Old Fashioned and Repressed Sex

Old FashionedBrandon Ambrosino over at Vox tried to get to the bottom of an interesting question, Why Are Christian Movies So Painfully Bad? But I think he made it over complicated. The reason that “Christian” movies are bad is that they are made for a particular distribution channel — one that depends upon churches. So part of the reason that these “Christian” movies are bad is the same reason that most of the drive-in movies of the 1950s were bad. The other is that the people who go to see these films just want to be assured that they are the right kind of people.

One great film that is explicitly Christian is John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary. But the point of the film is not to sell Christianity to people who have already bought it. And, in fact, you see lots of Catholicism in Irish films. But the religion is not the point; it is just part of the lives of the people. It isn’t surprising that that there is a Christian Film Industry in the United States. American Christians are the most insecure religious people I’ve ever see. This is why they get so upset about “Happy Holidays,” because they need constant assurance that everyone believes the same thing they do.

And then there is the Amway aspect of it. I’ve been talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses for decades. They are the most fake people one on the planet. I know all their tricks. And they are the exact same tricks of Amway salesmen or car dealers. They try to find out what you are interested in so they can form a bond, and then they go in with their high pressure sales pitch. In the end, it is all about selling their very specific form of Christianity to you. They have no interest in you at all. They are just “fishers of men.”

But I was really struck by Ambrosino’s prime example, a new Christian Film Industry monstrosity, Old Fashioned. It is supposed to be a response to Fifty Shades of Grey. In this new film, a young man who “Jesus found” during his senior year of college now has very old fashioned ideas about courtship. And he finds himself attracted to the nubile and feisty Elizabeth Ann Roberts. And I’m sure they work through their problems and have a good old fashioned courtship and, just like in every secular romance, it ends where the actual hard work of the relationship starts.

But check out this trailer. Really. I want to talk about it:

I find the trailer of Old Fashioned kind of sexy with all the “I’m an inch away from your face” and “I’m shoving roasted marshmallows in your face.” So really, it’s a movie that is all about sex. It’s just one with sexual mores that are based some kind of Victorian notion of sexual propriety. The thing you find if you read about the distant past — of Christians in the distant past — is that these ideas about sex were never real. They were always about power and contracts. There’s nothing religious about them.

But as usual with repressed Christians, the sex is just bursting at the seams. And I find it ironic. I’m a sexual liberal. I think it is great that people have sex whenever they want how ever they want. If people copulate in the streets, I wouldn’t care. But sex just isn’t that big a deal to me and if you doubt me, you can ask my two ex-wives. But for people like writer, director, and star of Old Fashioned, Rik Swartzwelder, sex is apparently very important — so important he has to make a whole film about it. He is, in fact, just the same as the makers of Fifty Shades of Grey. And I don’t imagine him that different from Osama bin Laden with all his pornography.

Religion makes people very creepy when it comes to sex. It’s like conservatives when it comes to policy: they start every discussion of fixing a problem with everything they can’t do. And that’s a recipe for disaster. The world is about possibilities, not arbitrary limits. And the young man in Old Fashioned is not even practicing his faith; he’s just another cultural Christian with major sexual hangups.

7 thoughts on “Old Fashioned and Repressed Sex

  1. There is a way to do this right. You might recall the film “Sweet Land.” I believe it won some kind of award from some kind of family-friendly movie-rating site. Because it’s a deeply romantic film, with a ton of sexual tension. The man bought a bride. The woman agreed to be bought as a chance to escape poverty. And, although by “Christian” standards they could have sex (they were married) they had enough respect for each other not to force it to happen. Until they’d proved to each other that when stuff gets really, really bad, they were both capable of working like a mad people to support the people who support you. And then they go upstairs.

    • Absolutely. Remember Deadwood when Seth Bullock’s wife finally comes to town. She’s actually the widow of his brother. And it has some of the most tender and thoughtful scenes I’ve ever seen regarding matters of love. And that’s by David Milch! The key is to be brilliant and not be held captive by a silly ideology.

  2. So one of the people I follow on YewTewb had a review of this movie. And a bunch of other christian dating/marriage films. In each one, the thing that struck me (and Cinema Snob) was how abusive these relationships are. This movie was not different since the man had all the power and the woman was literally running away from another abusive relationship (her arm is hurt by her boyfriend not liking her nail polish.)

    The message it sends to women watching this is horrible-it tells them they have to put up with abuse just to be with someone. And the message to men is that they have to be control freaks in order to be with a woman. Ugh.

    Which is why Cinema Snob (real name Brad Jones) at one point replaces the score to the movie with a serial killer one because it matches up so well.

    Here is the review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgDLGWyOTQk

  3. I think it is rather that some people are really twisted about sex, and religion, the Abrahamic ones particularly, give them a script for it. I can usually field strip conservative ideology down to it’s basic parts and understand the what and why. I was raised one, after all. Sex loathing is a black box. Much like their failure to understand my values and motivations broadly. For me, at least, it is a ‘known unknown’.
    The real tell in that preview is ‘When did treating women with respect become a joke?’ Because women never want sex. The grudgingly barter it to men for other concessions. Such bullshit.

    • That’s a good catch. I’ve often wonder why it is that women generally become more interested in sex with age. I’m know part of it is biological, but I can’t help but think that part of it is also that men don’t suck at it so badly. The implication of that line is that women and men are not sexual equals. Instead, sex is something that women give to men in exchange for being nice. Or something. It is a messed up way of looking at the world.

        • Yeah, this is why I have very little sympathy for the “nice guys finish last” crowd. They are mostly a bunch of whiners who have little to offer. Humans have come up with billions of ways attract a mate. If you are annoyed that women you like are attracted to guys you think are jerks, perhaps you should look for different kinds of women. It’s just something I can’t accept from anyone out of his teens. But the world would be better if all young people were schooled sexually by someone about ten years older than they are. I feel sorry for two young people trying to figure out sex. It’s painful to think about because they don’t know themselves much less each other.

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