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Lady Chatterley's Legacy in the Movies

Lady Chatterley's Legacy in the Movies: Sex, Brains, and Body Guys

Peter Lehman
Susan Hunt
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Lady Chatterley's Legacy in the Movies
    Book Description:

    Titanic.Two Moon Junction.A Night in Heaven.Sirens.Henry & June.9 Songs.Lady Chatterley. And more. A new "body guy" genre has emerged in film during the last twenty years-a working-class man of the earth or bohemian artist awakens and fulfills the sexuality of a beautiful, intelligent woman frequently married or engaged to a sexually incompetent, educated, upper-class man. This body guy exhibits a masterful athletic, penile-centered sexual performance that enlivens and transforms the previously discontented woman's life.Peter Lehman and Susan Hunt relate a host of wide-ranging films to a literary tradition dating back to D. H. Lawrence'sLady Chatterley's Loverand an emerging body culture of our time. Through an engaging and compelling narrative, they argue that the hero's body, lovemaking style, and penis-revealed through extensive male nudity-celebrate conformity to norms of masculinity and male sexuality. Simultaneously, these films denigrate the vital, creative, erotic world of the mind. Just when women began to successfully compete with men in the workplace, these movies, if you will, unzip the penis as the one thing women do not have but want and need for their fulfillment.But Lehman and Hunt also find signs of a yearning for alternative forms of sexual and erotic pleasure in film, embracing diverse bodies and vibrant minds.Lady Chatterley's Legacy in the Moviesshows how filmmakers, spectators, and all of us can be empowered to dethrone the body guy, his privileged body, and preferred style of lovemaking, replacing it with a wide range of alternatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5029-9
    Subjects: Film Studies, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 “Everything You Are Is between Your Legs”
    (pp. 1-26)

    Titanic(1997) is still “king of the world” at the box office, grossing more money worldwide than any other film in history. For his epic tale, writer-producer-director James Cameron masterfully intertwines a broad array of genres: romance, action, adventure, and historical drama. The film belongs to yet another category, which has flourished virtually unnoticed for the past twenty years: the “body-guy” genre, as we call it. In the genre’s classic form, a beautiful, intelligent, but discontented woman is engaged or married to a cultured, intellectual, upper-class male. The woman’s discontent is quelled when a working-class man, often tied closely to...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Rebels, Outsiders, Artists, and … Brutes?
    (pp. 27-52)

    InMoonlight and Valentino(1995), Rebecca, a widowed college instructor, is having “too delicious” sex with the guy who’s painting her house. At one point she asks him if he’s “really an artist—an oil painter who just paints houses as a sideline.” He replies, “No, I’m a house painter. I paint signs as a sideline.” No, the classic body guys in cinema are not intellectuals in disguise, bringing in a few dollars on the side to enable their loftier goals and passions. They’re working class through and through, but they have something that upper-class intellectuals do not have. And...

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Fuck Me like a Cop, Not a Lawyer”
    (pp. 53-78)

    The body guys do not offer their gold-medal sex style to just any women in the films of the genre. These women are not only beautiful but intelligent. The Harvard-educated Samuel (Henry Thomas) says of his fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond) inLegends of the Fall(1994), “She’s got me spinning. She’s got theseideas and theories, and she’s … she’s sorta passionate.” Samuel confesses to his earthy brother, Tristan (Brad Pitt), that he’s afraid he won’t meet Susannah’s sexual expectations. When Tristan asks if they’re going to “fuck before marriage,” Samuel haughtily replies, “I’m planning to be with her,” to...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “Brain Work Isn’t Much of a Spectator Sport”
    (pp. 79-104)

    InFrom Reverence to Rape, Molly Haskell writes of early Hollywood films: “A woman’s intelligence was the equivalent of a man’s penis: something to be kept out of sight” (4). Ironically, the second edition of Haskell’s book was published in 1987, on the cusp of the body-guy genre’s emergence. This was the very moment educated and professional women reached historic “visibility” in America, and the penis came into sight in movies. Haskell and the body-guy genre point to the same thing albeit from quite different perspectives: the power and threat of an intelligent woman. Prior to this time, keeping the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Hung like a Horse … or an Acorn
    (pp. 105-135)

    Within the body culture, people will pay money to see the sexy body but are not yet lining up on the fifty-yard line to watch the sexy mind at work. From this perspective, the undervalued brain is made up for by the overvalued penis. If we have trouble imagining the mind as sexy, we have equal trouble imagining sex without the thrusting good-sized penis. This model of lovemaking is so prevalent in representation that it now seems to dominate cultural notions about what sex—especially good sex—is. It is ridiculous, however, to measure all men against one model of...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Unmaking Love
    (pp. 136-160)

    Mae West once famously remarked, “Sex is emotion in motion.” Her statement is uncannily reminiscent of the way many people speak of the medium that made Mae West famous: the movies. Many see motion as the essence of movies, and much bad filmmaking and film criticism has followed from accepting simplistic assumptions about this essentialist nature of cinema. In order to be “cinematic” movies should have action and not rely too much on dialogue. But what about Yasujiro Ozu, the Japanese director who many critics, us included, consider among the greatest filmmakers of all time? His films are known for...

  11. CHAPTER 7 “Why Do You Say That as if It Were a Weakness? It’s Not.”
    (pp. 161-184)

    The opening scene ofForgetting Sarah Marshall(2008) got a lot of press from film critics, primarily because of the frontal male nudity. Indeed, the film may be a first. When penises appear in movies, most reviewers don’t even mention them, let alone grant them detailed attention. Significantly, with this film the reception context began preopening, when the film’s star and screenwriter, Jason Segel, talked in great detail to the press about his nude scene:

    And then I had this thought about the difference in nature between male nudity and female nudity. That, for men, they like all sorts of...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 185-190)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-194)
  14. Index
    (pp. 195-200)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)