Editor's note: This R-rated film is very frank in its discussions about sexuality, and this review thus includes some sexual terminology that some readers might find offensive.
There are two ways to handle a highly controversial issue, especially when you are looking at the form it took several decades ago, before our culture had settled into its current attitudes and assumptions. For example, you could go the route of Vera Drake, Mike Leigh's exquisitely detailed and complex study of abortions both legal and illegal in 1950s England; while Leigh himself has said that he is pro-choice, his film does not adopt any particular stance on the issue, and indeed, he even gives us room to wonder just how naive the title character is and how much harm she may be causing.
Or you could go the route of Kinsey, Bill Condon's triumphalist depiction of the sexologist whose studies of human sexual behavior shocked and outraged post-war America. Rather than cause any similar disturbance to present-day audiences, the film mocks the sexual attitudes of the past from a safe distance while flattering us for our supposed sexual enlightenment, and it recounts in detail Alfred Kinsey's battles against sexual prudery—is this really a pressing issue nowadays?—while minimizing some of his more unsettling "scientific" methods.
The film begins at the turn of the 20th century, as Kinsey's Methodist father (John Lithgow) preaches a stern message against the perils of the modern age; phones, cars, and moving picture shows have all contributed to a decline in morals, he says. Kinsey himself is a boy scout who, together with his friends, is not quite sure what to make of the medically iffy advice their manuals have given them on the subject of masturbation ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
This slideshow is only available for subscribers.
Please log in or subscribe to view the slideshow.