Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lazy Sunday #290: The Double Standard

I spent the first 15 years of my career as an actor. Worked a lot. Got to be in a ton of good shows. It was financially, creatively and personally rewarding.

But if I was starting out today, I’m not sure I’d approach the craft with the same relish I once did. In fact, given the way the world seems to work these days, I’m not sure I’d have chosen the profession in the first place.

It’s pretty clear we live in an era of great television. Series populated by complex and complicated characters, the kind of roles that require consummate skill and immense talent, parts any self-respecting actor hungers to play.

But every now and then I’m stopped short by what those actors are additionally required to do while assaying those roles. I’m talking, of course about all the nudity and simulated sex that permeates the current crop of great shows.

“Game of Thrones”, “True Blood”, “Boardwalk Empire”, “Hung”, “Girls” –- they all demand their leads to do a whole lot more than make you believe in their characters.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I did my share of nude scenes and sex scenes and didn’t have a problem with that. I’m not Gay, but I also played my share of Gay characters. But there was always a line. Mostly proscribed by network or studio censors –- but often drawn by the artists involved, perhaps best described as pushing the envelope while not compromising our own moral code.

Though I haven’t acted in years, I still find myself reading scripts and processing them from the point of view of how I’d have approached the characters. And while watching a show, I sometimes do so from an angle that assesses the actor’s choices with those that I might have made.

And quite often, I come up wondering, “Would I have been able to do that?” Could I have played a sex scene that explicit? Could I have gotten it on with a guy on set if the script required it? Would I have been able to remain on set while an actress was treated in the manner many are treated?

Often, my answer is “No”.

And I get the same answer when I ask myself if I could have written a scene or produced a series requiring such things of my cast.

Try as I may, I can’t imagine these roles being played by Olivier, Bogart, DeNiro, Nicholson, or Pacino – let alone by Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas.

It makes me wonder how much talent there might be sitting on the sidelines, their creative power untapped, just so we can get a little more titillation from our ground-breaking dramas.

You see. Hard as it may be for some people to believe, actors are not that different from anybody else. They get through life pretty much the same way we all do. Go home to their families at the end of a hard day. Try to bring up their kids to be decent and contributing members of society.

And sometimes actors have to choose between paying the rent and being in the vampire orgy scene their family and neighbors settle down to watch on a Sunday night –- a scene their children and their friends will eventually Bit torrent.

Much is made about the double standard that exists between what you can “get away with” on cable and the rules which must be observed by the networks.

Yet something can still be said for the creative necessity of not being able to fall back on the “F” word or suggest what can’t be shown.

And after watching this season’s “Money Shot” episode of “Girls”, I also wonder if there’s a developing double standard when it comes to drawing the line between what’s Art and what’s just Porn.

That’s the subject of this week’s first video.

The second addresses another double standard even the cable companies seem afraid of embracing. Perhaps its the hill the next generation of actors will have to climb.

And how many with talent will choose to do something else instead…

Enjoy Your Sunday.


1 comment:

rick mcginnis said...

I get the first video's point - I often wonder about it myself as I watch these shows. I also wonder just why so many young actresses have a lesbian scene or three rattling around their filmographies while so few male actors do. Something's at work here, and it often just seems to boil down to the average Hollywood producer's inclinations more than aesthetics or character or story arc.

The second video, however, makes no sense to me at all, except as it tries to make some kind of gender politics point. There are thousands of magazines featuring pictures of naked women that men buy, and only a tiny handful featuring naked men that you could plausibly say are bought by women. Realistically, almost none.

I just don't think women process sexuality the same as men, and that they're as eager to see parts onscreen as men are - almost to a genetic imperative. I just don't see a lot of women ogling men's packages as lustily as men stare - without trying to be obvious - at boobs, asses and legs. And I think that if women were so eager to see dicks onscreen, HBO's marketing department would have sussed this out long ago and made quality cable a rama-lama-ding-dong.

The second video just seems to be striving to make some forced, third wave sex positive feminist point by pretending something is true that isn't. I'm sure it must be tiresome for straight women to see all those naked females paraded in front of them, but I don't think that equal time would be somehow as satisfying as, perhaps, a few more juicy, even salacious female roles.

The Fifty Shades novels weren't a hit because they glorified male flesh; they were a hit because they explored (in dreadful prose, mind you) aspects of relationships that don't get much airtime.

Also, they didn't come with pictures.