Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Full Frontal Stereotyping

Helen Hunt, nominated for a 2013 Oscar as Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Have you seen the movie “The Sessions?”  It stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt in a story about a sexual surrogate treating a man paralyzed by polio.

What’s the headline that will get all the press in the run-up to the Academy Awards?

The film is based on the quest of Mark O’Brien (played by Mr. Hawkes) to enjoy sexual activity even though unable to move his body from the neck down.  While Mr. O’Brien cannot move his limbs, he still has feeling - where it counts.

The movie is groundbreaking from the standpoint of bringing sexuality to the big screen in a novel fashion.  It also has an aspect that will be less talked about: All the male characters are negative stereotypes.

You sense this from the first encounter Mark has with his parish priest (played by William H. Macy).  Mr. Macy brings exceptional depth to the role, but the priest is still a caricature.  The priest – wait for it – has difficulty relating to his parishioners.

Where have we seen that before?

How about Helen Hunt?  Her character (Cheryl) has a family, and the son is a brat.  Her husband, not to be outdone, is self-absorbed and pretentious.  Even the male clerk where the treatment sessions take place is a stereotype.  Like Norman Bates, this motel clerk is thoroughly creepy and inappropriate.

It causes one to wonder about Writer and Director Ben Lewin.  What is he trying to do?

We must pay tribute to the courage of Helen Hunt and to the creativity of the filmmakers in bringing this story to the American conscience.  But why portray male figures in such a fashion?  Why make every male in “The Sessions” - except perhaps Terry the cat - a negative stereotype?

Maybe this is what our culture expects.  We are accustomed to seeing Republicans portrayed in caricature. Cartoons of Republicans depict them as obnoxious, white, overweight males.  Maybe now’s the time human beings of the male gender must be portrayed as dysfunctional.

If you have the opportunity to see the movie and discuss it with friends, see how many are enthralled by the “courage” displayed in the film.

Also see if anyone notices that all the men are jerks.

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