American Beauty - The SSL Review
I was babysitting some nieces and nephews a couple nights ago, and since they have way better cable than I do (because I actually have no cable) and since the kids were in bed, I thought I'd look for a movie to watch. Turns out, just as I remembered from when I did have cable, it's not that easy to find something I actually want to watch. However, I found American Beauty had just started about 15 minutes before, and I hadn't seen it in a long time.
It came out somewhere around my 1st year of college, and it was one of those movies around that time (like Fight Club and Snatch and Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia) that had an impact on my coming-into-the-adult-world mind and really solidified my interest for making movies. The way they were made, the sound, the editing, the style - it all kinda blew my mind at the time. It was exciting. I can remember coming home after seeing these movies and just talking with Charlie for hours about them - what we liked what we didn't.
So in watching American Beauty again, part of it was seeing how the movie stood up for me over time. Truth be told, there are parts to this movie that I will always like, but it was never a top choice among the others I listed above. Also, I've sorta grown to hate Kevin Spacey's perma-character that he does in every movie he's in. I didn't know it was a perma-character at the time, so it didn't bother me at all then. (Full-disclosure: I love his perma-character in House of Cards. It fits somehow, and I'm glad I decided to give it a chance, event though I wasn't really excited about it). American Beauty is also very male-centric. I mean that not in a necessarily bad way. It's just heavily from a male perspective, and as I've grown older I realized that a disproportionately large amount of movies are from this perspective, and I always get a tinge of disappointment when I see another movie that doesn't really consider the female perspective deeply. So, that tints my feelings about it - although most of the movies I listed up there are from this heavily male perspective. I mean, like I said, most movies are, so it's just par for the course.
Alright, enough about that. I'm actually writing this because I realized that American Beauty is eligible for an SSL Review. Why? Because there was indeed a depiction or discussion of female sexual release or female masturbation. SSL Reviews only review those depictions or discussions and nothing else. The I rate it in vulvas (!)(!)
Annette Bening's character Carolyn, is shown in a motel room having sexual relations with a man who is not her husband (Buddy Kane played by Peter Gallagher). Buddy is a big-shot Realtor that Carolyn (also a Realtor) admires. He's confident and knows what he wants, and she's enamored. The sex scene is pretty quick. They are laying on a motel bed. She is on her back with her legs way up in the air straddling Buddy who is face down, propped up on his arms, banging the ever lovin' shit out of Carolyn. The bed's a rockin' and Carolyn is screaming something to the effect of "You're the King! You're the King!" (He is called the Realty King or something like that on his advertising). We see all 4 of their arms, and there is clearly no one manually stimulating the clit.
Carolyn's legs-around-the-ears position is not a great one for clit to dude's pelvis stimulation, so my professional opinion here is that the clit is not being touched by anything during this scene. Yet, it seems from how she's screaming that she just might be orgasming...it definitely plays as a climax of some sort. It's a porny as hell orgasm, and I assume this scene is partially supposed to play for comedy, as so many sex scenes do. However, comedy or not, it's reinforcing the incorrect assumption that some good ol' banging alone will make a woman come.
It is not an unusual scene. It doesn't seem to be insinuating anything different than most porn scenes, movie sex scenes, or romance novel sex scenes, but that's the problem, isn't it? It's part of the incredibly huge network of female orgasm depictions in our media that completely ignores the clitoris, yet still depicts a female orgasm. It's a problem, just as it would be a problem if almost all sex scenes in media showed men orgasming from ball caresses, anal penetration, or stroking only on the very base of the penis, and for some god-awful reason, stimulation or any touching at all of penis head was almost never depicted.
It's a ridiculous situation, and American Beauty is just adding to the problem, so I give it only a 1 vulva rating. (I don't like giving zeros).