Thursday, 5 November 2009

Another pain in the neck

Oh dear, the Daily Mail is on the warpath again, and this time it's brandishing a sharpened stake and a vial of holy water. Always last to the party, the Mail has finally stumbled upon Alan Ball's innovative vampire soap True Blood, after the rest of the country has already watched the show, read the book, bought the DVD and even tried the tie-in juice drink.

In a hilariously old-fashioned article, columnist Olivia Lichtenstein laments this "shocking tale of depravity, explicit sexuality and vile language" which represents "Channel 4's latest attempt to seduce us". She's particularly distressed by the graphic sex scenes which she believes "border on the deviant", without ever spelling out what that means.

But this is the Daily Mail after all, spiritual home of the awkward euphamism. Lichtenstein even describes "a young woman pleasuring a young man" - leaving her readers none-the-wiser. Does this mean she's baking him a Victoria sponge or washing his car?

Having regaled her readers with the premise of the show, Lichtenstein switches her focus to the responsibility of the broadcasters. Apparently, airing the programme after the watershed isn't enough, since "tens of thousands of children under 16 are still watching TV".

According to her slightly skewed logic, a bunch of studies in the US (none of which she references) have shown that teens who see sex on TV are more likely to have sex themselves. However, she doesn't bother to make the point that sexually active kids who have been exposed to sex beforehand, might be better educated on the necessary precautions than those entering into sexual maturity in an educational vaccuum.

We may have a watershed in the UK, but that's not enough for the would-be book burners at the Mail, since content is readily accessible on the internet. And as Lichtenstein points out, parents can't always find the time to monitor their children's media consumption. It's not their fault of course, it's the "breakdown of the traditional family" that makes it so hard to supervise children.

But she has a plan: "I think it's high time we...should all think about how to protect the minds of the young before they become so desensitised that they regard as the norm behaviour which is, essentially, abnormal."

Ultimately, I can't help but feel a little sorry for Lichtenstein. After all, she was clearly born into the wrong era and even makes Mary Whitehouse sound like a party slut. She claims that she's open-minded, and yet she longs for the kind of sexual sobriety that only the Hays Code could love: "I am far from being a prude, but I find myself longing for the days when, in a movie, if a couple were kissing or lying on a bed, they had to keep one foot on the ground." Now that's abnormal.

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