Last night I watched the SAG awards. I had not seen any of the movies, but I did have something to go on. It is a personal essay one of our Bandon Writers shared with us last week. Anne Mattingly is a long-term member of the Screen Actors Guild, American Mensa Society, and the Bandon Writers.
Am I Alone Here?
by Anne Mattingly
When did it become acceptable to watch people micturate, vomit and defecate on screen? Recently, I watched two of the most highly rated films of the season, Slumlord Millionaire and The Reader. In the former there was a lengthy scene of a young boy defecating then jumping into a pool of feces. In the latter, we saw the most graphic course of vomiting ever filmed. I find these bodily functions to be disgusting and difficult to watch.
I understand that films today are meant to be more realistic than ever before. Would the films be lessened in verisimilitude if the lead up to the act of vomiting were captured but not actually seen? Could we not be watching the sick boy's back? Or perhaps we could cut away to the empty street? As for the little Indian boy in the public toilet, could there not have been someway to give us the information without shoving our faces in the feces?
Among my favorite films are Cavalcade, Citizen Kane, and Gone with the Wind. Does anyone complain that these films were lacking because we were not treated to human evacuations? Did we think Kane less of a man because we did not watch him urinate? When Scarlett swore she would never go hungry again would you have preferred to watch her in the midst of the drive heaves which so often accompany starvation? In Cavalcade, when the sons grew up in late 19th century England, would it have improved the story if we'd have seen them sitting on chamber pots then observing the servants dropping the contents into the gutters?
The heroes, villains, and supporting casts of films need only make us believe they are who they are meant to be. They have many tools to accomplish this. They have their voices, their expressions, their make-up, their talent in breathing life into the words of the screenplay. The director has music and editing to add to his vision. Can we not merely assume that the characters micturate, defecate, and, on occasion, vomit? Do we really need to see it? ( February 17, 2009)