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Reeler Pinch Hitter: Evan Shapiro, IFC

[Note: Reeler editor S.T. VanAirsdale is taking some time off, but The Reeler is in the good hands of trusted friends and colleagues. Evan Shapiro is the executive vice president and general manager of IFC.]

People are telling me I'm obsessed with sex.

This obsession, they say, is reflected in my work at IFC, which at different times has explored censorship and sexuality (This Film Is Not Yet Rated and Indie Sex); lewd, lascivious sex with clowns and full frontal male nudity (The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman and The Business) and sexual trysts with midgets (R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet, whose continuation this fall on The Reeler announced last month).

Screen test: Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley in the explicit opus 9 Songs, featured in IFC's miniseries Indie Sex (Photo: Tartan Films)

I admit it; I am very interested in sex. However, I'm no more obsessed with sex than the average, "red-blooded" American Man (gay or straight). What I am obsessed with are the myriad sexual hang-ups ingrained in American society and how they continue to affect and constrain our culture. I don't mean private penchants or fetishes practiced behind closed doors by everyday consenting citizens. I mean the sexual neuroses of those in positions of authority who constantly tell us that our own predilections are not "normal" or "acceptable." These hang-ups are both interesting and important, because they who possess them often seem hellbent on inflicting them on the rest of us. Fact is, America is far more obsessed with sex than I am. By exploring sexuality, and exposing society's sexual hang-ups, we've tried -- in our way -- to de-stigmatize sex in all its forms, and help treat America's collective phobia.

Indie Sex -- a four-part IFC documentary from Lesli Klainberg and Lisa Ades airing tonight through Saturday at midnight -- is eye-opening on many levels. The films explore the long, stormy relationship between film and sex, from the first black-and-white stag films to envelope-pushing works such as Anatomy of Hell, Kissed, 9 Songs and Shortbus. Klainberg and Ades show how, by challenging the conventional mores of their time, filmmakers can help change society. It's remarkable now, for example, to think that the 1969 Oscar-winner Midnight Cowboy and 1972 nominee Last Tango In Paris were rated X when first released. They seem almost tame today, despite Brando's butter fixation.

The production process of Indie Sex was a whole new sexual awakening for me. In the past few months, I have had more conversations about fellatio than Monica Lewinsky. (It's interesting to note here that while Microsoft Word alerts you that you have misspelled fellatio, it refuses to offer the correct spelling -- so pervasive is our national sexual neurosis.)

However, when I brought Trapped in the Closet into the office to screen it for my bosses, people at the company suggested that I seek counseling.

Call me crazy (or obsessed), I find something in Trapped that makes it a natural next step in this experiment. While it might not be on the scale of Midnight Cowboy, in its own iconoclastic, pop-culture way, Trapped in the Closet challenges the traditional mores and sexual stereotypes of the current climate as boldly -- and hysterically -- as many films coming out of Hollywood or the indie movement. The cheating women, the closeted preacher, the pop star hiding in the closet, the adulterous midget with a paternity problem -- Kelly makes a case to carry the mantle of John Waters into the new millennium. You may laugh, but you can't look away.

OK, so maybe I am obsessed. I can't help it. Sex is a complicated, fascinating, messy, wonderful, hysterical, uniquely human experience that deserves -- nay, demands -- to be examined, even celebrated -- and I'll be damned if I'm going to let the hang-ups of the few spoil the fun for the rest of us. It's the media's role to help further these types of conversations. IFC takes that role very seriously -- even though we have a smile on our face while we're doing it (pun intended).

Admit it, we're all interested in sex. It's time to come out of the closet.

Posted at August 2, 2007 1:39 AM

Comments (2)

Well, sure - but do you have "cunninglingus" as one of your Technorati tags? (Which, according to Microsoft Word - I just tested it now - is apparently wrong no matter how you spell it.)

Anyway, obsession duly noted and much appreciated!

I do, actually. In fact, the discussions on that topic during the production of Indie Sex were quite lively. The curious thing is why most studios and the mpaa consider oral sex on a woman to BE extreme. And yet...

We examine that very subject - and said action takes place quite liberally - in this evening's episode - Extremes.



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