Artful Nudity

Thomas Burnett’s piece, arguing that maybe we should have fewer sex scenes, and that perhaps Neal McDonough, who was fired from an upcoming show for refusing to appear in one on camera, is a rare gent of unusual quality strikes me as wrong for a couple of reasons. First, it’s entirely possible that McDonough’s stance is noble, but if it’s something that’s a clear, defining line for him, he should be making that clear in his conversations with potential employers, and should be something he has specified in his contract. Getting fired for something you won’t do that you didn’t make clear you won’t do up front doesn’t actually make you a martyr, it makes you kind of a drama queen. It would be far more useful to his fellow actors and actresses if this was something he established that you can make clear contractually and that shouldn’t be a necessary condition of employment than if he a) got canned in a dispute and b) resulted in a tabloid mess.Second, the artistic problem isn’t that we have too many sex scenes on camera. It’s that sex isn’t realistic. Sex itself is not a cliche, it’s a powerful force of nature. But the way sex is choreographed — lots of actresses with their bras on because while they will shoot sex scenes, they won’t go topless; the physical interaction is always graceful; everyone always makes the same face when they experience orgasm; sheets are artfully twined — is a cliche. Meet Joe Black is one of the stupidest movies I have ever seen, but it does have a singular virtue: during the sex scene, Brad Pitt (playing Death, who is theoretically having sex for the first time) actually looks kind of freaked out and overwhelmed (sorry in advance for the repetitiveness and the Sade, I decided it was less creepy than this overlaid with an Anthony Hopkins monologue):


Which I think is, you know, true to some sex some people have sometimes. The point being that people look weird, and awkward, and unselfconscious during sex, and if folks genuinely want to shoot erotic, striking sex scenes, they should focus on how the characters might look specific to that situation. What movies and television need is smarter, more thoughtful, realistic sex scenes, not fewer of them.