Are PC paroxysms screwing the on-screen sex scene?


Are PC paroxysms screwing the on-screen sex scene?

Spawned in the MeToo milieu, let's hope 'intimacy directors' mean the death knell for sex and nudity in film

Celia Walden

I’m never sure how I feel about female actors being made to lie naked on mortuary slabs in crime dramas. No, wait: it makes me feel uncomfortable. The ratio of female-to-male stiffs has always been weirdly skewed, which means that there must be a cross-demographic favouring of dead women.
And now, what with #MeToo, Take the Lead, Women in Film, the Screen Actors’ Guild of Safe and Seemly On-Screen Nudity (not a thing, but it will be) and the general litigation threat that the industry is trying to function in the shadow of, it’s hard to sit back and watch those naked mortuary-slab scenes without thinking of the PC paroxysms that shooting them will have prompted.
Such scenes are now increasingly “gratuitous”, as Lynda la Plante, high priestess of crime dramas, said in a recent interview, contemplating that PC-ness becomes all the more jarring. Speaking out about the ITV production of Prime Suspect 1973, a prequel to her acclaimed series starring Helen Mirren, the Bafta award-winning screenwriter said she was shocked to discover that nude shots had been inserted without her permission, when the series was broadcast last year.
She was particularly disturbed by a scene “where a body of a girl is discovered — this was filmed outside, under a rain machine. The second, a naked girl on a trolley, before and during an autopsy. The way they were filmed annoyed and upset me. I felt for the women, the actors.”
In spite of the lurid end results we see on our screens, the creative process couldn’t be less titillating, actor friends tell me. There are now multiple consent clauses necessitated for any degree of televised touching, increasingly elaborate and realistic latex body stockings that protect their modesty, there to allay the rising fear of that hand or kiss landing an inch further to the left or right than stipulated in “clause 254, section A”.
It doesn’t stop there: sets now require “intimacy directors”, at least at HBO, the American network that has now decreed that these showbusiness chaperones be present for every “intimate” scene (that’s anything from kissing onwards) in their programming, moving forward. Already, other channels look set to follow suit.
There to provide “physical, social and professional protection” when things get naked and thorny, intimacy co-ordinators ultimately aim to “normalise a set of standards and practices surrounding the execution of sex scenes on stage and on film”.
And if you need a good belly laugh, go to Intimacy Directors International’s website and click on “finding an intimacy director near you”.
Surely this is the death knell for “gratuitous” on-screen sex and nudity?
I don’t care what Demi Moore or any of those weird fetishistic cinematographers who invariably win the Palme d’Or say: it is never vital or even necessary to the plot, the whole point of film, with its infinite capacity for trickery surely being that you can suggest, imply or simply fake nudity in 1,001 different ways. The same goes for sex.
And yet the more squeamish we become, the more prurient our “entertainment” seems to be. I mean, we’re being sold polyamorous, pansexual, adulterous and downright freaky on-screen sex (Wanderlust, Gypsy, The Girlfriend Experience, The Deuce) by an industry now trying to prove itself as one of the worthiest and most puritanical out there — and I, for one, am finding it harder and harder to suspend disbelief.
Enough. Now that we know that no woman will ever be carried up the stairs Rhett Butler-style again (and certainly not without her co-ordinator); now that we know how farcically contorted things have got behind the scenes, can’t we just give up on on-screen sex and nudity?
Millennials don't need it: they don't have sex. The iGeneration, who are shaping up to be almost equally worthy and fragile, thanks to the “bulldozer parents” who have cleared every obstacle from their path from birth, apparently watch less TV and fewer films than their predecessors, spending more time on their smartphones and, in the event of any kind of amorous collision, would probably need Mummy to stand by the bed directing. So, although it’s too early to say, they don’t look likely to be into lubricious entertainment either.
What about everyone else? What about the oldies? Well, they can just watch their Spartacus VHS on a loop, can’t they? That will leave intimacy co-ordinators free to make the leap from TV and film sets to real life, which is where, let’s face it, their presence is needed most.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited

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