What is Sexy?

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Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus (Photo credit: rwoan)

I admit I was curious about Miley Cyrus‘ performance at the MTV Awards, so I watched the video. To me, that was the least sexy event I have seen on television. Unlike other animals, human beings surround sexuality with an aura of mystery and wonder–that seems to be a part of human nature. In the past, before premarital sex became common, the lure of the wedding night was eagerly anticipated by engaged couples. The contemporary world has removed the mystery from sex and therefore removed the sexiness from sex. I have never been impressed by the obviousness of the sexual movements by Madonna, by Lady Gaga, by Miley Cyrus, or by many performers in rap videos.

Can anyone watch the movie Casablanca without feeling romantic? Did it need an explicit sex scene to make it “sexy” enough. To me, Casablanca is one of the sexiest movies out there. In the movies of the 1930s up to the early 1960s, there was a great deal under the surface–sexual innuendo that only adults could understand. The kiss anticipates what the viewer knows will come, but does not see. Mystery leaves room for the viewer’s imagination. If I watch a 1950s-era movie that leads to the kiss sealing the love between a man and a woman, that kiss is incredibly sexy. Oftentimes in these old films, the expectation is that the lovers will marry, initiating them into the mysteries of sexuality and the greater mystery of bringing new life into the world and in adjusting and loving another person in such an intimate way. Today sex is reduced to technique, to selfish desire for one’s own pleasure, to wanting a “good performance” from one’s partner without any love at all. Human beings are reduced to mechanisms, machines who perform the sexual task as efficiently as a well-run corporation.

Miley Cyrus and her ilk mark the end stage of a process that began long ago as marriage disintegrated as an institution and the hook-up culture came into play. Ms. Cyrus probably has no idea how stomach-turning her performance is to people who have not lost the ability to blush.

Keep sex a thing of wonder, a unique and intimate expression of love. Do not buy into the cheapness unrestrained performances bring to sexuality. We are more than machines. We are more than animals who operates sexually by instinct. We are human beings with complex feelings that surround the sexual act. It is time we stopped stripping (literally, it seems) the mystery from sex, to stop making sex unsexy.

Which is the “Christian Nation” Now?

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() - Emblems of belief available for placement...

() – Emblems of belief available for placement on USVA headstones and markers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the great ironies of recent history is that Russia, the quintessential atheistic society when it was the largest part of the Soviet Union, is returning to Eastern Orthodoxy. While much of its population retains its atheism, the government of Vladamir Putin strongly supports the Orthodox Church and has increasingly supported a traditionally Christian society. Like the African churches (outside of South Africa), the Russian Orthodox Church is theologically and morally conservative, much more so than mainline American churches.

Although the United States was originally more deist and agnostic than religious, after the Second Great Awakening in the late 1700s it, in effect, became a Protestant Christian nation. There was a general understanding held by the vast majority of Americans, including Roman Catholics and Jews, that a fairly conservative traditional morality was to be followed. This morality included opposition to abortion (abortion, over time, was made illegal in most states during the nineteenth century), opposition to premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual activity, and support of a traditional conception of male and female roles in the family. Going to church (or synagogue) was considered a commendable thing to do. Prayer and Bible lessons took place in both private–and public–schools. Although many people violated the common morality, even the violators, for the most part, believed they were committing morally wrong acts. Church attendance remained high. The last religious revival in the United States continued through 1965.

There were precursors to the destruction of the Protestant consensus before the 1960s, but it was after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, that social change rapidly occurred. The intellectual classes, already quite liberal, did not have the intellectual nor the cultural resources to halt the tide of radical activism. David Horowitz, who participated in much of the activism, was a red diaper baby, a crusading Communist, and he points out that despite the claims of those reacting against the late Senator McCarthy, the radicals behind the 1960s revolution were openly Communist. As such, they were atheists who also opposed the Protestant consensus that included a common morality. The advent of artificial contraception was used as an excuse to defend “free love,” a movement that began as early as the Kennedy years. The late 1960s saw the apex of the debate over the morality of abortion that led to the January 1973 “Roe v. Wade” Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. With marriage effectively separated for childbirth combined with easy divorce (which had been a staple of some states since the late nineteenth century), marriage was seen as a way for someone to become happy rather than as a sacrament and a permanent commitment. Once marriage became separated from the right to have sexual intercourse, it became more and more a civil arrangement–and it was a small step to support same-sex marriage. Given that climate, one wonders how long it will take before American society supports incestuous marriage or pedophilic marriage. Once the foundations of a social order are destroyed, the house quickly follows.

Many of the Christian Churches, especially the mainline Protestant denominations, have more or less yielded completely to the new social norms. The Evangelicals, tied up for years in gimmicks rather than in Biblical teaching, development of Christian character, and the beauty of traditional worship, are rapidly given ground on traditional moral positions regarding sexual ethics. American Roman Catholics remain deeply divided after radical priests and bishops fundamentally changed many churches during the late 1960s and 1970s. The Fundamentalists remain faithful to traditional theology and morals, but too often focus on minutia rather than on the cultural war that they have, in effect, already lost. Stating traditional Christian positions, already a crime in the UK and in much of Western Europe, is becoming socially unacceptable in many American circles. Eventually, stating traditional positions on sexual morality or defending the exclusive nature of Christian claims will become hate crimes in the United States if current trends continue.

The United States is no longer a Christian nation. To claim that is is denies the obvious transvaluation of values that has taken place during the last 50 years. Russia is the last major superpower that can claim, at least at the level of government policy, to be a Christian nation. If the common people of Russian embrace the Orthodox faith again, it will be Russia that will be a shining light to the world, with the United States a decadent shell of its former self.

The 2013 Fright Night Film Fest and Fandom, Louisville, Kentucky

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Fandom Fest 2013

Fandom Fest 2013 (Photo credit: PureGeekery)

Where are horror movies, sci fi celebrities, anime, comics, and gaming mixed up into a pot? Try the Fright Night Film Festive and Fandom which is held in Louisville, Kentucky every year. I needed to be there this year since my screenplay, “Obedience,” was an official selection of the film festival, something I consider to be a great honor. This is the first big general horror convention I have attended, so take my observations in that light.

First, on the positive side, almost all the movies I saw that were finalists were quite good to excellent in quality. I was amazed at the available talent in horror and the fact that Hollywood has not always paid sufficient attention to some of the most creative film producers. One film I saw, Lucid, is a fascinating exploration of lucid dreaming with well rounded characters and a stunning performance by the lead actor–she played her part like a master, especially the strong emotional element of the film. The shift between appearance and reality was interesting to me as a philosopher, and in the future this will be one of the movies I show to my Introduction to Philosophy class. Another fine movie, Mr. White, is an exploration of bullying and the terrible revenge one bullied boy meets out. Having been bullied myself as a child (though not as badly as many unfortunate children), I found the movie disturbing. The acting was high quality.

Attending Gillian Anderson‘s question and answer session was a positive experience. She is quite lovely and charming, and she is comfortable in dealing with audiences and their questions. Seeing her as a human being rather than as a character was an interesting experience–one sees that she is a human being who is trying to get by in this world like everyone else, one who is very good at her job. She did not come across as arrogant, which is all too rare for celebrities.

Unfortunately the line was too long for William Shatner‘s appearance, and I am sure the same was true for Stan Lee‘s. I am glad many of their fans were able to see them in person.

The vendors sold a variety of diverse products, and I spent way too much money. Much of it was anime and comics, which are not really my interests, but there were enough movies, music, and horror props to make any horror fan’s day.

No matter how well staff plans, a conference this big is a logistical nightmare, and this led to some problems with scheduling. Some rooms were double-booked, and if rooms changed for an event, there was no way to find out where it was held except via word of mouth. Some events started later than scheduled. The schedule was flawed to the point that a printed schedule was not available–I missed an event on Friday evening because I was not aware of it. I do not have an I-phone, so I was unable to scan the schedule. It was finally available for all online on Saturday. A preliminary schedule should come out in advance so people can make adequate plans. I should have driven in Friday instead of Thursday, for example–I’ll be paying $700.00 plus for a hotel bill when I could have saved a great deal of money by coming a day late.

I realize that sounds more negative than it should be, but I hope that the things I mentioned will be taken as suggestions to improve the experience of the convention for fans, filmmakers, and writers.

by adequate plans–I shouldSome rules should have been more clear–for example, the schedule said that the vendor area would be open at 10 a.m. on Sunday. What the schedule did not make clear is that it was open at 10 for VIPs, etc., and at 11 for smucks like me who paid general admission. It was an embarrassing experience being turned away by a staff member.

Another thing that was not clear to me, as a recent author of a book of horror poems, is that books could be displayed at the Fandom desk in the Kentucky Convention Center. Discovering this after the fact and after it was too late was quite annoying–it is difficult enough to sell books as it is. Although there were authors in the vendor section, the literary workshops were not well-announced. John Carpenter may not be happy about screenwriters not being welcome enough at the Horror Writers’ Association, but fairness is a two-way street. The literary sessions seemed to be an aside, and an unimportant one, which is unfortunate.

Marketing my screenplay was also a frustrating task–another finalist told me I could talk to some of the celebs, and if a judge was interested specifically in my screenplay, that judge would contact me. Making a pitch was virtually impossible in such a format–the small production companies among the vendors have their own writer and are unable to take on another writer’s work. The same is true with some of the better know directors. It took quite some time after the festival was over for the winners to be announced. Since I did not receive an e-mail to attend the (later cancelled) awards ceremony, it was no surprise I did not win. I was pleased to see Biting Pig Productions win a general award–they make excellent films which I highly recommend. Overall the judges seemed to prefer more violent films to subtle horror–that is not a surprise among current horror fans–my students in my Philosophy of Horror class prefer slashers to supernatural horror. I am glad that the most popular recent box office hits have been supernatural horror, which still has an appeal to the general public. I am not disappointed–each contest has its own quirks and judges have every right to prefer the kind of films they enjoy the most, as well as considering overall quality.

All in in, this was a mixed experience. Given the low yield of benefit to cost, I will not attend again, though I am sure some hard-core fans who enjoy meeting celebrities and getting autographs will be back next year.