Ed Driscoll

"We're In A Big Puritanical Mode"

Basic Instinct 2 grossed a paltry $3.2 million at the box office this weekend (against a budget estimated to be at least $70 million), only reaching number ten on the Box Office Mojo weekend chart–which isn’t at all surprising, considering the film’s dreadful reviews.

So should we praise Americans for having the good taste to spot a bomb and avoid it–or is it because we’re in the puritanical dark ages?

Paul Verhoeven, director of the first “Basic Instinct” (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed “Showgirls” (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre’s demise to the current American political climate.

“Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States,” said the Dutch native. “Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends.”

Scribe Nicholas Meyer, who was an uncredited writer on 1987’s seminal sex-fueled cautionary tale “Fatal Attraction,” agrees, noting that the genre’s downfall coincides with the ascent of the conservative political movement.

“We’re in a big puritanical mode,” he said. “Now, it’s like the McCarthy era, except it’s not ‘Are you a communist?’ but ‘Have you ever put sex in a movie?'”

Of course–that explains all of the burqas and hajibs I see covering women on DirecTV’s #500 and (especially) #600 series of movie channels on a Friday night–or at the newstand on the covers of such prudish magazines as…Maxim, FHM, Playboy, Penthouse, etc.

It’s also worth noting that Sharon Stone has had very, very few hit movies since the first Basic Instinct struck gold in 1992. But somehow, like a lot of A-list talent in Hollywood, being bankable no longer has much to do with being bankable.

Update: John Hinderaker sounds like he agrees with my take:

Apart from the obvious humor value, here are two more or less serious observations: One, what gives with people who say American culture is “Puritanical”? Are they writing from prisons in Albania where they’ve been confined since 1956? Do they not own computers with internet connections? Do they avert their eyes when they go past magazine racks in airports? Don’t they have cable TV?

Here’s another theory: maybe Hollywood is indeed so depraved that the normal American culture, sex-drenched though it may be, looks Puritanical by contrast. Scary, if true.

Two: the film directors quoted in this story are presumably not idiots, yet they say things–it’s the Bush adminstration’s fault when sexy movies fail, since sex has been “banned”–that are obviously stupid. Why? Perhaps because in their world, equally stupid attacks on President Bush are not unusual. Several prominent Hollywood figures have recently suggested that Bush orchestrated the September 11 attacks. Blaming the President for everything from global warming to terrorism is, I think, commonplace in film-industry circles. So maybe it made sense for them to think that they could blame President Bush for the fact that people aren’t flocking to see Basic Instinct 2 without getting laughed at.

As George Clooney said, “we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it’s probably a good thing”.