Saturday, July 26, 2003

Tomorrow evening the family is going to see Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life. I am way excited. I actually rather enjoyed the first one (and not just because I could identify almost all of the guns on sight, thanks to my Modern Phoenix Earth research), and I think that the sequel actually looks quite good. I'm not expecting it to be Pirates of the Caribbean - now there's a movie that will put a light in your eye - but I am expecting to enjoy the fight scenes (even though they're probably going to be missing that little something which makes me giggle in my seat).

And of course I am expecting to enjoy Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. Lara Croft is the only woman character I can think of who is cooler than Trinity (no, I haven't played any of the Tomb Raiders). I am sure that many a pundit out there in the wide wide world has, is, or will criticize Lara as nothing more than the incarnation of "sex sells" - and I will not deny that I find Jolie rather sexy in that wetsuit, or whatever it is she's wearing on the posters and billboards - but there's more to it than that.

I don't mean that there's more to it than that she's sexy. That is precisely the point, and you need look no further than that - although you should recognize that being smart, self-possessed, and skillful is part of Lara's sex appeal. And of course it is the sex appeal that is the point, not the body - the body is merely a means to an end, and Lara is particularly potent because she includes the aforementioned three S's along with the body (I say body deliberately because there is more that is attractive about Lara - and Jolie - than just the breasts). But the end result of all that is sex appeal.

And is there really anything wrong with that? Of course there is many a movie that uses sex appeal irresponsibly, and a great many individuals among the movie-going public are so hopelessly immature and untutored that they really shouldn't be availing themselves of this at all. But surely we will admit that sex appeal has its legitimate uses. For instance, I should fault very much the spouse who cannot be bothered to be sexy for his or her partner. Sexiness is fundamentally a skill. Everyone has to learn it (although some admittedly have inborn talent in this area), and refusing to learn to be sexy in the eyes of your spouse is not only reprehensible behavior in a married person; it is an insult to the partner and the marriage bond itself. It says, "I have more important things to do than learn how to live in your world" - for of course our ideas of sex appeal are very close to the center of our personal worlds. Learning to be sexy is not only a pleasurable gift. It is one of the supreme compliments - a growing-closer which values and assimilates part of the beloved's core identity. It is, I would venture to say, one of the ways in which we submit ourselves to the reality of a married couple being a single organism (though not a single personality, of course - let us not confuse the two). And therefore I would call it a great obedience, and a great good.

Now I am personally inclined to believe that married people are going to have a very hard time with this if they do not give it a good deal of thought beforehand, for learning how to be sexy (much less learning how to be romantic, of which this is a sub-skill) is neither an easy nor an intuitive skill. And so I would say that it does young men (at least - young women I suspect benefit from this as well) to watch movies and read books and sing songs that deal with both the fundamental and individual nature of sex appeal. But even without that, I find that when I watch movies designed to "sell sex" I have one or two responses - and the two are not very often mixed at all. In the case of movies which are actually about sex, in whole or in significant part, I do find myself thinking thoughts which are perfectly natural but most unfitting. But in the case of movies where the sex appeal is present but not the point (e.g., Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie's Angels 2) I find myself appreciating the beauty\\sex appeal of the women on screen - but I am not thinking about that. I am thinking of how good it is that mankind has sex and beauty, how pleasing it is that these things are neither physical nor mental nor emotional but all three, and possibly more - I am thinking of how wonderful it will be to share this goodness with an appropriate woman, when I am (and for whom I will be) an appropriate man. I am thinking, I daresay, of something much higher than how hot Kiera Knightly is.

I do not want to sound like I am trying to excuse boorish and ungentlemanly lust for movie stars. Such behavior is reprehensible and no apology can be made for it. But I do not want to sound like I am being mystical about the effect of beauty in art, either. I find that this general pattern of behavior is consistent to other things as well. When a person watches Black Hawk Down or Gettysburg, for instance, his thoughts are not drawn to the horror of infantry combat even though that is the subject of such films. His thoughts are fixed on the higher thing which that horror reveals - namely the nobility of love, for one's comrades or (in a few rare cases) one's home; the nobility of love so strong for those things that one is willing to die in the most horrible way for them. When a person watches a romantic movie (name any you like; my personal favorite is Beauty and the Beast) he is not particularly thinking of the joy found between the couple on screen, even though that is the subject of such films. He is rather thinking of the nobility of love for another person, and the excellence of being romantic for their sake - and it is this which the on-screen romance is designed to point to. And so too, I think, it is possible to watch a movie about how sexy Charlie's Angels are, and not be thinking about how sexy Charlie's Angels are - to find one's thoughts instead drawn above the subject of the film (yet by the subject of the film) to the nobility of love, and the excellence of expressing it through sex appeal.

So I am looking to seeing Tomb Raider very much.

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