What's obscene? Our national obsession with guns, Hugh Hefner and more - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

What’s obscene? Our national obsession with guns, Hugh Hefner and more

A few days ago this esteemed news outlet went on Facebook asked its readers, “Looking for blog ideas in 2013. What would you like to see covered? We’re open.”

That’s a rather open-ended question, but what the hay, I got some ideas. Few, if any, would have any of that “socially redeeming value” that was the benchmark for determining what was or wasn’t obscene — not to say all, or any, of my ideas are obscene … What’s “obscene” anyway?

There are a lot of things I consider obscene, like our national obsession with weapons of mass destruction and their use on our population. Did you notice in Wayne LaPierre’s statement on how to curb the violence that took the lives of 26 people in Connecticut, he never once mentioned trying to keep assault weapons out of the hands of people like the killers who use them? That’s pretty fuckin’ obscene if you ask me.

Remember Playback?

Remember Playback? That was bad.

Christian Slater might consider this to be obscene: his movie Playback was the lowest grossing film of 2012. It only made $267. No wait: $264.  Makes you wanna go out and rent it — if it’s available — just to see how bad it really is. Like when Joe Eszterhas’ thriller-slash-sex-romp-slash-box office bomb Showgirls went nowhere in the theaters. So many people were curious to find out just how bad a film it really is it became one of the all-time best sellers in the video rental market. One other aspect about Showgirls that makes it a popular video rental/purchase: people wanted to see Elizabeth Berkley naked.

You remember Elizabeth Berkley. She was on the TV show “Saved By The Bell.” Every TV-watching pervert worth his box of tissues wanted to see their little TV starlet in her birthday suit. I had no idea who she is since I never watched “Saved By The Bell,” even when Howard Hesseman was on the show. Oh wait, he was on “Head of the Class.” Anyway: Elizabeth Berkley? Who’s she?

So Berkley wanted to break out of that goody-two-shoes, teen star image and what better way to do it than starring in a thriller-slash-sex romp (that eventually bombed at the box office). Two of the reasons Showgirls got blasted by all the critics: too much nudity and sex! Personally, I didn’t think there was enough nudity and sex, considering the really bad story and script for the movie. Better to rent a nice porno that has no pretense of a story line and script, let alone a good script.

Now, with the World Wide Interwebs you can buy Showgirls and watch it in the privacy of your own home, skipping back and forth between the “good” parts. Which brings up another reason it bombed at the box office: many people are embarrassed to stand in line and buy tickets for a thriller-slash-sex romp with an NC-17. There would be your neighbors, with their small children in tow, buying tickets for some Disney cartoon family fare and there you are, buying a ticket to see some thriller-slash-sex romp — alone. “Effin’ pervert.” That’s the price you pay for lusting after Elizabeth Berkley.

We know why you rent showgirls. C'mon, fess up.

We know why you rent showgirls. C’mon, fess up.

Anyway, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film and NC-17 rating, which means they considered it obscene. To date it’s the only film with that rating to get a wide theatrical release. They really would rather push “family” cartoon movies on the public. You know in America it’s all about the children. As a single man with no children, this preoccupation with “the children” throughout our culture occasionally makes me want to vomit. Enough already. I get it: if you get the kids excited the parents will follow — with their wallets and plastic.

Did you notice, no matter how violent and gory a movie is it won’t get an NC-17 rating? Maybe an “R” rating, which means minors have to bring mom or dad to see it, but never an NC-17. Apparently, and this is just my summation, the ignoble “we” have no problem with our children watching idiot teenagers getting gored and diced by crazed killers in hockey masks, but let them see Elizabeth Berkley romp around a stripper pole in the nude? No effin’ way!

Were I a dad and my kid asked if he could go see an R-rated slasher movie, or even a movie based on a bloody video game, I’d say ‘No!” I wouldn’t even let them have the video games. They’d go to a friend’s house to play it, but they’d know it doesn’t have Dad’s approval. “My Dad’s such an A-hole!”

That’s right kid and don’t you forget it.

On the other hand, once he — or she — has reached the age of 14, after they’ve been through Holy Confirmation in the Catholic Church, I’d pull out the remastered Hi Def DVD edition of Showgirls and show it to them. “This is a bad movie kids. Not because of the sex and nudity, which is a good thing once you’re an adult. It’s a bad movie because the story sucks and the script is worse.”

And then I’d ruin the experience for them by pointing out every detail proving my points. But then, if the kid was a son I’d say, “Son, when you start going to strip clubs you better treat those women with respect. Getting naked for you doesn’t make them any less worthy of the respect you’d give anyone else in society.”

To a daughter … hmmm … “Being a nude dancer and/or model are a legal and honorable professions. If you choose to do that, you have my blessing. You can do anything you want, but you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do.”

At this point everyone reading this is thinking, “Yeah, right!”

Especially if they have daughters. I know this is true because I’ve been to strip clubs with dads who swore they’d never let their daughters dance in strip clubs. And then they admit to being hypocrites. I’ve never had the heart to tell them, “Once your daughter is an adult she can pretty much do whatever she wants, whether you approve or not.”

It’s just a guess on my part, but I would bet few, if any, young women have gone to their fathers and said, “Hey Dad! I was thinking of going down to Cheetah’s and becoming a stripper. Do you approve?”

John Goodman got to play in this film. He was the only ugly one.

John Goodman got to play in this film. He was the only ugly one.

Remember that movie, Coyote Ugly? John Goodman played the disapproving dad to the songwriting daughter who got up on the bar in a skimpy outfit and danced. And she wasn’t even liquored up when she did it. It wasn’t even a strip club. But the movie has a happy ending with LeAnn Rimes. Anyway, Goodman’s character (Bill) has what is apparently the kind of attitude most dads have concerning their little girls and dancing on bars.

If you’re a dad and you’re not concerned for your daughter, you’re not much of a dad. But, if she wants to work at Coyote Ugly or Cheetah’s — or Pure Platinum, or the Spearmint Rhino or name one in your town — maybe you ought to just give her a pointer or two, like “don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable.” And, “Let me know what days and times you’re working so I don’t walk in and see you.” That last one is really important.

Which brings to mind that movie starring Demi Moore as a stripper: Striptease. As I recall Demi got a boob job for the part. Now that’s going the distance. Nothing to point out about that one other than Burt Reynolds plays a creepy old man and he does it well.

But this leads to the latest stripper movie: Magic Mike. Okay, by show of sweaty palms, how many of you women saw Magic Mike in the theaters? You know what’s really embarrassing? I can see my niece, who I love dearly, waving her arms frantically to answer this question. She and her friends made a party night of it … I don’t really want to know the details of that. But I wonder: how many women would kick their hubbies/boyfriends to the curb if they could have Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer or Matthew McConaughey to romp around the house with — nekkid as jaybirds?

Nancy, you can put your hands down now … as your mother would say, “Good grief!”

I rented it just to see the Olivia Munn nude scene, which could have been a few minutes longer. Just sayin’.

So anyway, this was heading off into a discussion about what is considered “obscene” in our culture. It sort of detoured, but none of what I wrote about above is what I would call “obscene.”

Gun control is racism? Yeah, right.

Gun control is racism? Yeah, right.

You know what’s really obscene? Marion Hammer, former President of the National Rifle Association, equated calls for gun control to racism. Because people want to ban assault weapons, basically because they look like assault rifles. These guns are being banned for their looks, much like Blacks are discriminated against for the way they look, according to Hammer.

Then there was the Meese Commission — now that was obscene. These right wing nuts, led by former Attorney General Ed Meese jumped in bed with feminists to try and ban adult/porn and (hopefully) put Hugh M. Hefner behind bars. This was back in 1985, the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term as president.

The report was published in 1986 and was supposed to be a counter study to the one published during the Nixon Administration that suggested loosening laws concerning pornography. So Meese got a bunch of Religious Right nuts together with feminists to write a report about how bad pornography is … and within days of the report getting published people who did actual scientific studies on the topic were debunking it.

It also had many of us asking the feminists involved, “what poison pill are you not willing to swallow to achieve your ends if you’re working with the likes of James Dobson who thinks a woman’s place is in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant?”

Hefner marries a 26 year old! Obscene?

Hefner marries a 26 year old! Obscene?

Anyway, the report is mostly forgotten so it wasn’t that obscene and Hugh M. Hefner, founder of the preeminent men’s magazine, Playboy, never went to jail. In fact he just married a woman, Crystal Harris, 60 years his junior. Harris is a San Diego girl by the way. She was Hef’s runaway bride in 2011, if you recall. Many of you might consider that obscene, but not me — unless they release a sex tape. “EEWWWW!” My sentiments exactly.

Actually, this all started because the editors of the Baltimore Post-Examiner asked the question: “Looking for blog ideas in 2013. What would you like to see covered? We’re open.”

Jeez, to be honest, I can’t think of a thing. But I will say this: today, January 4th is my birthday! Yay! I’m celebrating my 35th! We had such a good time on that one I decided if I’m gonna celebrate a birthday that’s the one I choose!

Also, my brother Ken was born on January 4th, exactly eight years later than me. How cool is that? My parents didn’t plan this dual birthday thing, it just happened. We’re Cat’licks, dontchya know, and procreating was a Papal decree. Still is. “No [screwing] unless it’s to have children!” So just by Papal happenstance my brother and I were born on the same day, eight years a part. It’s like having a twin, but not. Ken and I aren’t even that much alike. We have many of the same social and political views, but he’s a responsible adult, I’m not.

Other than that, I’ll have to get back to you editors on that question. I’m just drawing a blank right now.


About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.
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