Sex Appeal

Hands up all those (adults) who watched Pocahontas and caught an irresistible urge to hit the sheets, and not to sleep, when they got home.

I really could not decide whether the documentary I was watching was a genuine one or a spoof. Someone with a lot of time on his hands (and sex on the brain) had gone through the film, frame by frame, and highlighted straggly bits of dust, smoke, clouds, water, leaves, and sundry other item that were supposed to spell the word sex. This was supposed to make you think subliminally of that topic.

Some might say that a children’s film has no business being loaded with even tenuous subliminal message. After all, the idea behind this type of message is to address parts of your brain you probably don’t even know you have to alter your thinking pattern in favour of something, or to implant an idea into your brain.

The word subliminal is usually associated with business and marketing, mostly to describe that form of advertising that is not registered by the conscious perception of a person. For a split second, an image of a word or product is used in order to persuade people to purchase a product or a service. The viewer is not actually aware of the message – and yet he is influenced by it. The roots of the word come from “below” (sub) “threshold” (which has the same roots as lintel).

The inclusion of this type of imagery is not as extraneous as it appears to be. After all, at the cinema, children are accompanied by adults – and this type of going-on, rather than the implied sexual magnetism between the heroine and hero, is supposed to keep them interested in the film. Apparently, if you can link something – a film, a car, a meal – to sex, it will be all the more memorable.

Recently, there was a lot of fuss about how a time-traveller (termed so because she was using what appeared to be a cellular telephone) appeared in the street during a clip shot in 1928, showing the public present at the premier of Charlie Chaplin’s film, The Circus.

It has become a game for people to try and spot anomalies and anachronisms – and even subliminal messages – in films, and Disney appears to have come in for special treatment. The fact that the viewing public expects them could be the reason why the incongruities are included in the footage.

If, when spotted, these generate a lot of column ink, this translates into more publicity generated for the film itself. Sometimes, however, the blame is shunted onto low-level employees who, disgruntled with their jobs, seek their fifteen minutes of fame and fun. But look at it this way – some of the visual gags in The Simpsons and Sponge Bob will only strike the adults watching the series, as funny. Sometimes it would be hard to explain them to children without focussing on the inherent vulgarity.

So is blatant humour any better, worse, or different from subliminal messages?

Feminists complain about how subservient some Disney girls are; the moralists complain about the skimpy costumes, and the liberals say we should “move with he times”.

After all, Miley Cyprus posed in a sheet that gave the word nubile a bad name. Then, she made a fluffy apology, and the fact that the photographer was famous supposedly placed the shot just this side of from pornography. Two Glee actresses all but undressed, when posing with a fully-clothed male cast member for a magazine aimed at males (and one of them made an apology of sorts).

Many celebrities – the young ones seeking a foot in the door, as well as the older ones known for their wholesome roles sometimes feel the need to test the waters… knowing full well that later, if the desired results are not achieved they can always come up with a list of pathetic excuses… they made an error of judgement, that it was inappropriate, or a mistake, and that the lines were blurred, and that it was all a bit of harmless albeit edgy fun that has been deliberately misconstrued to make them appear in a bad light.

Does it really make sense to watch The Lion King and feel vindicated when stars in the sky swirl and, supposedly, spell out ‘sex’, before they form the outline of King Mufasa, because you can then tell your friends “I told you so!”?
These last couple of years, I have watched, disgusted, as “soft” high heels for babies (who cannot even walk) were produced. Then came padded bras for toddlers, and thongs for tweenies. Teenagers got heir own pole kit and instructions about how to work it. Provocative Carnival (and Halloween) costumes are par for the course – and we are talking prepubescent girls (and paedophiles’ dreams) here.

With such in-your-face sexualisation of children, does it matter that even South Park jumped on this bandwagon and showed Mickey Mouse using the Jonas Brothers as a way to introduce sex to young girls? Or is this a further indication of how fast things are going downhill?
The castle turret and the priest in The Little Mermaid; the look Beast gives Belle in Beauty and the Beast; Bernard and Bianca’s flight in The Rescuers; Jessica’s fall in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?; what Dopey does when he and the other dwarves are dancing with Snow White in Snow White; what Aladdin and Jafar are supposed to have said in Aladdin… all the are supposed to have sexual connotations.

I think it’s more fun to spot continuity mistakes, or tiny details that give ah-ha moments that have nothing to do with sex, implied or explicit. This way, one can catch Beast from Beauty and the Beast when the Sultan is playing with his stack of animals in Aladdin.


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