Friday, December 10, 2004

Che and Kinsey: Revolutionary Understanding

I just saw "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2nd time) and "Kinsey", both great flicks. The former shows what 23 year-old Ernesto Guevara saw traveling across South America in the 1950's that inspired him to become the martyr "Che"; the latter deals with what pioneering sex-researcher Alfred Kinsey saw in his travels across America doing the first scientific investigation of sex. I'm not an expert, but in my confident opinion both couldn't stand to see people suffer, both desperately wanted to help in their respective fashions, and both were savaged in many circles as their flaws were held closer to the light than their virtues.

A couple of observations on a couple of observations:

1) The Motorcycle Diaries

I've met people who liked the story, acting, cinematography... basically everything, and still dislike the movie. Why?

After cutting through some b.s., I narrowed it down to just one scene: on his birthday, a young asthmatic Che leaves his party of fellow doctors to swim across the deadly critter-infested Amazon towards a leper colony to join them in celebration too. People say "I don't believe it" or "it was over the top", etc., despite the fact that it was handled with a tasteful minimum of slo-mo and other Hollywood tricks, and seen by dozens of witnesses who even if exaggerating, probably got the basic story right. It was also consistent with his compassionate evolution as related in the film, and serves as a climax by showing the depth of his commitment to the least fortunate.

So, you tell me: does the true story of dangerous night-swim by an asthmatic future revolutionary across the Amazon to join a group of deformed pariahs, really merit less celebration than a 15-foot jump shot in Hoosiers? A home-run in The Natural? A punch in the head in Raging Bull or Rocky? I'm not trying to disparage the latter films, but merely to suggest some level-headed context when criticizing.

Even Roger Ebert's review, while lauding many elements, ultimately dismissed the movie for not attacking the man he became, a terrible example of political correctness since it also works as a simple road-trip movie with a heart as well. The politics of "Che" can be hotly debated, but as the story of a 23 year-old rich kid nicknamed "Fuser" discovering beauty, poverty and empathy across South America, it's pretty weak to raise the Red flag in a McCarthy-esque way, and worry that telling good stories about (future) communists even if they're true is a bad idea for all those young Che-wear idealists out there.

So go on, dispense with dime-store knee-jerk group-think cynicism, and try to enjoy this movie for what it is. And frankly, try to enjoy more things more often, it's simply a better use of your time.

2) Kinsey

Ahhh sex. An objectively indefinable variable in human relations, and yet one that is constantly evolving as sexual mores and freedoms become more socially acceptable with the passage of time.

Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe we've been freaky for a thousand years. Maybe not. Still, the evidence certainly suggests we have, which upsets a lot of closet-masturbators and bitter souls trapped in loveless marriages seeking revenge on fun itself.

One thesis the movie explores is that religion is the sworn enemy of sex. Today with dueling TIME and Newsweek covers featuring the latest news on Jesus ("btw: nothing new to report" - Jon Stewart), the political climate suggests that even with a solid cast and a truly fascinating story in an era of popular bio-pics, it's barely scraping by at the box office. Are we too embarrassed to see it? Not interested in the most interesting, timeless, and titillating topic in history?

Even religion uses sex, albeit to condemn it, but if you see the film you'll see heartbreaking tales of unusual sexual awakenings discussed from the scientific perspective, and seen as part of a species diversity consistent within "God's kingdom" and found among many animals. And, examples of homosexuality and masturbation existing throught the animal kingdom, from bugs to beasties, while the closer they are biologically to humans the freakier they are (i.e. the bonobo monkey). Imagine what these freakin' pervs would be up to with free will?


A second thesis is that religion does not reflect the will of the people, as the more people clamoured to know (his first book on male sexuality was a huge bestseller,) the more religious groups clamped down on Kinsey's research. I am not anti-religion, and it is clear to me that even in the 1950's religion could have been used as an honest check and balance on Kinsey's work, a means of healing tortured souls who revealed their true selves in realizing they were not alone, and a means of punishing those who hurt others in their pursuit of sexual gratification. In all the hysteria it's too bad it wasn't, and it seems like 50 years later it's still too bad it won't.

Finally, we haven't given a crap about "math" since we watched "A Beautiful Mind" win the 2001 Oscar for Best Picture, but I guarantee you we'll be thinking about sex for a while... possibily several times a day...

in fact...

(excuse me :)


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