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Fear-mongering overlords now want Covid-19 to rob us of sex scenes in movies

Zachary Leeman
Zachary Leeman

is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman

is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman

Fear-mongering overlords now want Covid-19 to rob us of sex scenes in movies
British filmmakers are being encouraged to cut sex scenes in their movies to protect actors from Covid-19, but the ridiculous suggestion is just an excuse to censor art and expression.

Directors UK, a professional association of directors in Britain, which has more than 7,000 members, has unleashed ‘Intimacy in the Time of Covid-19’ – new recommendations for filmmakers returning to productions in the midst of the current pandemic. 

Put together by board members Susanna White and Bill Anderson, and ‘intimacy coordinator’ Vanessa Coffey, the guidelines are the latest fear-mongering nonsense to have dropped as a result of coronavirus.

The most alarming section of the pamphlet is the “narrative alternatives” bit, about depicting sex scenes. The recommendations are not only ill thought out, but also essentially encourage the rewinding of the clock by more than a few decades and returning to the talkies of the 30s, when the Hays Code banned the portrayal of sex and other morally dubious activities onscreen. 

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Instead of actually showing scenes of intimacy, filmmakers are now being encouraged to show only the before-and-after moments book-ending the act. One could show a bedroom door closing, the guidelines suggest, and then leave everything “up to the viewer’s imagination,” or characters could be seen “fixing their own clothes/re-dressing after the event.”

And in truly bizarre Covid-19 fashion, “sexting” and intimate video chats are suggested as replacements for physically intimate scenes. 

Other suggestions include presenting a “metaphorical alternative” to sex, such as “dancing,” or “the preparation and serving of food, and the pleasure of eating it.” Filmmakers are told they can also replace intimate scenes with dialogue in which characters “say what they will do to each other.” According to the guidelines, this will not only help protect actors from the coronavirus, but also “allow for the inclusion of dialogue to do with consent.”

Let’s just call a spade a spade. It may be dressed up as protecting us from that oh-so-bad pandemic that we’re told by politicians day after day will never go away, but this is censorship. Turn back the clock a few decades and these could be words coming straight out of the mouth of a politician demonizing the negative effects of movies on children, or from a preacher claiming inappropriate stories are a sin. 

In those scenarios, the one promoting the censorship would be dismissed as authoritarian. Now, thanks to this pandemic, people suggesting essentially the same thing are just trying to ‘protect’ us.

Sex is not essential to the existence of film, but to restrict a filmmaker in their storytelling does irreparable harm to expression. And there are, in fact, some stories that simply can’t exist without their more risque scenes. Imagine ‘Basic Instinct’ being made during coronavirus under these new guidelines. It simply couldn’t happen! Sharon Stone wouldn’t have a career, and we would’ve been robbed of a B-movie schlock masterpiece obsessed over for years by millions of teenage boys.

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And what of the likes of ‘Black Swan’, ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’, ‘The Piano’, and so on? Could these stories have been told equally as well if they’d relied on tamer scenes of intimacy or on suggestive video chats? An argument, albeit a weak one, could be made that they could, but what is dangerous and what should be fought against is the notion that the choice in how to tell these tales is beginning to be taken away from filmmakers and handed over to the pandemic overlords. 

Artists are already becoming discouraged by the coronavirus restrictions imposed on filmmaking during the current crisis. Oliver Stone said just last month that he’ll likely never again make a narrative film because Covid-related rules for production in the US make it impossible for a mid-level budget movie to be self-sustaining.

He also railed against the “sensitivity advisors.” This is essentially what’s being recommended in British filmmaking at the moment, albeit masked as a protective measure to help actors. If it’s already got the director of ‘Platoon’ and ‘Wall Street’ throwing up his hands, perhaps it may be time to rethink the approach. 

Director Paul Schrader similarly slammed“pussified producers” for shutting filming down on his movie ‘The Card Counter’ this year over fears of coronavirus.

Precautions should of course be taken to protect people in a work environment, but when those measures affect the work itself, there is no point to any of it. If a filmmaker needs to completely rework a story to please fear-mongering authoritarians wagging their fingers in disapproval, then a film is not worth making. Fighting the pandemic is important, but with the science of it notoriously sketchy and recommendations changing by the week, some people are just a bit too eager to take the opportunity to restrict and discourage artistic expression.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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