Wednesday, 25 September 2013

No Sex (Outside of a Soundproofed Box) Please, We're British!

Today Channel Four announced their groundbreaking new show, Sex Box, in which two grown adults copulate inside a sealed box, whilst celebrities and critics who wouldn't even make the subs bench for Newsnight Review commentate on proceedings.  I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that this is officially the moment when humankind has made too much television.  The alleged motivation about making this program is to coldly, cooly and clinically analyse the sexual act in order to demystify it and rescue it from the evil clutches of pornography.  But I think that description is the result of Channel Four execs deciding to lie to us even more than when they tried to persuade us that Hollyoaks Later was a gritty drama.

From an obviously scientific point of view, the sex on display is going to tell us absolutely zero about the sexual habits of modern Britain, as it will be observed by a studio audience. Now I like to count myself as quite the exhibitionist, but I have never had sex in front of a paying audience.  Also, what are the audience meant to be doing when the act is going on? Are they meant to sit there quietly twiddling their thumbs?  Will they each be given a mug and piece of wallpapered plastering to listen through, so they can enjoy the grunts and groans of participants?  Or will there be some studio lacky with cue cards - an audience reaction fluffer -   to direct their reactions?  One can imagine a room full of lollygagging, gawking morons happily applauding, cheering, whooping and groaning at the sexual act, directed by a smug studio lizard, conducting their responses like a licentious Herbert von Karajan.  Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe the audience will be like staid, impartial observers at an 18th century operating theatre, stroking their beards and making sage comments to each other.  Either way, it's a strange enough personality type who decides to sit in the audience of game shows, talk shows and 'social experiments'.  Hell, I have a hard enough time watching the people who willingly let themselves into the Top Gear compound without wanting to unleash automotive Armageddon whenever I hit the motorways, so I can only imagine the despairing hatred I'll have for the morons who think its an enriching night out to watch some other humans make the beast with two backs, egged on by all the beasts with two faces who produce TV shows.  

Meanwhile on the other side of the sealed, soundproofed wall, what on earth is the experience going to be like for the couple doing the pelvis fandango?  In my experience there are a myriad of different types of sex, and I'm not talking about positions.  There's "We-both-know-we're-going-to-do-it birthday/anniversarry sex", "Nothings-on-telly-so-we-might-as-well sex", "Just-got-out-the-shower-and-can't-help-ourselves sex", "Quick-before-you're-parents-get-home sex" and the ever popular "Oh-was-that-it? sex."  At least if the man loses his erection he will be justified in using the "this doesn't usually happen to me" excuse.  "Don't worry darling," his lover can reply "we don't normally have sex preceded by a warm-up man and shot from fifteen different angles." 

Once the dreadful/shameful/joyous/revelatory/perfunctory/shocking (delete as applicable) act has been committed, what then?  Obviously that's when Mariella and her panel of experts are going to quiz the sexer and the sexee, as though they were presenting an evening edited highlights show on YouPorn.  Can we not just go the whole hog and have Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher dissecting the play-by-play of the carnal act in super-slow motion and high definition, enthusiastically highlighting the couple's technical shortcomings and tactical naivete.  As Premiership footballers they're as likely as anyone else to be experts on having sex in front of a watching audience.  I'd like to hope that, after their exertions, the sextestants will be allowed to enjoy a relaxing post-coital cigarette.  Except that would be far too offensive and damaging to broadcast.  Instead, I imagine the woman will relish giving a blow-by-(not-actually-willing-to)-blow account whilst her hubby drools onto her shoulder.      

It's the disingenuous idiocy of the programming that frustrates me.  Just as the mass human sacrifice that is Big Brother was allowed onto our TV screens under the illusion of social experiment, so this pointless nonsense is going to be broadcast as some sort of public service.  The bare fact is that this show isn't reclaiming sex from pornography any more than stage fighting reclaims violence from domestic abusers.  It's taking a particular action and putting it in a completely different context.  I suppose it is disinfecting and domesticating sex from the world of pornography, but then it is missing a whole bunch of different points.  Is there too much pornography available? Almost certainly.  Is it worryingly easy to access? Yes again.  Is it altering the expectations of sex that children (and adults) have? Absolutely. And is letting three couples pork each other (or Quorn, if they're vegetarians) silly live at ten pm, followed by a chat on the comfy sofas of TV-land going to help? Not in any way.

We need to have conversations with our kids, our friends, our sexual partners about what we should and shouldn't expect from sex and how we should consume it.  This program is simultaneously a lobotomised and sanitised approach to sex.  I suppose it is too much of me to expect the actual act to be broadcast, but there is something peculiarly British about televising two people shagging, but only behind a screen, in a soundproof booth.  It's going to take a very restrained sound engineer not to play the Benny Hill theme tune over the top of the whole charade.

Now we've let this onto our televisions, we have to ask what's going to come next?  I don't want to sound like a Daily Mail prude, but some of the fun of sex is working out what does and doesn't work for you and your lover together. I imagine in the days before steamy HBO sex scenes people just had to get out their slide-rules and protractors and fastidiously apply them their stolen copy of Razzle in order to work out what the correct approach was in the bedroom.  Now we have movies, TV shows and even ex-child popstars suggesting ways to get our rocks off.  What no-one wants to hear after a particularly successful session of acrobatic fluid-transfer is the exchange: "Wow, where did you learn to do THAT?", "Oh, on a roundtable discussion group with Judy Finnegan."  I'm all for sex education when it comes to contraception and good health, all for knowing the biological and anatomic mechanics, but when it actually comes to the practice of sex, I think trial and error with consenting adults is still the best way to go, not passively watching it on the gogglebox.

We do need to talk about this more, but not on bullshit Channel Four programs.  What else is the leading purveyor of pseudo-psychology programs going to parade in a thinly-veiled excuse to get ratings?  Murder Cage with Davina McCall: three couples enter a sealed room, have an argument and one member bludgeons the other to death with a blunt instrument so we can really get to grips with the dynamics of domestic abuse.  Drug Overdose: Smacktalk, Romanian Premier League Bear-Bating, Paedophilia: Live.  The gate is now open and I will never be shocked again at what dystopian horseshit makes it on to our TV screens, masquerading as mature broadcasting.  Turn on, tune in and welcome to the Colosseum. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Viva La Paddington

Sources from Hollywood have announced that Colin Firth is to play the iconic part of Paddington Bear in a new biographical movie. 

Although he found fame as the star of a series of children's books, Paddington's real story began in the 1930s when he came to Britain as a political dissident. The young bear was cast out from Peruvian political life for his controvertial polemics against the left-wing regime in power.  The forward-thinking Paddington favoured a more capitalist, marmalade-based system, and it was this radical view, as well as his rumoured paramilitary action, that led to him being exiled from his homeland.  Any child brought up in the 1960s will fondly remember Paddington in his signature duffel coat, carrying a battered travel case, but that was the image the bear decided to give himself when he finally ended his career in politics.  On his arrival to these shores - not at the eponymous train station, but under cover of darkness at Brize Norton air base - Paddington, or Paducho to give him his original name, was dressed in rebel military fatigues, a shaggy beard and a fiercly ironed beret.  It is this bear that Firth hopes to get to the bottom of.

"I don't really have much time for Paddington's later work, essentially selling out to the mass British market in order to ensure his comfort in later year.  It is the revolutionary capitalist, who fought against prevailing tide of Marxist alpacas that dictated much of Peruvian thought, that I really want to sink my teeth into." said Firth in a E!Weekly interview.

There are already rumours of dissatisfaction from the Bear estate as to the content of this biopic.  Whilst the studio insist that it will paint him in a good light, there are suggestions that some scenes might depict the no-hold barred torture chamber Paddington is alleged to have run, with his band of outlaws, the Condimentatos.  Leaked documents from the Peruvian archives have painted a hideous picture of Paddington force-feeding a variety of preserves to captured opponents until they recanted their Marxism and followed his path.  Chillingly, some of these papers even have scraps of gooseberry jam spattered on them.  Paddington has always fiercely denied these accusations, insisting that he was always focused on stimulating change via whimsical japes and enigmatic wrinkles of his nose, rather than jelly-boarding that he is accused of.

The seven hour epic is due to start filming next month, with studio bosses also confirming Benicio del Torro as Paddington's enigmatic and inspirational Aunt Lucy and Meryl Streep as all four members of the Brown family who helped Paddington acclimatise to his new life in Britain.  The movie is already being touted as a potential Oscar botherer in 2015, alongside documentary Noddy: Tantrums and Tiaras and the feline Bond adaptation Bagpussy.