Tag Archives: sex in movies

Violence Vs. Nipples: A Rant On (Misguided) Censorship

First off, I need to apologize in advance because I’m about to go on a rant. I promise it’s related to current events, relatively speaking. I can’t promise it’s the most serious issue in the world, but I still think it’s worth saying.

Let’s face it. We’ve seen a lot of terrible things these past few months. That includes, but isn’t restricted to, images of mass graves, angry protests, and videos of people committing egregious atrocities. It’s all over the internet, broadcast daily on network TV, and streaming in on news feeds of all kinds. We’ve seen so much violence and injustice. We’re outraged by it, and rightly so. It’s horrible. Most everyone agrees with that.

With all that in mind, I have one simple question that I think needs answering at some point.

With all this horrific imagery, why is it still so obscene to depict a female nipple?

I’m serious. I’m not trying to be funny or cute. I’d like an explanation.

Why the hell are we still censoring female nipples? What good does it do? What purpose does it serve? Blurring genitals? Okay, I can accept that to some degree. At least it’s blurred for everyone, regardless of gender. But why blur female nipples at this point?

We know what they look like. They’re not some graven images that’ll make people burst into flames. Granted, female nipples look different than male nipples, but not so radically different that they’re fucking alien. So, why censor them?

On TV, they’re still blurred. On social media, they immediately get labeled as porn, as though female nipples, by default, make something porn. That makes no sense. We’re not talking hardcore sex acts here. We’re talking about the slightest glimpse of female nipples.

Why, in a world where extreme violence finds its way into cable news, are female nipples so egregiously obscene? This isn’t the 1950s. This isn’t Victorian England. Anyone with an internet connection can see an unlimited number of uncensored nipples. Are they really that shocking anymore?

To those who whine about the innocence of children, here’s a quick anatomy lesson. They know what nipples look like too. They have them. They’ve probably been breast fed at some point. You really think they can’t handle it?

To those who think it’s too sexy, I have to ask why do you think that is? Do you really think censoring a basic body part makes it less sexy? I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t.

At most, you’re just fetishizing it, treating it as this powerful trigger that will turn anyone into perverts. People don’t work like that. You’re not doing them any favors by treating them like they’re that sensitive.

Also, if you’re a woman who hates being objectified, I have to ask. How do you feel about this? How do you feel that a part of you is deemed too obscene for network TV, yet that same network has no problem depicting people getting choked to death? How is it fair that a man can walk around a park without a shirt, but if a woman does the same, she gets arrested? That’s not just objectification. It’s insane!

Seriously, after everything we’ve experienced in 2020, isn’t it time we get over our hang-ups about female nipples? I know it won’t solve much, but we cannot be strong as a people, yet still too weak to handle depictions of female nipples. We’re better than that. We need to be.

Thanks for bearing with me on this rant. Again, I apologize. I just wanted to get that out. If nothing else, I hope this gives everyone something less awful to think about.

Leave a comment

Filed under censorship, political correctness, politics, rants

Hollywood To Use More CGI For Sex Scenes: A Trend With Bigger (And Sexier) Implications

A while back, I speculated that improvements to computer technology would change how erotica romance was portrayed in mainstream movies. When I wrote that piece, I expected it to be a slow process. As long as there were actors and actresses willing to get naked for celebrity, I had a feeling it would be a while before this sort of thing became common.

Then, a global pandemic happened. Suddenly, Hollywood had to re-examine and re-imagine how it went about the sexy side of its business.

Now, this doesn’t count as prophetic on my part. It’s more a necessity. Hollywood still wants to make money. Audiences still want to see beautiful people hump on screen. Regardless of the current state of CGI, the market will deliver. A recent report from The Sun, indicated that studios were planning to use more CGI for sexy scenes, if only to limit the spread of the disease.

The Decider did another write-up of this story. It was light on the details, but it summed up the situation nicely.

Decider: Hollywood Prepares for CGI Sex Scenes to Prevent Coronavirus Transmission

The novel coronavirus pandemic may completely change the way sex scenes are filmed in Hollywood. According to The Sun, when California studios reopen on June 12, producers will have to rethink “close contact moments” in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19 between actors. A 22-page document from the film editors’ association reveals that these moments, including sex scenes and other intimate moments, must be “either rewritten, abandoned, or [produced using] CGI” in the months ahead. All that’s to say: get ready to see more digitally-edited butts.

Beyond the titillating details, I suspect this is one move that will have far-reaching impacts. Long after this pandemic has passed, this might end up being the catalyst that began a much larger trend in media. It won’t just change how Hollywood handles sex scenes. It could change the entire media landscape.

There was already a strong incentive to cut back on sexy scenes. Between the impact of the anti-harassment movement and growing concerns about depictions of sex in media, there’s a growing risk that sex scenes will attract all the wrong attention. Studios, being businesses, are aware of that and will look for an alternative.

CGI sex scenes are now the default. On top of that, there’s a strong incentive to improve the technology. Given the money these studios have at their disposal, as well as their corporate backers, there will be improvements. It may look cheesy at first, but that will change. Graphics technology is already nearing hyper-real levels.

Eventually, it’ll get to a point where CGI sex scenes are easier than the real thing. All they would need is permission from the actors. If a studio is willing to be extra shady, they might not even need that. They’d just scan the bodies of the actors and actresses. Then, they use CGI to do the sexy scenes. The actors and actresses involved never even have to be in the same room together, let alone get naked.

It could lead to a situation where studios, fearful of sexual assault accusations or disease transmission, avoid real-life sex scenes altogether. They’d leave that sort of thing for porn studios. It might even increase the number of sex scenes we get in cinema because with CGI, they don’t have to deal with actors, sets, or on-screen chemistry. Their only limit is processing power.

Now, will this be a good or bad thing for the movie business?

Will it be a good or bad things for sex scenes, in general?

It’s hard to say. Personally, I think most sex scenes in mainstream movies are only marginally sexy. You can usually tell when there’s a body double or when the sexy parts are being faked. When it works, it’s beautiful. It just rarely works in mainstream movies.

I’d like to see that change, but I don’t know if this will bring that change. It’ll be interesting to see. There will always be a place for real, non-CGI sex scenes, but I have a feeling they’re going to become increasingly rare in the coming years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Artificial Intelligence, censorship, Current Events, futurism, movies, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality, Sexy Future, women's issues

Tomb Raider Review: A Moderate Leap, But Major Progress

dvxtpgiv4aaihbu

Earlier this year, I expressed a sincere hope that the new “Tomb Raider” movie would finally do something that no other video game movie had managed to do. I hoped that it would be to video game movies what the original “X-men” was to modern superhero movies. I’d even hoped that Lara Croft could be to video game characters what “Wonder Woman” was to female superheroes.

That last one might have been hoping for too much, but I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to see Hollywood get at least one movie based on a video game really right. Between the lackluster “Resident Evil” movies and the god-awful “Super Mario Bros,” the genre is overdue for a hit.

I get that there are challenges associated with making a movie out of a video game. However, Lara Croft and “Tomb Raider” is in a better position than most. It’s a franchise that has an iconic character who has built a strong fanbase over the course of two decades. The fact that she’s a strong, sexy female character at a time when the appetite for such characters is greater than ever works even more to her benefit.

While Lara Croft’s sex appeal has been controversial in recent years, she’s still a great character whose games already have a very cinematic feel. Having played her 2013 game multiple times, I can attest to the strength of that narrative. It has all the necessary elements that translate well to a movie.

This movie, being a franchise that has already attempted twice with Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s to mixed success, seems to make a better effort than most to succeed where so many have fail. This version of “Tomb Raider” works hard to tell a real, serious story on par with that of any other successful action franchise. It tries to do this while still incorporating elements of the game into the narrative.

It’s ambitious and sincere. It also helps that it cast Alicia Vikander, an Oscar-winning actress whose brilliance and sex appeal in “Ex Machina” made her well-suited to the role. Criticisms of her having the necessary boobs for the role aside, Ms. Vikander can act and be sexy in her own right. It’s only a matter of whether she can channel that talent into making “Tomb Raider” succeed where so many others have failed.

Well, having seen the movie on its opening weekend, I’d like to offer my assessment on this matter. While I’ll always be haunted, to some extent, by terrible video game movies like “Super Mario Bros,” I went in feel genuinely hopeful for this movie. I was also bracing myself, knowing as well as anyone the history of video game movies.

With that mentality going into the theater, I eagerly gave “Tomb Raider” and Alicia Vikander the benefit of the doubt. By the time I came out of the theater, I was able to come to a simple conclusion, albeit one with a few caveats.

Yes, this is a good movie, but it’s not a game-changer.

It’s true. “Tomb Raider” is an genuinely good video game movie. I honestly didn’t think I would ever be able to say that with a straight face in my lifetime, but I can and it’s worth saying again. This is a good movie.

By that, I mean the movie has a concise, well-crafted story from start to finish. The movie establishes who Lara Croft is, what she’s dealing with, and what kind of person she is. The plot isn’t too messy. The effects aren’t too cheesy. The acting is actually good and not just from Ms. Vikander. Everyone in this movie seems to make a real, honest effort.

Like the 2013 video game, the movie follows a young, inexperienced Lara Croft who has yet to become the sexy badass that went onto inspire so much lurid fan art. However, by the end of the movie, you can already see traces of that sexy badass growing within her. As a character, she grows and evolves over the course of the movie. Watching her grow and seeing her struggle at times is genuinely compelling.

The story and the details surrounding it are tight and well-organized. At no point in the movie is there a scene that feels random, contrived, or forced. The events that unfold happen organically, from Lara getting arrested early in the movie to unlocking the secrets to an ancient tomb on the hidden island of Yamatai. Nothing ever just happens. There’s a rhyme and rhythm to the story.

It’s a story that is not bland or predictable, even to those who played the 2013 game multiple times, like I did. The movie downplays some of the more mystical elements of Lara Croft’s mythos, but still incorporates plenty of the over-the-top machinations that Tomb Raider and “Indiana Jones” fans alike can appreciate.

However, it’s that effort to make the movie feel less fanciful that, in my opinion, keeps it from being the kind of game-changing movie that “X-men” and “Wonder Woman” were. While “Tomb Raider” qualifies as a good movie, it doesn’t do enough to be a truly great movie.

This movie, in many respects, plays it safe. While it puts Lara through plenty of tough situations, things never get too dire for her. She’s allowed to suffer and endure wounds, but only to a point. Others, including her father as played by Dominic West, arguably endure a whole lot more.

Safe or not, it’s understandable that the movie wouldn’t try to do too much all at once. Movies that do that tend to get messy, as many recent Michael Bay films can attest. I think “Tomb Raider” did the right thing, playing it safe and keeping things simple. It left some of its potential on the table, but did plenty to leave much of that potential available for future sequels.

That’s somewhat of a gamble, though. Too many movies, these days, are made solely with sequels in mind and sometimes that assumes too much. Anyone who saw “Green Lantern” or “The Mummy” can attest to that. At least with “Tomb Raider,” the ending and the revelations it offers actually leave you feeling excited for a sequel.

That’s a gamble that may or may not pay off. I’m aware that this movie did not exactly set the box office on fire, especially in a market still dominated by “Black Panther.” However, it did manage to pull in some decent numbers overseas and that might give this movie the fuel it needs to become a full-fledged franchise.

Again, the movie does have flaws. If you go into “Tomb Raider” looking for reasons to hate it, you’ll find them. If you think Ms. Vikander wasn’t sexy enough, you’ll find points in the movie to vindicate that. Conversely, if you think Ms. Vikander was too sexy and her portrayal in this movie is contributing to sexism and the objectification of women, you’ll find instances of that too.

If, however, you go in hoping for a good, coherent movie that tells a compelling, dramatic story, you’ll find that “Tomb Raider” delivers. In fact, I would argue that it delivers in ways no video game movie has ever managed before. It doesn’t do quite enough to be a new “Wonder Woman,” but it achieves far more than any previous video game movie has ever dared.

If I were to score this movie, I would give it a solid 8 out of 10 or a 7.5 out of 10 at the lowest. “Tomb Raider” has an opportunity to redefine a maligned movie genre and it succeeds. With other movies like “Rampage” coming out this year, the situation is ripe for a new generation of video game movies that aren’t terrible.

Whether your a fan of the games, a fan of action movies, or just looking for a great female character played by someone other than Gal Gadot and Scarlett Johansson, “Tomb Raider” will give you plenty to enjoy. It may still be a while before we can relegate movies like “Super Mario Bros” to the same dusty bin as “Batman and Robin,” but “Tomb Raider” offers a critical first step.

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Movie Reviews, sex in media, video games

A Better Way To Promote Diversity

Tracer

How do you encourage meaningful change in media, culture, and social attitudes? That’s a reasonable and relevant question to ask these days. It seems everyone is either trying to push for greater diversity or whining about the lack thereof. More often than not, however, those efforts aren’t mutually exclusive.

Even if nobody has a definitive answer to the question of how, that hasn’t stopped many from trying. There have been major diversity pushes in every form of media from video games to comics to movies to TV shows. Not all of them have been successful. In some cases, they backfired horribly and cost people money.

I don’t want to belabor the specifics of those failures, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that they also have the effect of angering and/or insulting the audience. For franchises that have a huge fan base, that can be pretty detrimental. Some franchises never recover.

Image result for green lantern movie

It certainly doesn’t help that there are those who push for diversity for all the wrong reasons. There’s a very vocal contingent of critics/professional trolls who go out of their way to bemoan the lack of diversity in a certain piece of media. Whether it’s a video game having too many people of the same race or a lack of strong female characters, these people will whine about it as loud as the internet will allow.

For the most part, I don’t think anyone should give much attention to such whining. We’ve all dealt with whiny children at some point in our lives. Most people learn, often the hard way, that arguing with them rarely works out. Most people just give up to stop the whining. I’ve pointed out before why this can lead to bigger problems down the line.

It quickly becomes a brutal cycle. The more attention you give to these whiny children, the more incentive they have to whine so they can get what they want. The same applies to these “critics” who keep whining about diversity. It’s not enough for them that “Black Panther” is doing so well with a diverse cast. Some will still whine that it had no LGBT characters.

Image result for whiny children

It’s inescapable. You simply cannot win against a whiny child. No matter how much you go out of your way for them, they’ll find another reason to whine and so long as they keep getting their way, they’ll keep doing it. In the long run, though, that’s still a terrible way to promote diversity.

Ideally, producers of media will pursue diversity because they want to appeal to a broader audience. They want to make money and money doesn’t care about race, religion, or genital configuration. However, when critics/trolls rely on whining to get their way, then those efforts become less about diversity and more about stopping the whining.

Image result for whiny SJW

I believe there is a better way to promote diversity and it does not involve any whining. It doesn’t require some radical rethinking of how we go about producing, consume, or discussing media. It doesn’t even require some major protest, a new law, or diversity quotas. It’s just a simple change in approach that anyone can do for free and without that much effort.

That change can be summed up in two words: positive reinforcement. If you’ve taken a basic psychology class at any point in your education, you already know what this means. Even if you haven’t taken any classes and just deal with a lot of annoying people/children/whiners, you probably know the idea.

Rather than complaining about what is so bad about something, positive reinforcements involve focusing on the good. Rather than whine about what isn’t there, you celebrate what is there. Most importantly, though, you turn that outrage once reserved for those bad things into apathy. Most forms of media can survive outrage. They cannot survive apathy.

Image result for positive person

To illustrate this approach, consider the following scenario that tends to play out whenever someone criticizes a movie, TV show, video game, etc. for a lack of diversity.

“Just look at this terrible affront to women, minorities, and LGBTQ people! It’s so racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic! It sends a terrible message and appeals to an audience that wants to cling to their regressive attitudes. It’s perpetuating a destructive, unhealthy mindset that directly impacts our culture. This affront should be censored, changed, or condemned endlessly until the world changes!”

Chances are, you’ve heard something like this over the past few years. Sometimes it involves a female character that doesn’t check the right boxes. Sometimes it involves a story that tries to check too many boxes. In any case, the whiners I mentioned earlier will find a reason to get upset about it. Moreover, they’ll demand some sort of change, coupled with condemnation over anyone who disagrees.

Image result for whiny SJW

That’s not going to promote diversity. If anything, that’s going to give people one too many reasons to resent pushes for diversity. Some media companies are already learning that the hard way, with Marvel being the most recent example. Ideally, you want someone to promote diversity because they want to and not because they’re afraid of a backlash.

With that in mind, here’s a second scenario that shows how positive reinforcement can further that effort.

“That thing some claim is racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic? I don’t really care for that. Let me tell you about this other thing that I just think is amazing! I love it. It’s so much fun and it sends such a good message to men, women, and minorities of all kinds. I want more of this. I’m willing to pay for more of this. Please make more of this!”

It may come off as some peppy kid who is way too excited about something. Then again, wouldn’t you rather be around that kid instead of the one that whines to get what they want? When someone is happy and excited about something, it’s kind of infectious. It makes us want to share in that feeling.

Throw money into the mix and suddenly, the same producers that make all the media that regressive types whine about actually have a good incentive to promote diversity beyond just placating whiners. Instead of just avoiding controversy, they actually want to do diversity and do it right.

Image result for Black Panther on throne

The key is focusing on instances where it is done right. They are there. There have been plenty of examples of the media actually getting diversity right. They just don’t make the news because outrage is louder and garners more attention. Even so, excitement and praise can be just as loud.

Instead of complaining about Rey being a Mary Sue in “Star Wars,” focus on how great Princess Leia was in the first trilogy or how great Ahsoka Tano is in “Star Wars: Clone Wars.”

Instead of complaining about Lara Croft being too sexy, focus on how great Samus Aran is in the Metriod games.

Instead of complaining about the lack of diversity on shows like “Seinfeld,” focus on how great the minority characters are in shows like “Fresh Off The Boat” or “House.”

It may not sound as vocal or satisfying as venting outrage about a flaw, but it sends the kind of message that others are more likely to want to get behind. Whereas positive feelings can have many benefits to yourself and those around you, venting outrage can be very unhealthy.

Image result for venting anger

In the long run, getting others to want to promote diversity is the best way to further it. Whining about it isn’t going to accomplish that. It’s just going to make others want to stop the whining. That may work for kids, but not functioning adults.

Movie producers, TV executives, comic book writers, and video game programmers alike are all still human at the end of the day. Human beings respond positively to positive feelings. Channel those feelings into promoting diversity and you won’t just get more of it. You’ll get people who are actually excited about producing it.

1 Comment

Filed under gender issues, sex in media, sexuality, video games

Apes, CGI, And The (Potentially Sexy) Future Of Hollywood

Trends in Hollywood are like fad diets. There’s always one emerging or fading at any given time. In the same way low-fat diets fade while low-carb diets emerge, the glut of “Die Hard” rip-offs fade while superhero movies emerge.

However, every now and then, a trend comes along that really shakes up the industry in ways that don’t fade. Some are more obvious than others. Movies with color, sound, and better picture quality are here to stay. Even the most douche-bag hipster in he world probably won’t claim that old crappy black-and-white movies are somehow superior to the style that lets us see the sweat on Megan Fox’s face.

Chief among those trends is the use of CGI, which is effectively Hollywood’s ultimate cheat code when facing a scene considered unfilmable. Sometimes, that’s necessary. How else are you going to film Dr. Manhattan’s junk in a movie like “Watchmen?”

There are countless movies that never would’ve been made if it weren’t for CGI. There’s no amount of costume design or camera tricks that could’ve brought “Transformers,” “Iron Man,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” to life. Say what you will about movies that involve transforming trucks and talking raccoons. They still thrilled audiences and made Hollywood boatloads of money.

However, CGI is still treated like dings on a fancy car. It doesn’t prevent the car from being fancy, but it is seen as a taint of sorts. Look at any poorly-reviewed movie these days and chances are, critics and fans will bitch about the overuse of CGI. It doesn’t matter that it’s the kind of visual spectacle that was impossible before 1990. People still roll their eyes whenever they see it used too often.

There’s a valid reason for that, though. While it may make some of us feel old, the CGI we see in movies today has been around for decades. Going all the way back to the groundbreaking effects we saw in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” there has been an entire generation born into a world that has become numb to CGI.

It used to be that these kinds of special effects inspired the kind of awe and wonder usually reserved for fireworks, the Grand Canyon, and Pamela Anderson’s tits. That’s because they were so new and had to be used sparingly, due to the cost. Now, it’s such a common practice that many movies contain scenes that audiences don’t realize are CGI.

Common or not, CGI still has the capacity to evoke that same awe and wonder. “Titanic” and “Avatar” are the top-grossing movies of all time and for good reason. They are enchanting, visually stunning spectacles, complete with a compelling story that often involves some sexy moments. Yes, I’m counting the kinky, ponytail stuff of the Na’vi as one such moment.

Despite these massive successes, CGI still has a trashy reputation. Movies that use too much of it and aren’t directed by James Cameron are seen as cop-outs, of sorts. They couldn’t tell a great story that would get enough asses in movie theaters, so they resort to fancy visuals. It’s like trying to put chocolate sauce on chopped liver. There’s only so much anyone can do to hide the truth.

Then, the new round of “Planet of the Apes” movies came along. Even though they’re entering a world crowded by superhero movies and Pixar films, they found a way to leave a mark and it’s one that might have much larger implications.

Earlier this year, I listed all the reasons why quality erotica/romance movies are next to impossible. I also cited animation as a possible solution to these issues. While nobody in Hollywood seems eager to explore those sexy possibilities, the success of “Planet of the Apes” may be the precursor of sorts to a new era of CGI.

Before anyone starts thinking too much about kinky monkey sex, take a step back and look at what “Planet of the Apes” accomplished. It’s main character, Caesar, is entirely CGI. Actor, Andy Serkis, provided motion capture, but the character itself is a product of CGI and not the clunky ape costumes that made the old movies so cheesy.

This was a huge risk on the part of the studio, creating a character entirely through CGI. With the exception of Pixar, Hollywood has a poor track-record of making quality characters with nothing but CGI. Just go to any executive and say the name Jar Jar Binks. Then, watch their eyes glaze over in horror and shame.

In a sense, Caesar is the anti-Jar Jar. He’s entirely CGI, but he’s also a complex, multi-dimensional character over the course of multiple films. He has personality, depth, and heart. On top of that, he doesn’t look like a compilation of poorly-rendered clip art from a late 90s PC game. The studio actually made a concerted effort to make these CGI characters feel real, detailed, and human.

That effort has paid off with both audiences and critics alike. The latest entry in the franchise, “War for the Planet of the Apes,” has been a critical and commercial success by most measures. It further proved that the approach its predecessor made was not a fluke.

That’s all the excuse Hollywood ever needs to invest lavishly in a new trend. It did so with superhero movies, which led to the rise of the multi-billion dollar behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As successful as that has been, the trends in CGI may have even greater potential.

In a sense, you can look at the advances in CGI in the same way you look at the difference between the first PlayStation gaming system and the latest model of the PlayStation 4. It effectively documents just how far we’ve come, in terms of raw processing power.

That power is only going to keep increasing, thanks to exceedingly fast growth rate of computer technology. We’re not that far off from technology that can render characters so well that it’s impossible to tell whether they’re real or not.

Even before “War for the Planet of the Apes” came out, it took another major step, albeit an ominous one. In 2016’s “Star Wars: Rogue One,” the story required that Grand Moff Tarkin make an appearance. The problem was that the actor who originally played him, Peter Cushing, passed away two decades ago.

That didn’t turn out to be much of a problem. Thanks to CGI and a stand-in actor, the movie was able to bring Grand Moff Tarkin back to life. That would’ve been next to impossible to pull off six years ago. With modern CGI, it’s not just possible. It’s setting a precedent.

A composite of Peter Cushing playing Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars and a CGI imitation of his character.

It’s a precedent that already has some people worried. It’s one thing to get emotionally invested in an adorable character from a Pixar movie, as there are many. What happens, though, when CGI can create a human actor so realistic, so advanced, and so believable that most audiences can’t tell the difference?

The success of “Planet of the Apes” and “Star Wars: Rogue One” may be a tipping point, of sorts. It shows that audiences can accept CGI characters and will fork over obscene amounts of money to see them. That has huge implications for Hollywood, but even bigger implications for actors and actresses.

A CGI character that’s sufficiently realistic doesn’t need the same treatment as a skilled actor. A CGI character doesn’t age, get fat, or get caught sleeping with the babysitter while their wife is out of town. Given how some actors command salaries in the tens of millions, Hollywood has a lot of incentive to develop CGI characters.

For the time being, flesh and blood actors will still make up most Hollywood’s manpower. However, the next generation of audiences may not care much for that distinction. “Planet of the Apes” may have already laid the foundation. Once CGI characters become more functional and efficient, then all bets are off.

Suddenly, concepts and stories considered unfilmable are now viable. That includes movies that feature erotica/romance. Animation may act as a stop-gap, of sorts. At some point, though, someone is going to use advances in CGI to make erotica. It’s an unwritten law. If it can be used for sex, then it will be used for sex.

This may mean that both porn stars and actors won’t get as much work in the future. It also means that the many barriers for erotica/romance no longer apply. We could see a scenario where one of my overtly sexy novels, such as “The Final Communion” or “Skin Deep,” can be made into movies cheaply, efficiently, and with plenty of sex appeal.

513k9qqhpdl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

While I doubt I’ll live long enough to ever see one of my novels turn into a movie, I take comfort in the knowledge that the technology to make them possible is coming. The demand for media, as well as the cost of making it, is rising fast. CGI may very well be the only way to meet that demand.

There will still be a place for flesh and blood actors. Let’s face it, though. CGI characters will always have more potential sex appeal. It doesn’t matter how skilled an actress is. A CGI character can make her breasts bigger with the click of a mouse. There’s just no way they can compete.

85de4-qkflfko-nsnl

1 Comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Sexy Future

Wonder Woman And Sex Positivity

download

I know I’ve been talking about Wonder Woman a lot lately. No, I’m not going to apologize for that. I’ve had a perfectly valid reason and no need for excuses. It’s not unreasonable to say that Wonder Woman is having the best year she’s had in her 75-year history and that includes the era in which she made Lynda Carter a sex symbol.

The “Wonder Woman” movie is an unabashed success. Just this past week, it surpassed both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” to become the highest-grossing DC Comics movie to date on the domestic front. It managed to do all this with a female director in Patty Jenkins, a strong female lead in Gal Gadot, and a naked Chris Pine. I think ladies everywhere deserve to flex their ovaries this year.

As great a year as she’s had, there’s been another major development with Wonder Woman that will likely slip under the radar. That’s a shame too because it’s an important development, which is another way of saying it has very sexy implications. Given the nature of this blog, it would be a professional failure on my part if I didn’t talk about it.

In this case, it has to do with what’s been going on with Wonder Woman in the comics. Now, I don’t deny that a very small percentage of the people who saw the “Wonder Woman” movie actually follow the current comics. Most have probably read Wonder Woman comics in the past, seen her in various cartoons, or watched the old Lynda Carter TV show.

The current comics, however, are kind of an afterthought. That’s understandable in some cases. If you only saw the “Captain America” movie, you might be a little confused to find out he’s a Hydra agent in the comics. If you only ever saw the “Iron Man” movie, you might even more confused to find out that Tony Stark is in a coma and Iron Man is a 15-year-old black girl from Chicago.

The comics are confusing, convoluted, and frustrating to say the least. I say that as someone who has been closely following comics for nearly two decades. There are so many different interpretations, alternate universes, and re-launches that most reasonable people would decide it’s not worth the aggravation. I like to think I’m reasonable in most instances, but I guess my love of comics is just that strong.

For those Wonder Woman fans who do follow DC’s iconic comics, they got an overdue, but extra-satisfying treat. As part of DC’s ongoing Rebirth initiative, Wonder Woman’s comic was re-launched and revamped in a way that helped streamline a mess of conflicting continuities and scrambled timelines. Trust me, it’s much more complicated than it sounds. Just look up something called “Flashpoint” to see what I mean.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, though, you don’t need to know the cow shit to appreciate the flowers. Under the pen of Greg Rucka, an accomplished comic book writer who has written Wonder Woman in the past, and Liam Sharp, an equally-accomplished comic book artist, Wonder Woman’s entire story underwent an overhaul.

That story is one that I cannot recommend enough to Wonder Woman fans. If you loved the movie, then you’ll love these comics. They cover everything that makes Wonder Woman great. Her heart, her compassion, her warrior spirit, and her sex appeal is all on highlighted in all the right ways for all the right reasons. It may very well be the most balanced she’s ever been as a character.

However, it’s the conclusion of that story, which culminated just last week with the release of Wonder Woman #25, that introduces an important element to Wonder Woman’s story. It goes beyond simply capping off a successful run on an iconic comic book series in a satisfying way. That alone is pretty remarkable, especially at a time when comic companies can’t resist killing major characters for a sales boost.

Specifically, it has to do with Wonder Woman’s sexuality. I know that’s a favorite topic of mine and for good reason. Her sexuality is actually pretty broad compared to other male heroes who simply want to bang supermodels all day. Her origins have strong ties to the world of BDSM and in recent years, she has been revealed to be bisexual.

Despite these details, Wonder Woman has been one of those characters who has been sexually nullified, so to speak. For a good chunk of her history, she’s never been allowed to be overtly sexy. Sure, her attire is sexy and she’s not exactly shy about showing off her body. When it comes to having an actual sex life, though, it might as well be on par with the Hulk’s penis. We know it’s there. It’s just not something we talk about.

Sure, she’s allowed to have love interests. Steve Trevor, who was played by Chris Pine in the movie, is her most famous. She’s had others, including Batman in the Justice League cartoon and Superman in the comics at one point. However, the sexuality in all those relationships is severely muted, if not outright ignored.

That changed somewhat in Wonder Woman #25. Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp actually acknowledged that Wonder Woman can be sexual and it doesn’t have to be some big, shocking ordeal. She’s a powerful woman and she has sex. That should not be shocking on any level.

On top of that, Rucka and Sharp make it a point to mix Wonder Woman’s sexual inclinations with her romantic inclinations. Remember, Steve Trevor? Well, now he’s not just the man who managed to get Chris Pine naked in  the “Wonder Woman” movie. He’s the one who makes love with Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman #25. I’m sure both Chris Pine and Gal Gadot would approve.

Wonder Woman (2016-) 025-029

It was a sweet, beautiful scene that mixed both romance and sexuality. After a long journey that had many heart-wrenching moments, Wonder Woman returns to Steve, who prepared a romantic night for them. She opted to skip most of it, head into the bedroom, and make love. I’m not going to lie or apologize. That moment made me shed tears of joy and gave me a boner.

It may not seem like a big deal, Wonder Woman getting frisky with her oldest and most well-known love interest. Trust me, both as an erotica/romance writer and a comic book fan. It’s a huge deal and it adds a critical dimension to Wonder Woman’s character that tends to get censored way too often, which is sex positivity.

I’ve talked about sex positivity before, namely how it stands in contrast to sex negative feminism. I’ve even talked about distinctly sex positive superheroes like Starfire. Given Wonder Woman’s status as a feminine ideal, you’d think she would be naturally sex positive. That thinking wouldn’t be dead wrong, but it wouldn’t be right either.

It may be a result of her having not-so-subtle BDSM origins. It may also be a byproduct of the heavy censorship comics endured for most of its history, thanks largely to a bullshit moral panic from the 1950s that nearly killed the industry. Whatever the reasons, Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins were purged and her sexuality was effectively ignored.

She was still a woman, but her sexuality was about as prominent as her appendix. Her entire persona, even into the modern era, emphasized her warrior woman status. She only fought and looked good while doing it. That was pretty much the core of her character.

Now that’s not to say she had no other appeals. She most certainly did. However, her sexuality, and even her attitudes towards sex, were either ignored or circumvented. That’s why this new development in Wonder Woman #25 is so critical.

In this case, Wonder Woman actually did something even Starfire struggles to accomplish. She created a perfect balance of sexuality and love. Starfire may have a very healthy attitude towards sex and nudity, but she tends to be too casual when it comes to romance. She’s perfectly comfortable having sex, but expressing love through sex is a bit trickier.

For Wonder Woman, it’s a natural manifestation of her loving, compassionate personality. She has love for her friends, her fellow heroes, and Steve Trevor. Rucka and Sharp just let her express it through her sexuality in a way that was sincere, meaningful, and perfectly appropriate for the context of the story.

That kind of sex positivity is exceedingly rare these days. I’ve said before that the world needs more of it. There are ominous signs that society is becoming more sexually uptight. Sexuality, especially of the female variety, is still very much a taboo. Men and women alike seem to have conflicting attitudes that can manifest in unhealthy ways.

How fitting is it that Wonder Woman, the most iconic female hero of the last century, finds a way to achieve a beautiful balance between sexuality and romance? It’s a powerful element that I hope DC Comics doesn’t censor once more. A female hero knows how to fight, love, and make love in a meaningful, compelling way is a beautiful story in its own right. You could even say it’s a true wonder.

Yes, I know that sounds cheesy as hell. No, I’m not going to apologize for that either.

13 Comments

Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Are We Becoming More (Sexually) Uptight?

https://www.alluvium-journal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13348205645_726ec0c1b7_k-1024x938.jpg

There was once a time in American culture where the media couldn’t even acknowledge that sex existed, let alone happened between wholesome scenes of family dinners and fishing trips. An average episode of “Scandal” would’ve horrified audiences in 1965, who were used to seeing a married couple sleep in separate beds on “I Love Lucy.”

Without a doubt, sex on TV has come a long way. We no longer bat an eye when Kevin Spacey goes down on Kate Mara in “House of Cards” or when Glen Quagmire raises the bar for sexual debauchery on “Family Guy.” By all accounts, we’ve become a lot more accepting.

That being said, is it possible that we’re becoming more sexually uptight? Bear with me. I promise I’m not being sarcastic here. This is part of an ongoing observation that I’ve explored in other posts.

Some of it has to do with trends in feminism. Some of it has to do with the various peculiarities of the gender dynamics in our sexual culture. I’m not saying what I’m seeing is definitive, but as an aspiring erotica/romance writer, this does concern me because it may very well affect my industry.

Now when I ask whether we’re becoming more sexually uptight, I don’t mean to say that we’re regressing to a point where women can’t show their ankles and men can’t acknowledge that the female orgasm exists. In an era of internet porn and Photoshop, that sort of prudishness just isn’t possible. Never-the-less, there are other ways for Puritan attitudes towards sex to manifest in new ways.

Picture the following scenario:

There’s a beautiful woman walking around topless on a sunny beach. A young man takes a moment to stare at her breasts and admire their beauty. The woman notices the man and is appalled. The woman points at the man, calls him a misogynist pig, and rallies every woman around her to scold and shame the man for daring to look at her exposed breasts.

What I just described isn’t necessarily something that happens on a day-to-day basis. It’s more a manifestation of the kinds of sexual attitudes that are evolving. We no longer censor sexuality or deny that it exists. Instead, we shame people who dare to appreciate it in ways we don’t approve of.

In many respects, this is just as bad as any censorship by the FCC because it isn’t imposed by a government body. It’s something that we’re doing to each other. Unlike government bureaucracy though, shaming actually works. In fact, shaming pre-dates government because it uses the built-in system of guilt that every human who isn’t a sociopath has hardwired into them.

Now trends in being sexually uptight aren’t new. For much of human history, civilization has gone through various cycles of sexual attitudes. Some ancient cultures, like Egypt, were relatively liberal in their sexual attitudes. Others, like Victorian era England, were so famously uptight for their sexual repression that visible ankles were considered scandalous.

Even in modern times, there are some parts of the world that are more sexually repressed than others. Places like India and Saudi Arabia, despite being thriving modern economies, have some very backwards attitudes towards sexuality. They don’t need shame to shun someone who has sex in a way they don’t approve of. They have the authority to just throw those people in jail, which they believe is sure to kill their sex drive.

What makes this trend in the west so disconcerting, though, is that it’s emerging from a society where equality and justice are among our highest values. Countries like America pride themselves, despite protests to the contrary, in their values towards gender equality. The problem is that, for some, equality just isn’t enough.

Here’s a real-world example that illustrates this issue. Back in 2013, an incident occurred at Occidental College wherein two freshmen had consensual sex while drunk, but only the man ended up getting expelled. Why did he get expelled? Well, by their standards, a woman cannot consent to sex while drunk. Therefore, the man committed sexual assault.

Think about that for a moment and try to make sense of it. Two people get drunk, but they’re not so drunk that they can barely stand. In this story, the two people involved could not only send texts. They could also talk about using condoms and practicing safe sex. How can such responsible behavior constitute assault?

It didn’t matter though. By the standards of the school, the man still committed sexual assault and was expelled. The woman didn’t get charged with anything. She was a victim who was traumatized by the act of having consensual sex after a few drinks.

Again, think about that for a moment. Think about what that kind of mentality indicates. Our sexual culture is becoming unequal again, but this time in a different way. Instead of women being shamed for their sexual practices, it’s men who are being shamed.

Today, a man who lusts for a woman and expresses his fondness of sex is considered a pig, a deviant, and a sexist. A woman who lusts for a man and expresses her fondness of sex is considered liberated, free-spirited, and strong. That is not equality. That is a recipe for repression and injustice, albeit in different way.

Ironically, this trend is regressing fashion trends among women. We’re already seeing it in superhero costumes. Female characters are less likely to show off their breasts or female curves. It’s as if highlighting the physical traits of women is now considered an act of misogyny.

As a man, I find these trends troubling and insulting. Am I somehow wrong, immoral, or sexist because I enjoy the sight of beautiful naked women? Are my attitudes towards women somehow flawed because I dare to admire their beauty? I wish those were rhetorical questions.

This troubles me even more as an aspiring erotica/romance writer because it means some of the novels I want to write might be rejected as being sexual in the wrong sort of way. I can easily imagine rejection letters saying “this book doesn’t have enough diversity” or “the man enjoys the sex too much” or “the woman is too feminine.”

I can just as easily imagine such regressive attitudes turning the erotica/romance I love into this target for those who claim it’s an affront to women. Never mind the fact that I write these stories to enchant, entertain, and titillate, some will still see it as some sort of egregious act of sexism.

This really does concern me. I’d rather not return to the days where people don’t even acknowledge sex exists and any attempt to discuss it is somehow taboo. We’ve already experienced that kind of repression and it doesn’t work. Let’s at least try to remain sane on matters as important and intimate as sexuality.

13 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Why Quality Erotica/Romance Movies Are (Almost) Impossible

most-sexually-charged-excerpts-from-erotica-books

A while back, I talked about the box office reception that “50 Shades Darker” received and the implications this had for the future of erotica/romance in movies. In my assessment, as someone with a keen interest in the future of erotica/romance, I painted a mildly optimistic picture.

I had good reason to. After all, “50 Shades Darker” turned a profit, just like its predecessor. Sure, it was panned by critics, but that has never stopped trends in movies before. Just ask Michael Bay. Critical reception aside, “50 Shades of Grey” made a lot of money for book publishers and movie studios. That should be all that’s necessary to spark a new wave of erotica/romance in movies, right?

Well, maybe it’s because I’ve had some spare time while recovering from a terrible cold, but I find myself re-assessing my assessment. In doing so, I’ve surmised a number of major, almost insurmountable obstacles that will keep erotica/romance stories, like the ones I write, from being Jaws-level blockbusters.

Now I say it’s almost insurmountable because Hollywood has defied the odds and/or common sense before. I thought the vomit-inducing shit storm that was “Batman and Robin” had killed superhero movies for the next several decades. Thankfully, I was wrong and three years later, “X-men” came out. However, the erotica/romance genre has challenges that even superhero movies never had to overcome.

With that caveat in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the obstacles that hinder erotica/romance in movies. Yes, they seem daunting, but keep in mind that when there’s money to be made, Hollywood usually finds a way to exploit the hell out of it.


Obstacle #1: The Porn Problem

While the Mike Huckabees of the world may hate it, porn exists. Porn, as a genre and an industry, exists in a big way. According to Forbes, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry with its own line of major brands, product lines, and superstars. Names like Brazzers, Adam and Eve, and Jenna Jameson are all well-known, even though many are still reluctant to admit just how much they know.

This may be good for the industry, but it’s also a big reason why the erotica part of erotica/romance has such a big problem getting into movies. It’s because porn is its own industry that there’s this hard, unambiguous line between porn and cinema.

Show any typical movie next to a typical porn and it’s usually pretty easy to figure out which is which. Even if none of the actresses involved have boob jobs, it’s painfully obvious which one was produced by a porn studio. If a movie is going to be overly sexual in any way, then it’s going to either get hijacked by porn or associated with it. In either case, the romance part will be lost completely.

This is why the erotica parts of movies like “50 Shades of Grey” and “Showgirls” are so watered down. Sure, you’ll see a pair of breasts. Sure, you’ll even see a penis or a vagina every now and then, if only briefly. However, it’ll never be as overt or uncensored as porn.

Some of this because too much T&A will earn a movie the dreaded NC-17 rating, which means no major theaters will carry it. At best, a movie with that rating will end up a late-night softcore porn movie on Cinemax or HBO, which directly ties into another obstacle.


Obstacle #2: The Acting Problem

Here’s a pop quiz everybody should be able to pass. How many Oscar-winning actors or actresses in the past 30 years have ever starred in a porno movie? If you can’t think of any, then congratulations. You passed.

That’s because for actors or actresses, acting in porn or being too eager to take your clothes off is the quickest way to lose credibility in Hollywood. Now some actresses can get away with showing their tits more than others, as Angelina Jolie has proven, but those are the exceptions and not the norms.

For men, it’s even worse. Many male actors are willing to get naked on screen, as Leonardo DiCaprio has proven, but chances are they’ll never do a full-frontal where their dick and balls are clear for everyone to see. That’s usually the quickest way to get laughed out of any future audition.

This is a problem because good acting is important to a good story, especially one that involves romantic themes. However, good actors and actresses can’t get quality work if they’re too eager to get naked on camera. That’s because they’ll just be seen as quasi-porn stars of sorts who rely more on their sex appeal than their acting skills to make a living.

Now there’s nothing wrong with relying on your natural or surgically-enhanced sex appeal to make a living. Pamela Anderson is proof that this can work, even if she has become somewhat of a hypocrite about it.

However, for serious actors in Hollywood, it’s an unbalanced balancing act of sorts. Too much sex appeal means your acting skills become secondary. Without those acting skills, it’s hard to tell a meaningful story. Even if the actor or actress has those skills, there’s also the erotic acts themselves to consider, which leads to the next major obstacle.


Obstacle #3: The Performance Problem

By performance, I don’t mean an actor or actress’ ability to cry on cue. Think back to porn for a moment without opening a new tab on your browser. Why is it that many porn actors or porn actresses have such poor acting skills? Well, there’s a simple reason for that. Their acting skills are a secondary concern at best, if not an afterthought at worst.

The biggest challenge to being a porn actor or actress has nothing to do with actual acting. It has everything to do with actually being able to have sex in front of a camera, under weird lighting, and with a director barking orders behind the scene. It’s not exactly an intimate setting is what I’m saying.

Most men can’t exactly rise to the occasion under those situations. As a man, I can attest that our biology makes that difficult for us. Just as many women can’t exactly get in the mood either. That’s why male porn stars are judged more on their ability to keep an erection and why female porn stars are judged by their ability to keep the sex going, even after the mood has passed.

This is why sex in movies is so overly-censored. Even in softcore porn movies, it’s extremely watered down. If you do see a penis, it’s never erect. If you do see a vagina, it’s rarely that wet. That’s why the sex never looks real or genuine. It’s a matter of skill more than story.

Good actors and actresses have the skill to make a character seem real. Good porn stars have the skill to actually have sex in front of a camera. Few, if any, have the ability to do both, which is why erotica/romance has so much working against it.


Obstacle #4: The Stigma Problem

As I’ve pointed out before, Hollywood still has a few oddly outdated attitudes when it comes to sex. Again, just go see any slasher movie made in the past 30 years. The first person to die is always the man or woman who is too eager to get naked or have sex.

In any major romance movie, a relationship that has too much sex will be portrayed as shallow. A relationship that lacks sex or sex appeal will come off as more genuine. It’s an either/or scenario that rarely gets challenged and for good reason.

Too much sex in a movie will cause it too lose credibility. Too much sex in a romance will make it seem shallow. The idea that sex can actually complement a romance might as well seem alien to a Hollywood producer. That would be like claiming Seth Rogan can do a good movie that doesn’t involve weed. It seems outrageous.

Beyond the stigma within the movie, there’s the stigma outside the studios as well. As I mentioned with the acting issue, those involved in an overly sexy movie will get labeled as the kind of people who can only do movies that involve a lot of sex.

This is why few victims in slasher movies go onto win Oscars. They commit the sin of getting naked in a few too many scenes and they’re basically blacklisted in Hollywood. It’s not fair, but that’s how the industry works.


Reasons For Hope

Now if these obstacles make it seem like erotica/romance will never be a legitimate movie genre, I apologize if I give that impression. Granted, these are obstacles that few genres have ever had to overcome. Even with the success of “50 Shades of Grey,” it’s not like studios are clamoring to make knock-offs on the same level we’ve seen with superhero movies.

That said, there does appear to be an emerging market for more mature content that doesn’t shy away from showing nudity in more than a few scenes. How do I know this? It can be best summed up by three words: Game of Thrones.

Say what you want about the critical reception of “50 Shades of Grey.” There’s no denying the cultural impact that “Game of Thrones” has had since it debuted on HBO. It’s violent. It’s sexy. It’s downright gratuitous in the way it glorifies Emily Clarke’s breasts. It’s also a damn good story full of great acting and compelling characters.

Now that’s not to say “Game of Thrones” qualifies as an erotica/romance story. It’s very much a different kind of story, one that fits more into established fantasy genres. However, it’s willingness to use a balance of sex, violence, and story offer hope that this balance can find its way into other genres.

So while it may be a while before we see an erotica/romance movie, like my upcoming book, “Passion Relapse,” we’re a lot closer than you think. Sex still sells. Meaningful romance still sells. It’s only a matter of time before Hollywood finds a way to combine the two and make a boatload of money off it.

8 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights