Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Calling Dr. Kinsey

Saw the movie Kinsey this past weekend. Certain aspects of it (the occasionally awkward/stilted dialogue, for instance) bugged me a teensy bit, but for the most part I liked it, particularly for the way it normalizes the whole subject of human sexuality. Dr. Kinsey is presented as this totally non-judgmental researcher, admittedly a little obsessive in his devotion to his chosen subject (but then what scholar isn't?), fascinated by the wide range of activities that turn people on and open-minded about all of them. There's this charming matter-of-factness to his relationships with his wife and kids, and pretty much everyone else he meets. Excellent cast, starting with Liam Neeson as the title character, as well as John Lithgow as his fundamentalist, body-phobic dad, and especially Laura Linney as his startlingly game wife. (Oh, and you get to see Peter Sarsgard's ding-dong, which had not previously been a priority of mine, but which I found quite enjoyable.)

I kept thinking of Boogie Nights and The People vs. Larry Flynt, with which Kinsey forms a mini-genre: films in which the characters' shared preoccupation with sex creates some interesting alternative family units. Rather than sensationalizing the subject, they're warm-and-fuzzy movies; in fact, I'd even go so far as to call Kinsey the first sex-based tearjerker I've seen, particularly in a fantastic cameo by Lynn Redgrave right near the end of the movie, playing a woman who sees her personal options as infinitely broader as a result of Kinsey's contributions to the field.

The site I linked to above is worth checking out, not so much for the usual movie-promo stuff as for such interesting features as a chance to place yourself on Kinsey's 0-6 scale (I went with a 5) and a list of myths about the good doctor's research. It strikes me that there's a common thread between what he was doing 50 years ago and what various bloggers are up to nowadays: making public what was once secret, with the intention of letting people know they're not alone in their desires. I know there will always be folks who think that's a bad idea, but I'm not one of them.

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