Don't be doing porn, k?
According to this Salon.com article (and if ya don't want to go through the ad to read it yourself, I excerpt most of the skankiest parts here), we have begun to cross that barrier that John Waters predicted we would: Mainstream actors and actresses are crossing the line into graphic sexual scenes for mainstream movies. I'm talking obvious genital contact and total everythang hanging out nekkedness.
Full frontal ain't such big news, because many have bared all before. A short list of major stars who have: Kathleen Turner, Richard ("gerbil boy") Gere, Sissy Spacek, Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan, the younger), Kathleen Quinlan, Elizabeth McGovern, Harvey Keitel, Karen Allen, Kathy Bates, blah-de-blah. We've seen a lot of thespian skin. Onward.
No, kids and kittens, I'm taking full frontal technicolor contact with the uglies outside of porno. I for one don't like it. I guess it blows (ahem) my suspension of disbelief, because one moment I'm in the middle of a story, but once the porn starts, suddenly I'm looking at Meg Ryan doing porn, and the story is kaput.
Frinstance, there ya are, handful of popcorn, engrossed, then:
In [Jane Campion's choppy, erotic thriller, In the Cut], a mustachioed and criminally attractive Mark Ruffalo takes recovering-moppet Ryan to bed, plants her on her stomach, spreads her legs, and performs oral sex on her from behind in a scene that lasts a breathtaking two minutes. A steady master shot with no quick cuts and no "Is that what I think it is?" moments, the scene depicts exactly what you think it does, and even the most jaded filmgoers will feel their pulses quicken.
Kinda makes you wonder if they left an "n" out of the title of the film, doesn't it? [Rimshot!]
Or, another frinstance is this:
After a rushed and awkward first encounter, [William H.] Macy's character [in The Cooler] makes amends by paying [Maria] Bello lip service. The cut of the film that screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January shows Bello's face grimacing in a quiet, almost pained orgasm. The camera then moves lower, where Bello's own hand and Macy's face rest in the actress's thatch of brunet pubic hair, earning the film a dreaded NC-17 rating.
You remember William H. Macy, right? He played the schlepp who tried to have his wife fake kidnapped in Fargo, but everything goes wrong and it ends with him being dragged by police from a hotel, screaming, in his undies.
I don't think I can make a believable assertion that I am not a prude, but I will state that I have found some scenes of sex in past movies wonderful, tasteful, and appropriate for the story, thus my suspension of disbelief expanded into other happy suspensions, if you will. But Kathleen Turner and William Hurt going at it in Body Heat, or Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lang in The Postman Always Rings Twice putting a cutting board to good use, were exciting and titillating, and most precisely because we don't see any genitalia during an erotic scene. Seeing someone's privates does something to our wetware (ultra-geek term for our brains, you perv), and suddenly we are slammed into another mode (whether we like it or not). I guess because that is something related to one of our most intimate acts that we can't feel anything but the emotions related to the same. It breaks the fourth wall in a way nothing else does, even a creepy 3-D Michael Jackson reaching out of the screen for your kids at Disney World.
For the record, I don't think seeing someone's nude crotch outside of a sex scene is the same, because - even though it still sends a spark to that lizard part of our brain - if we are just seeing someone nude outside of a sexual situation, we just register that they're nude and don't necessarily lunge into that part of our brain that is involved with intimacy and such. I think we register, "oh, nekkid body" and go on, essentially -- perhaps, at most, making a mental note about proportions or aesthetics.
For myself, I hope that Hollywood gets through this phase quickly, that it does not catch on, and that it's remembered only as something to avoid, much like "smell-o-vision".