Monday, April 22, 2013

Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Birds and The Bees

I’m calling this week’s entry “The Cult-TV Faces of The Birds and the Bees” because if I simply used the term “Sex” I’m afraid that Facebook would classify my blog as spam, or I’d get visited by Russian porn sites on a regular basis (which already happens a lot, for some reason  I can’t fathom…).

Regardless, America has always held a kind of puritanical attitude about the depiction of sex in art.  This approach contrasts greatly with many honored works in Antiquity, including Lysistrata by Aristophanes, for instance. 

But Cult Television -- at least over the last few decades -- has delved more fully into the topic of the “birds and the bees,” and explored the role of sex in American society, as well the sexual lives of series dramatis personae, on many occasions.

These sexual stories haven’t always been direct or up-front to be certain.  One of the most famous “birds and the bees” shots in cult-TV history comes from the third season Star Trek (1966 – 1969) episode “Wink of an Eye.” 

The scene commences with Captain Kirk (William Shatner), still in uniform, wriggling back into his stylish black Starfleet boots, while sitting on  the corner of his bed.  Behind him, his lover, Deela (Kathie Brown) combs her hair in front of a mirror.  This is about as explicit as matters of “sex” ever got in 1960s genre television, though in fairness, “Amok Time” aired a year earlier and it dealt with Pon Farr, or the Vulcan sex drive.  Still, the upshot of that episode is that Spock (Leonard Nimoy) did not have sex.  In “Wink of an Eye” it is pretty clear precisely what Captain Kirk has been...up to.

By the time of The Next Generation (1987 – 1994), sex was more accepted as a topic for television programs, even in the genre. In the third season episode “The Price,” Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) beds a scoundrel named Devononi Ral (Matt McCoy), and comes to regret it.  The episode shows the two frolicking in bed, and there’s a heavy emphasis on Ral rubbing shiny lotion on Troi’s feet, but the scene is still pretty tame by today’s standards.

In 1993, the first season episode of The X-Files titled “Gender Bender” used sexual attraction as a key plot point. Here, a strange killer -- able to be either male or female, depending on desire -- began picking up and seducing lovers at clubs in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Unfortunately, to make love to this being – part of an alien sect called “The Kindred” – was to die since intercourse with humans caused extreme cardiac arrest.  Also, in the course of the episode, we learn that the aliens can attract humans by releasing human pheromones.  At one point, Scully (Gillian Anderson) is affected by the pheromones, and nearly suffers the same fate as the murder/sex victims.

In the first season of the 1995 Outer Limits remake, an episode called “Caught in the Act” starred Alyssa Milano and also involved aliens…and sex.   Here, a college student, Hannah (Milano) is surprised when an alien object crashes into her dorm room and possesses her…making her crave sexual intercourse.  She feeds the beast within, seducing willing male partners, but those partners -- like the ones in “Gender Bender” -- die during the act and are absorbed by Hannah.  Finally, only the power of true love is able to defeat the alien’s ravenous sexual appetite.

The British sci-fi series Torchwood (2006 – 2011) vetted a very similar story as its second episode, called “Day One.”  Here, Jack (John Barrowman), Gwen (Eve Myles) and the rest of the team had to hunt down an invading alien in Cardiff that could possess different humans, and “absorb” their forms through the act of sex.  A first act assignation in a club bathroom and its...climax...demonstrates the kind of explosive sex depicted in the episode.

In its first season, Millennium (1996 – 1999) dealt explicitly with sexual hang-ups in the episode titled “Loin Like a Hunting Flame.”  Here, a madman abducted young, attractive couples at raves and clubs, and video-taped their sexual intercourse.  He was doing so, uniquely, as practice or education, so he could finally have sex with his long-suffering wife, following a disastrous honeymoon night years earlier. 

These days, there's a sex scene or two, it seems, in every episode of True Blood or Game of Thrones.

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