Friday, November 9, 2012

The Good Mother (1988)

Starring Diane Keaton, Liam Neeson
Directed by Leonard Nimoy

I feared The Good Mother was going to be a predictable story about how all fine and dandy sexual liberation is - until children become involved, which unveils its limitations and how it's ultimately an unrealistic pipe dream.

You could still argue that, but the reason it doesn't work isn't because sexual liberation is broken - that it traumatizes kids or whatever - but because society is so dysfunctional that they won't let it work, and they'll happily destroy you if you try.

And that's what this movie turned out to be - a story about how wonderful sexual liberation is, but how society will step in and crush you if you dare try to find sexual satisfaction, shake off the shame and stigma that's forcibly applied to sexuality, and, god forbid, make an attempt to avoid teaching your children those same guilty feelings you grew up with.

That's where they get you, you see. Adults are allowed to be as perverted as they like (well, within limits). Polite folk will turn their nose at you if you're a perv, but ultimately it's your freedom to be a pariah. But if you dare try to teach a child to be unashamed of her body or sexuality, then they'll nail you to the fucking wall.

You see, it's very very important that children learn to be ashamed of their bodies and their sexuality. It's how this sexual dysfunction - this social poison - maintains itself. And that's exactly what happens in this movie. A mother finds sexual satisfaction after an unfulfilling marriage, and begins to teach her daughter not to make the same mistake she unconsciously had by sealing up her sexual feelings.

And then social forces close in, first in the form of the jealous, vindictive, conservative ex-husband (who has himself had no problem relating sexually to women, but in a way that never seemed to count the woman's sexual satisfaction as a relevant factor), and then in the form of a puppet court that makes a cruel mockery of both truth and justice.

And lives are ruined as a result. And the process of sexual healing is halted and stilted, and two women - one of them still a child - are pulled back into the realm of sexual shame and misery. What a sad state of affairs.

I find it ironic that the man - the catalyst who inadvertently invites the turmoil - is European, almost as if to emphasize by contrast the nature of American morality, to show how corroded and diseased it is on the subject of sexuality. Except that things do not seem to be faring significantly better outside of America, either, in the so-called "developed world".

It's the sad truth about passion and sexuality, that the current status quo is so invested in its dementia, that it will mercilessly destroy you if you dare to rebel. I wish it weren't the case.

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