Any long-term readers of this blog will know that I am a great fan of Bill Condon and his masterful work on Gods & Monsters as well as his latest thought-provoking film, Kinsey. My previous posts on this are here, here, and here.
I argued some time ago that Kinsey is a deeply political film that depicts the struggles between science, rationality, and the Englightenment on one hand and purposeful ignorance, blind faith, and Medievalism on the other. Your evening would be well spent watching Condon’s depiction of the trauma and convulsions a society goes through when compelled to rewire itself. Alfred Kinsey’s reports on human sexuality forced that kind of socially systemic rewiring.
This blog was the first to report that WNET, Channel 13 had refused to air Kinsey ads appopriate to public television and consistent with the standards and protocol of other such ads run by the station. Many TWN readers — hundreds I know of and perhaps thousands — wrote to WNET’s public affairs staff to complain about this censorship, which when added to the ABC decision not to air Saving Private Ryan as well as other recent FCC decisions to intimidate broadcasters regarding content amounts to a very disconcerting trend.
Frank Rich of the New York Times ran with this story and has done a great job exposing this WNET/Kinsey travesty and is pushing back those on the right who have scared broadcasters from airing educationally constructive and thought-provoking content.
Frank Rich writes in the coming Sunday Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times:
When they start pushing the panic button over “moral values” at the bluest of TV channels, public broadcasting’s WNET, in the bluest of cities, New York, you know this country has entered a new cultural twilight zone.
Just three weeks after the election, Channel 13 killed a spot for the acclaimed movie “Kinsey,” in which Liam Neeson stars as the pioneering Indiana University sex researcher who first let Americans know that nonmarital sex is a national pastime, that women have orgasms too and that masturbation and homosexuality do not lead to insanity.
At first WNET said it had killed the spot because it was “too commercial and too provocative” – a tough case to make about a routine pseudo-ad interchangeable with all the other pseudo-ads that run on “commercial-free” PBS.
That explanation quickly became inoperative anyway. The “Kinsey” distributor, Fox Searchlight, let the press see an e-mail from a National Public Broadcasting media manager stating that the real problem was “the content of this movie” and “controversial press re: groups speaking out against the movie/subject matter” that might bring “viewer complaints.”
In his wrap-up, Frank Rich draws the important parallel between Kinsey’s struggle to stay true to science and social inquiry and depicts how those hostile to rationality squelched his later work and choked the ecosystem of curiosity and thirst for knowledge that had originally fueled the nation’s excitement about Kinsey’s research.
Rich writes in his last grafs:
While “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” was received with a certain amount of enthusiasm and relief by most Americans in 1948, the atmosphere had changed radically by the time Kinsey published his follow-up volume, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” just five years later.
By 1953 Joe McCarthy was in full throttle, and, as James H. Jones writes in his judicious 1997 Kinsey biography, “ultra-conservative critics would accuse Kinsey of aiding communism by undermining sexual morality and the sanctity of the home.”
Kinsey was an anti-Soviet, anti-New Deal conservative, but that didn’t matter in an America racked by fear. He lost the principal sponsor of his research, the Rockefeller Foundation, and soon found himself being hounded, in part for his sympathetic view of homosexuality, by the ambiguously gay homophobes J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson.
Based on what we’ve seen in just the six weeks since Election Day, the parallels between that war over sex and our own may have only just begun.
While Frank Rich’s article pretty much just takes this important debate out to a wider audience and increases the echo chamber of concern about this censorship trend, this is still just reporting and commentary.
The problems at the FCC still have not been fixed. Ambiguous guidelines still intimidate censors. And anti-intellectual zealots are still gaining ground — but maybe just a little less so as of this Sunday.
— Steve Clemons