By Desmond Ovbiagele
I had heard a lot about the film. Renowned Oscar-winning director. Extremely popular male lead, a global superstar in the industry who had apparently given yet another career-defining performance.
I had also heard a lot about the somewhat explicit nature of several scenes in the film which had caused consternation in some quarters. But then, how bad could they be, given what we are already accustomed to seeing sex-wise and violence-wise sprinkled liberally in both movies and on TV these days?
Nothing I couldn’t handle (if required to), was my conclusion. And after all, these were two titans of the global film industry who had collaborated on a film that had racked up multiple award nominations by the most prestigious festivals around the world. With reputations to protect. Clearly they were not in the business of committing professional suicide.
So when the opportunity arose on an idle afternoon, I wandered into a cinema theatre, bought a ticket, and settled down to view this acclaimed spectacle. And a spectacle it truly was – in the worst sense of the word.
Because it soon became apparent that this Oscar-winning director had either lost confidence in his ability to tell a compelling story and command his audience’s attention without resorting to soiled thrills, or else he was on a mission to wilfully corrupt and pollute the minds of the unsuspecting public and create a new benchmark for cinematic immorality for his worshipful peers to aspire to, with the extremely charismatic and talented actor as his more-than-enthusiastic partner in crime.
I opine it was the latter. Because scene after scene was a chest-thumping—but skilfully constructed —proclamation of sexual depravity, drug abuse, and ceaseless profanity, interrupted only occasionally by token sequences designed to serve as the far less compelling narrative thread of the film.
It was impossible not to long for a vigorous shower immediately after leaving the theatre—which for me was 45 minutes or thereabouts into the movie after it was clear that the eventual plot resolution (however imaginatively conceived) was never going to justify the considerable psychological and spiritual rehabilitation required after the brutal assault of this ‘artistic’ endeavour might have run its full course.
What I found difficult to digest was that these highly reputable filmmakers would have the effrontery (diplomatically referred to as being ‘fearless’ in the world of political correctness) to present what amounted to soft-porn to a mainstream audience in the name of art.
But they obviously knew far more about the tolerance levels of today’s viewing public than I do, judging by its hugely profitable outing at the box office (generating revenues more than 3 times its mega-budget from US cinemas alone despite its restrictive adult rating) as well as the already-mentioned critical recognition.
But digest it I had to. Because it is very clear that the world is changing (inspired by movies such as these, as well as the several copycats that will soon and surely follow). In this particular area, not necessarily for the better. And it will take a deliberate act of the will not to change along with it.
After all, it’s no secret that sexually explicit and ultra violent content have been making steady inroads into mainstream television programming. Some of the most critically acclaimed and award winning TV series now feature images that would historically have attracted immediate censure from the industry watchdogs.
But by ingeniously weaving these controversial scenes into the fabric of indisputably inventive narratives with compelling characterizations and superlative production values, the content producers have managed to slip through the instinctive defences of their chosen audience and establish a base from which to slowly chip away at the erected walls of moral resistance.
Case in point is a highly popular TV series that even the president of a major world power has openly expressed admiration for. The following is a brief commentary from the secular media about it:
(The series) has obtained an exceptionally broad and active international fan base . It received widespread acclaim by critics, although its use of nudity and violence has caused controversy.
The series has won numerous awards and nominations, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series in all three seasons, a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Television Series — Drama , a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in Long Form, and a Peabody Award .
The amount of sex and nudity shown on (the series), especially in scenes that are incidental to the plot, has been the focus of much of the criticism aimed at the series. (One of the actors) likened the series’s frequent explicit scenes to “German porn from the 1970s”. (A respected critic) wrote that while the first season was replete with light-hearted “sexposition “,the second season appeared to focus on distasteful, exploitative and dehumanizing sex with little informational content.
This is an example of just one of several equally acclaimed TV series that rule the global airwaves. Several of them have already found their way into local satellite programming in Nigeria although I cannot confirm at this time whether the specific example used is among them.
It is redundant to point out that judging by the description provided above, their societal impact cannot logically be positive. On the contrary, it is realistic to expect that such will simply open up the minds of some vulnerable viewers to contemplate the simulation of actions they would not have otherwise imagined.
In a world in which barriers to information and communication are constantly being broken down with breathtaking rapidity, societies must compulsorily be proactive in defending themselves against the incursion of corruptive influences alien to their intrinsic values.
A number of countries took decisive action to either outrightly ban or severely restrict the exhibition of the movie mentioned above. I was highly impressed to learn from informal sources that the responsible agency in this country had done the same.
May its unexpected but commendable resolve in this area not only continue but also expand to TV programming and music (if possible). We have enough seemingly intractable issues in our country to deal with, without adding problems that can be conveniently avoided.
As a wise man once said: ‘The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.’