Hollywood, Narcissism, and Sex

Christians [should] disagree with the sexual ethic that Hollywood teaches, whether implicitly or explicitly.  This un-Christian, unnatural, privatized, and anti-social view of sex is, as Jennifer Morse argues well, narcissistic  (all about self).  In reality, sex is a public thing – meaning it affects more than just a single, solitary person.  It affects society.  Here’s how Morse describes it:

“For the entertainment industry, all sex is a private good.  Anything I choose to do or not do is acceptable.  My sex life is all about me and my desires and has nothing to do with community of any kind.”

“But Hollywood presents us with two, seemingly contradictory positions.  On the one hand, many stars seem to delight in taunting the public: ‘My sex life is private business; how dare you utter a word of criticism.’  On the other hand, this same group of people readily make their sexual activity public.  In addition to the fictionalized sex produced for movies and television, many entertainment figures share the details of their love lives to the public – every marriage and divorce, every affair and rumor.  As the stars age, and their biological clocks start ticking, we are treated to every facet of their pursuit of a baby, whether conceived naturally or artificially.  Yet when some members of the public object either to the content of the films or the tasteless self-display of the stars’ private lives, the entertainment world pretends to be shocked.”

“This apparent contradiction can be resolved with one word: narcissism.  Privacy in the sense that ‘this is my private business’ is really an implicit claim that I am entitled to do whatever I want without having to answer to anyone.  People express this position by saying, ‘Your rules don’t apply to me.  I am entitled to adapt the rules to my personal needs and desires.’  A cynical observer might offer a less charitable interpretation: these people are really saying ‘I am entitled to make up the rules as I go along.’

‘At the same time, the lack of discretion that seems to be the opposite of privacy allows a person to expose himself (literally and figuratively) to an anonymous public: ‘Look at me! Pay attention to me!’  Pathological narcissism, the worship or idealization of self, is the thread common to both of Hollywood’s interpretations of privacy (pp 120-121). ”

Morse goes on to basically say it is no wonder why many of these same celebrities have miserable lives.  Since they have “displayed their sexuality as a commodity, they have diminished and dehumanized themselves” and true intimacy and relationship are thus impossible.   Hollywood’s sexual contradiction – that sex is private but then displaying sex openly – results in wrecked lives.  And so it goes in society.  Sex is not just a private thing!

To read more of Morse’s excellent observations and critiques of America’s messed up sexual ethic, see Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World (Dallas: Spence Publishing Company, 2005).

shane lems

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