When I was young, reading the Legion of Decency ratings was a slightly nasty and cheap thrill for Catholic kids.
We learned quickly to scan from the mild "morally objectionable," which could be something as simple as a divorce, to "condemned," which promised much more salacious descriptors like "nudity" or "sexually suggestive material."
Even as a pre-teen, it seemed kind of comical to me that men (there was no gender confusion about who made the Legion's calls) sat in darkened rooms watching these salacious films to improve my moral character.
And so, as an adult, I'm getting a lot of joy out of thinking about how Rick Santorum and his ilk would view Bridesmaids, if they could steel themselves to watch last year's comic hit. I've seen it three times and found it funnier with each viewing. It's gained, for me, the added allure of being forbidden fruit in this back-to-the-past Republican primary season.
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Has subversion ever been so sweet?
The film opens with a scene of a man and a woman having sex that is clearly not a) sanctioned by marriage; or b) intended to produce a child. Although, from the deep-R worldview the scene probably does benefit from the fact that the woman derives no satisfaction from the encounter and the man is totally in control.
That's the last of the good news, though, for the other side. Men are hardly a factor in the rest of Bridesmaids, much less in control of anything. Indeed, even children barely register and when they do, they're profane and cynical.
And therein lies its dangerous power.
Men are really irrelevant, families are an afterthought. Although the lead character bakes a total of one cupcake and one cake, other than that none of the women in the film cook or clean and, goodness knows, they never darken the door of a church — much less a confessional.
These women are about to lose control and, as The Pointer Sisters sang, "We think they like it."
And that, I believe, is the heart of the matter: Women happily out of control.
When Santorum and the Catholic Church and hordes of others talk about rolling back birth control, about the threat of sex without the possibility of conception, about women staying in the home and out of the trenches, walking to the altar rather than officiating from behind it, they're basically making a bid to regain control.
What a walk down memory lane. It was 20 years ago that TV's fictional Murphy Brown, a 40-year-old recovering alcoholic, hard-nosed investigative reporter and anchor, decided to keep her baby and raise him as a single mother, drawing the ire of then-Vice President Dan Quayle. Bemoaning widespread cultural attacks on family, Quayle said, it doesn't help when there's "a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."
Note that it's OK for a woman to be a single mother if it's not by her choice. Women who carry on after husbands/fathers abandon the family, are killed in war or otherwise die untimely are to be admired. It's that matter of a woman making the choice that is so darn aggravating.
These poor guys, you have to feel for them.
It's hard to keep track of what's right and what's wrong, what's acceptable and what poses a threat to the very essence of our moral fiber. Your heart has to kind of go out to those lonely clerics shunted off to a projection room with a notepad day after day, to Quayle who became a joke, and to Santorum who, after being given a drubbing by women in Michigan, is extolling his mother's earning power in hopes of solving his female problem.
Really, I think they need to take some time for themselves, get away for a few hours. There's this really funny movie that could help them unwind a little....