theme for the night.

Back when the sun was still up that day, I introduced to Hallie the ridiculous philosophy known as Pataphysics. To try and explain it, you might as well explain nothing at all. It is the unexplainable, the unthinkable. It is literally nonsense, and its essence is the flatulence of Ubu.

And it was the gasses of Ubu that was on our minds as we began our trek thereafter to find two gallons of water to pour over her troubled head at the night's end. The night took on an extra level of meaning and importance when, after a long cathartic monologue, we baptized her in the name of Ubu.

But more than Ubu, I was inspired by this act of purging emotional baggage that I began to assess my own life in the same way. I also began to reflect on the events of the day and how they highlight my growth as a person, and artist, and as a friend.

I won't go into all of that here, but suffice it to say I learned quite a deal. I often hold myself back by self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, but now I'm pleased to say they just aren't warranted. I've proven myself capable as an artist before, and the fact that I show promise as a musician after only seriously working at it for a matter of days says something. I'm not just the passerby, the critic, who watches all of those around him continuing on to greatness and excelling in seemingly everything they put their mind to while I sit in the backseat the whole time.

My most cherished philosophy, that of humanity's ability to rise to its potential, I've seen reflected poorly in my own life up until now. I've struggled to make this the cornerstone of my life, and while I've usually felt like I was failing in this regard, I'm ready to be tested. When I embark on my last year at college and attempt to make my thesis film the best it can be, I will prove what I'm truly capable of.

If nothing else, I sure as shit won't sleep through it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Brew: A Fictionalized Documentary in Three Acts

I have taken upon myself the very difficult task of attempting to create a satirical essay film using only archive film. The film is actually for a documentary class, but I'm starting to realize that if I'm going to succeed, I must think of it more as a fiction.

That sounds contradictory, but it actually isn’t. Because, what is a documentary, anyway? Let’s start there. A friend and I once debated the subject for several hours and arrived at this definition: An internal narrative that tries its best to reconcile with external objectivity. The "internal" can mean any number of things, but the important thing I want to use for this post is the term "narrative." Anyone who is a documentary enthusiast will tell you that documentaries have narratives just as fiction does, and so the two are much more closely related than one might think.

The film I'm attempting to make is an assemblage film, compiled from old educational videos, cautionary tales, news reels, PSA's, etc. The subject is alcohol. Specifically, the education regarding the substance which children and young adults receive through media. I started this project with a vague sort of agenda about misinformation, and now I feel like I'm narrowing my scope and my argument.

I said at the beginning that I must think of this more as a fiction, and the reason is two-fold. The obvious reason is that a three-act structure is a strong and helpful framework upon which to build and tell most stories. The other reason is that most of the images in the film I plan to make are in fact originally from works of fiction. The interesting irony about doing an archive film, I've noticed, is that in "documenting" images in the media, works of fiction become real enough that their status as imaginative pieces of fiction dissipates and the images are then treated like artifacts that are functional as well as artistic, and in many ways just as truthful – if not more so – than those purporting to be nonfiction.

This can go both ways, too. For example, prior to the making of Atomic Café, the famous Duck and Cover footage was meant to be nonfiction. It was educational. But when it gets cut in with the other images and sounds in Atomic Café, it acts as a sort of cinematic vocabulary that transcends this original meaning (nonfiction). It is as if the makers of Atomic Café are now communicating with the elements of society that created the original video, and doing so through the use of media.

I believe that, as an artist, you have two approaches to expressing your point of view to the world. The first approach is to simply create something unique and original that did not exist before. Some may quibble over this by saying “there’s nothing new under the sun” and condemn this kind of thinking by calling it simple minded and naïve. In many ways, they may be right, but largely I think they would be missing the point. If I take a photograph of something, say a bird flying above me, it would be safe for me to assume that no one has ever stood exactly where I’m standing at the same moment and seen the world through that lens. Some may endeavor to recreate it, but the fact that I was there to begin with is the point. You may have been over there feeding a dove or walking your dog or arguing with your spouse while I was taking that photo. And that is why I show you the photo at all, isn’t it. You may not see something so special in a bird’s flight as I might see, and after viewing the photo you may not still, but you may.

And it’s not about me telling you that you should care about this moment, but just that you can. And perhaps more importantly, we can. Art of this kind allows us to share our experiences in ways that normal modes of communication (i.e. talking, technical writing, etc.) can’t. If you look at a painting and you “get it,” then there are no words necessary. If you read a poem and you “get it,” you need not write an essay about it.

In any case, that is the first approach. The second approach, the one I’ll be using for my doc, is for the most part kind of the opposite. An artist may instead look to elements that exist in his world already and reinterpret them, and mold them. Whereas the first approach asks the question: “This is how I see the world… do you agree?” The second says: “This is how you see the world… and I disagree (or agree).” In essence, the first is a question, and the second is a response.

I am not seeking to ask anyone to look at how I see the world with my doc. They may get a little of that anyway, but that is not my focus. I feel that we are bombarded with media everyday, which we did not ask for. I never roll down my car window as I’m driving down the freeway and shout, “I wonder where I could get a good deal on a cell phone!” just moments before passing a billboard with a cell phone advertisement. It just doesn’t happen. I may be signing a sort of contract by turning on the television, with the understanding that if I expect programming, at least network or basic cable programming, I must sit through advertising. It gets slightly more nebulous on the Internet, where any click may bring you face to face with media you didn’t ask for.

But what about non-commercial media? I know that most of the videos shown in my classes growing up were presented against my consent, and I was unable to opt out. I never really saw a reason to, of course, until after the fact. But I’m running the risk of sounding like a misguided hippie with all of this countercultural rhetoric. I’m of course not suggesting that we enter a world in which no media content can be shown without everyone’s consent. That sounds like a nightmare of different proportions. All I’m saying is we should be aware of it.

Now I told you that story to tell you this one: I want to respond. I want to respond to all of the melodramatic fear mongering that dominates the education of our youth.

I could do this by getting interviews, say from business owners, parents, kids, legislators, teachers, or a score of others. I could sit in on classes and record exactly what drug education looks like today. I could document the legal history of youth-centered liquor laws and map them out for my viewer. But all of these things, I feel, would not be in aide of my goal.

I am not going to focus on the reality, because it is not the reality that I want to critique. It is the fantasy. Among other things I could mention, this fantasy version of what we seem to think alcohol is affects reality in drastic ways, and ways I hope to make clear in my film.

Now, as for structure, Atomic Cafe used a chronological one. The only thing I see when I look at the media pertaining to alcohol education as far as time is concerned is finesse. Over the years, it seems like the message of "just say no" has become a bit stealthier. PSA's now may claim to be encouraging kids to think rather than outright telling them what to think, but only if they come to the right conclusion. Though these thinkers may be less likely to admit it, “What would you do if someone handed you a joint?” is a question that has a definite CORRECT answer; and if you don’t circle “C”, you fail in life.

And so I've chosen a different structure for my film. It is a Problem-Reaction-Solution structure, and it goes like this…

A problem arises. No one knows how or why, it just does. Maybe it's a conspiracy, maybe it's an accident, or maybe it isn't even real. But real or perceived, the problem demands a reaction. Think Pearl Harbor. For the best current example, look at global warming. The dangerous element in this whole equation, though, is how fear is often the driving force behind the reaction. Think about it: the problems that are easy to solve are the ones that are understood. We know how fire works, so we can prevent it and put it out when need be. We have maps to keep us from getting lost, traffic lights to maintain transportation efficiency, and calendars to keep track of time. These systems are not perfect, of course, but think about what would happen if we suddenly did not have one of these things, or if you lived in a time that had no concept of them. Lord knows what would be proposed as a solution.

But what about immigration? Or the economy? Or the management of healthcare? These things are not so easy to understand, and so the public outcry on these issues will undoubtedly be premature, irrational and probably detrimental. The first answer to almost any problem in a society seems to be: create a law, so it never happens again. It is my humble opinion that laws are only created when society is faced with a problem which it doesn't know how to fix. Some are new and some are as old as we are. The issue of murder is one we still have not dealt with fully, in my opinion. I offer as a simple observation the notion that people who are more civilized and – to put it bluntly – pampered are probably less inclined to resort to barbarism than people to whom survival is the imminent priority. But I digress.

Having said all that, it should be clear that the premise of my doc from the very beginning is one that is debatable. I understand this, and fully accept that the burden of proof rests inevitably on my shoulders. I only hope that it is at least clear, to any to whom it may concern, exactly what my aim is. Essentially, it is to show that the reaction to the problem known as “alcohol” in the United States has been one of poorly thought and mostly fear-driven reactionary responses based on a fictional version of its desired place in our culture, and that the ones who are most affected by this are young people. There is a perspective percolating in this society that is disseminating bad information in the name of what they feel is a moral cause. Unfortunately for those young people, it is impossible to make a good decision with bad information. The how of my doc will remain to be seen, but hopefully this puts to bed a lot of questions about the what or the why.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Brief Review of an American Taboo

I was at work one night waiting for my shift to end and, having nothing else to do, I picked up the latest issue of Playboy and began flipping through it. I haven't been too impressed with it these days, but one thing did catch my interest, and that was a collage of photos from each decade since the magazine's first issue.

The first women to pose for the magazine, to my pleasant surprise, were not all the qualified "perfect 10" that we expect today. Currently, there seems to be a certain very narrow list of criteria into which playmates must fall in order to be considered sexy enough to photograph. Age is a big one. There were pictures from the early issues of women who seemed to be well into their forties. Things like hair, tatoos, piercings, and anything less than the hourglass figure and perfectly shaped breasts are also enough to disqualify you from that "perfect 10" designation nowadays.

I always had something of a love/hate relationship with Playboy that I could never put my finger on, but now I think I know why. Playboy was born out of a social desire, not by men but by women, to be able to express themselves as sexual beings and not as sexual objects. Women's only place in the world was derivative of man. She exists for his sake, not for her own. If she has pleasure at all, sexually or otherwise, she isn't to speak of it to anyone. You can even see traces of it today, by how films are rated by the MPAA. If a man orgasms on screen, there's no problem. But a woman -- very different story.**

Having said all that, I believe Playboy's purpose has been served and is now doing very little in the way of promoting this idea of feminine sexual freedom. In fact, I've realized that its depiction of women is evolving into some strange hybrid of glamour magazines like Vogue mixed with equal parts Girls Gone Wild and one of those sleazy porno fliers you find on the Las Vegas Boulevard curbside. It's as if it's returning to the day when women wanted to be like the women in the magazine, and men wanted their women to be like the women in the magazine, too.

Even if it seems to have lowered the bar a bit, I believe it's for the better. I believe that a good sign of social progress is the chipping away of taboos in order to facilitate a more open and communicative environment. Unfortunately, when members of society deem something offensive, they don't try to remedy the situation by providing alternatives or understanding; usually they just throw everything they can at it to make it stop speaking. "Stop saying those things that are making us cry."

In any case, where Playboy left off, other things like Suicide Girls will take its place. And the truth of the matter is that, despite all of the arguments I've made for these different viewpoints, I really think the most interesting and telling part about the whole thing is how society responds to these things. I suppose that's the crux of it, isn't it? Would a naked baboon in the woods offend anyone? Probably not, unless there are people in the woods, and chances are, they wouldn't be. What about a naked baboon in a movie theater? Well, that would certainly be odd, and the audience may share a mite of discomfort if it started flinging poo. But for the most part, probably not.

What about a naked man at his brother's funeral? There's a toughy. He probably knew the guy better than anyone in the room, and yet every single person would no doubt be thinking "someone needs to tell him to leave and put on some clothes." That's just how we are. We can't let things be. That is because whenever something like that comes along, we think, "stop that! I have a viewpoint, and you're making it very hard for me to have that viewpoint when you're around, so won't you go away?" It's much more than a censorship issue or a moral problem. It has to do with society's fetishistic tendency to want to regulate perspective. For better or worse, the fear that everything will breakdown entirely if this one thing is given free reign motivates us to cut off certain ideas entirely.

In the case of sexuality, what exactly is it that these intolerant motivators of moral regulation are trying to accomplish? What do they propose instead? That we revert to abstaining from sex entirely until marriage, at which point she is given by her father to her groom -- with or without a dowry -- to live out the rest of her years in his bed? If this isn't the biggest elephant in the room, I don't know what is. I realize this may offend some people, but only as much as the idea of this so-called moral high ground from which they approach me: To cling to this mode of thinking objectifies the female considerably more than the sexual freedom they fear. Keep in mind, I'm only referring to the scenario I described three sentences ago.

And lets look at that, shall we? Abstinence until marriage. Really? Well it turns out that what I have always believed to be true in fact has be documented in a recent study by Johns Hopkins University: those who make a pledge to abstain until marriage are statistically just as likely to have sex before marriage as those who don't abstain; those who make the pledge simply delay it longer. In fact, the biggest difference is that those who choose to remain abstinent are more likely to have unprotected sex, and thus more likely the contract an STD.

So choosing to wait seems like a statistical bluff, but the marriage part, that's still up there on the moral high ground right? Wrong. Realize that if you want your father to give you away, it's because you acknowledge that you are his property and that he MUST give you away AS SUCH. Furthermore, you are being handed over to, shall we say, your new Owner. If you are fine with this, great. Perhaps marriage is for you. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that someone living in denial about this should not be telling ME how to live my life. If I was gay, I would be one of the many sad Arizonians who can no long get married because of confused Mormons who thought of nothing better than spending $20 million to make sure I can't.

The whole notion of chastity is grandfathered in from an era dominated by patriarchal traditions. Even the idea of wearing white and having the most expensive and elaborate ceremony is an aristocratic tradition that was assimilated by the revolutionaries from the British royalty they were supposed to be fighting. Society operated better to them when women were loyal to their masters. What more has to be said? The idea that Playboy objectified women, at least in its early years, seems ludicrous when propounded by women who willingly become objects themselves.

I'm not saying, "let's all go fuck like rabbits." If you wish to hold off for personal reasons, go right ahead. If you want to fuck, that's fine too. It's your body after all, you can do with it what you want. Just don't sell it.

That would be illegal.

**Rent This Film Is Not Yet Rated for more on how sexual content is rated by the MPAA.