On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sex sells. We know that, and for a long time we've seen the subject become an integral part of every TV show, movie, magazine ad and billboard. But this past week I noticed sex was used in two different TV series, House and Glee, both excellent shows; yet there was a marked difference in the presentation of the subject in each.

Let's start with Glee. The show itself is hilariously over the top, yet the writers shrewdly comment on many aspects of high school life, examining student insecurities and difficulties. One of the strongest story lines follows a male student who has been trying to hide being gay (and, being deliciously flamboyant, failing miserably). After trying to show his macho father that he can be a football hero, he finally and painfully comes out, whereupon the father gently tells the boy he has always known, and has always loved him. The father admits it's not what he would have chosen for his son, but only wants him to be happy, and is glad the boy told him. It's an honest moment, and I thought the scene touching and realistic, sensitive without being cloying, indicative of a parent's true love and a child's ability to finally recognize and accept himself for who he is.

Then we move on to House, the season opener in which House is in a mental hospital following his drug rehab. He meets a woman visiting her sister-in-law, and we have a quick, gratuitous scene in which the pair sneak into a dark room and have quick, hot sex in a chair. I got the idea that the scene is supposed to show House's growth as a human being in his new ability to connect with others, but frankly I was insulted by the implication that sex is the only way to true connection between people. The scene was unnecessary and actually diminishes his later connection with other residents of the hospital and his ultimate "salvation." Sorry, guys, the scene offered no more insight than previous suggestions of House's liaisons with prostitutes, and was obviously inserted as pure titillation. Pity--I've always enjoyed the clever play of relationships in the show, and I hope that will continue through the coming season, leaving this opening as just one of those "shocker" episodes designed to hook people in. As it is, the House season opener left me feeling like I'd just had a meal of cotton candy--slightly empty and somewhat nauseated.

Sex has become the suggested carrot for everyone's journey, and I don't buy it. True intimacy is more than a physical connection, and life is more than hookups. If TV writers were all as sensitive and insightful as the group from Glee, TV shows would all be richer and truer, and the viewing experience much more satisfying.

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