Last weekend two manly, fully mature critics, Joe Leydon and Stephen Whitty, took Hollywood Elsewhere to task for expressing garden-variety hormonal enthusiasm over what I carefully chose to describe as a “hot lesbo” scene in Margaret Betts‘ Novitiate, or more precisely an erotic third-act scene between two lesbian nuns. Echoing the tedious viewpoint expressed last January by Glenn Kenny, Leydon lamented the adolescent associations with the term and more or less said that seasoned, worldly fellows with gray hair and commendable accomplishments should never go there. Whitty said roughly the same, arguing that “thinking like a man” means “not thinking and feeling like a boy.”
They don’t get it. When a truly erotic scene suddenly happens in the midst of an otherwise “decent but no great shakes” film, the blood warms up and the viewer is suddenly awake, alive and attuned. This is what happened when the Sundance audience saw Novitiate at the Eccles last January, and why everyone was talking about “that scene.” Leydon and Whitty can trot out their “tut-tut” and “harumph” routines all they want, but I was there. And if experiencing hormonal surges by way of a film are a mark of adolescent immaturity, and if denial or suppression of same is a mark of seasoned maturity, I’ll take the former, thanks. And if I choose not to mask said surges with harumphy, tut-tut terminology, that’s what many of us would call “acceptance.” Life is short, allow for the occasional gusto moment, let it in, etc.
Final remark to Leydon, Whitty: I didn’t write and direct the third-act lesbian scene in Novitiate — Margaret Betts did. If you have a problem with this sort of thing, take it up with her. I just sat down and watched it and shared what I shared.
Like Leydon and Whitty, the legendary Walter Cronkite always projected conservative propriety and learned, level-headed prudence. Then I read a satirical National Lampoon riff in the late ’70s (or was it a Spy magazine thing in the late ’80s?) about Cronkite sharing effusive horndog fantasies while having lunch in the CBS commissary. I chuckled at this but wondered “where did this come from”? Then along came Douglas Brinkley‘s “Cronkite” and the following anecdote: “Cronkite’s public persona was that of a pipe-puffing family man. But after covering Nixon’s historic visit to China, he let loose with a night of partying in San Francisco. Cronkite and a colleague went to an infamous topless bar, and he was later spotted dining with a go-go dancer in a miniskirt and plunging neckline. Cronkite drew a bit of tabloid attention for his exploits; I can only imagine what TMZ would have done with the inevitable paparazzi shots.”