I just finished reading Gods in America by Neil Gaimon. Disappointing. I was tempted to stop reading at several points but persevered because I was sort of interested to see where he’d take us in the end. A very bizarre premise to say the least. Silly is perhaps the better word. But what struck me the most was the same thing that struck me when I read Haruki Murakami’s IQ84: the detailed description of the sexual acts that occur from time to time, descriptions that it would not be inaccurate to call pornographic. But it’s art of course, so what the heck.
The image that has stayed with me for the past few decades is a graph from high school chemistry of the freezing points of various substances. You can take it lower, and lower, but as Lord Kelvin discovered, you cannot go beyond -273.15 Celsius or -459.67 F. That is absolute zero—you can’t get any colder than that. There is a comparable graph for shock value. We have a contest going on that began decades ago, a contest to see how far we have to go to shock people. There are two sub-graphs: sex and violence, but let’s just talk about sex. It used to be that “a glimpse of stockings” was enough to set people off, then that was old hat and it was the bare ankles, or hairy chests poking out of bathing suits that did it. It was Lady Chatterly’s Lover, then I Am Curious, Yellow. Those milestones were passed , the censor was banished and we get so used to seeing sexual acts on screen, in books, even on stage that we need to take it further and further down the graph. Now we’re dealing with Girls and Game of Thrones where the sexual acts are in your face and the winces and cringes from the audience are legend. Is this really what people want? Let’s get it all out there, every sexual act, every permutation, every fetish and every bit of skin, membrane, and fluid until the naughty bits are naughty no more, they’re de rigueur, they’re no big deal, they’re a yawn.
So what’s the next step toward absolute zero after we’ve gotten this far? We must be almost there. What haven’t we done yet that will really shock ‘em?
How I long for the days of a kiss and a cut to the next morning, where somethings are not talked about lightly and the beautiful act of sexual union is removed from the glare of the klieg lights.