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November 19, 2011

Romance, Sex, Love & Marriage: Strategic Topics Seductively Contributing to Diversity Education?

When you hold hands, situate yourself for a kiss with a potential lover that doesn’t happen though both want it, badly; when you actually do kiss, or don’t allow foreplay to become an afterthought; or actually put some thought into the style of love making that is apropos this coming Friday as opposed to last Sunday; do we really consider any and/or all those intimate gestures related to notions of diversity & social justice? How so? To what varying degrees and relative to what dimensions/themes of diversity are any of these actions?


Am I saying that even when a couple decides to chat about their day or opt for a not so silent massage as opposed to silent ones there may be some social justice overtones? Well, in the film “Your Friends and Neighbors,” Ben Stiller while in the throes of passion is comfortable verbalizing his enjoyment to his partner (portrayed by Catherine Keener) when she tells him to just “shut up” and attempt to feel it instead of narrating it. How might this relate to ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class and/or privilege? I could situate all that moment relative to all the aforementioned diversity dimensions, can you?

I have had enough students who have taken this course that I have no doubt they appreciate how I have packaged the RSLM course as a SUNY Plattsburgh diversity course? Well, on so many levels the class explores the same basic themes that are covered in the Examining Diversity through Film course (ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, and privilege) I developed with Deb Light and co-teach. In RSLM we can’t avoid getting titillated while watching Billy Bob Thornton assisting Halle Berry in escaping the anguish visited upon her from the unconventional loss of her husband/son. Yes, as humans it is hard to avoid your anatomical humanity reminding you that you more than like watching Wei Tang (portraying the complex character Wang Chia Chi aka Mak Tai Tai) use her covert feminine wiles to seduce the Japanese collaborator (Mr. Yee) in Lust – Caution. More so, you can’t deny that you feel it when the two are portraying a level of intimacy that you realize director Ang Lee may have crossed over into pornography. Watching Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, married at the time in real life, escape their reel life guilt from flirting at a party by sharing a joint is intriguing. However, combine that with Stanley Kubrick as the director, the Chris Isaac background song “ “Baby did a Bad Bad Thing,” and some erotically photographed moments of Kidman and Cruise and the movie becomes secondary to your desire for intimate companionship. Nonetheless, the examination of diversity within this film and across all these themes is/can be always present, especially if you learn to look beyond the one dimensional lens most people are accustomed to using.

So, what are your thoughts on how elements of diversity are omnipresent in most films, even those that feature the traditional stories of romantic passion, romantic infidelity, hot-sweaty-insatiable sensuality, loving-enduring marital bliss or some other relational twist you want to frame. What dimensions of diversity are present in the following films and how do they interplay with Romance, Sex, Love, and Marriage? Oh, and please stay away from the obvious (i.e. gender) in your contributions when articulating aspects of romantic trysts or tete-a-tetes, unless you are going to creatively demonstrate your insights into some aspect of the subject matter that most would have missed.

Love Jones; Casablanca; Before Sunrise; A Lot Like Love; Bound; Sin City; Baby Boy; Lust-Caution; She’s Got to Have It; The Matrix; U-Turn; Eyes Wide Shut; Mo Betta Blues; Y Tu Mama Tambien; Feeling Minnesota; Nine Lives; Secretary; Sex and Lucia; He’s Just Not That Into You; (500) Days of Summer; Your Friends & Neighbors; American Gigolo; Disappearing Acts; Vicki Cristina Barcelona; Broke Back Mountain, Sex, Lies, and Videotapes; Swingers; Two Lovers; The Human Stain; Storytelling; The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

For example, in Casablanca, what did or could Bogart have meant when he replied to someone checking his bystander status with the statement, “I stick my neck out for no one…” Was his statement more easily creatively engaged because he owned a saloon? Or Bogart’s statement hinting at some level of implied intimacy when he tells Bergman’s husband, Paul Henreid (portraying Victor Laslo) that “she tried everything to convince me, and I let her…”
If you are creative enough to unpack Kidman’s assertion in “Eyes Wide Shut” that her husband “Tom Cruise” was too sure of himself and her, which then led to her revelation of a fantasy, please do so. How is the statement she made not classist or privileged, but could be construed as ableist or heterosexist? Or, how Bogart’s classic line “ “the problems of 3 people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” can be interpreted quite broadly and definitely within a world far too often at war with itself.

Why is it important to incorporate elements of diversity & social justice in a class about RSLM? What would happen if the class was taught from/through a monolithic lens?

Those of you who choose to respond please go where you feel you must, but if you have any insights into how any of the films listed above can advance one’s knowledge of diversity & social justice, speak now, or forever hold your piece, of knowledge that is…