City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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By Stefan Kanfer

The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage.

Eye on the News

Stefan Kanfer
Wrong Instinct
The viewers made it bomb?
5 April 2006

The reviews of Basic Instinct 2 were devastating. “A disaster of the highest, or perhaps the lowest, order . . . but just watching trash like this is degrading,” the New York Times pronounced. “Absurdly overheated and unforgivably dull,” the Boston Globe added. “Sharon Stone has been falling from grace for about a decade now, and here, with her great vanity project, she hits the ground with an inglorious thud,” Filmcritic.com concluded.

But in Hollywood, the fault can never be that of the film makers. It must always rest somewhere else. Thus, after the film bombed at the box office last week, players of the Celluloid City Blame Game had to come up with the reason why. It could not have been their vulgarity, their avarice, their ineptitude. No; the culpability had to lie elsewhere. And behold! they finally
located it.

Paul Verhoeven, director of the first Basic Instinct, made in 1992, avers that politics in the U.S. of A. have taken the fun out of eros. Indeed, insists the Dutch native, “anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States. Look at the people at the top. We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values.” Scenarist Nicholas Meyer (Fatal Attraction; The Human Stain) agrees. “We’re in a big puritanical mode. Now it’s like the McCarthy era, except it’s not ‘Are you a communist?’ but have you ever put sex in a movie?”

On which planet do these gentlemen live? It is difficult to determine from their remarks. In an epoch when XXX rated videos are available at the local DVD store, when the Internet contains countless pornographic sites, when surveys show that more Americans hear suggestive language than ever before, when celebrities promote oral sex for teenagers, when nudity and semi-nudity are a part of prime time programming, it is impossible to reconcile the opinions of Messrs. Verhoeven and Meyer with the facts of life.

Still, we must congratulate them for their originality. It used to be fashionable to hold the Jews responsible for everything that went wrong. Blaming Christianity is a new one.

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