Saturday, August 29, 2009

History Channel documents America's "cultural revolution" in 1969 (yes, that includes Stonewall)

The History Channel tonight, after the Kennedy funeral concluded (during which it showed the Woodstock documentary, already reviewed here), showed a documentary about the 60’s “cultural revolution” – in the US that is (not Chairman Mao’s). The documentary itself is almost G-rated (officially it was TV-PG), except for the title of the film and a few daring terms (“p-c wars”), usually used clinically, but the title of the film itself sounds like R. It’s “Sex in ’69: Sexual Revolution in America.” Yes, to college men of that era, the title sounds like a pun.

There was a change in thought in the 60s – a change in self-perception, perhaps as exaggerated by the Hippy culture in Haight Ashbury and elsewhere: “freedom” meant looseness, the ability to do what you want, share property, have no self-defined individual purpose, to be away from the measures that other people applied to you. This mindset can eventually lead to existential contradictions.

The film moves on to sexual morality, and the old idea that sexuality should be dedicated to procreation only. Why? So that everyone will share the “risk” and responsibility of raising the next generation (and, now, caring for the last). But that was no longer rational in individualistic terms.

The film moves on to Jim Morrison, and the obscenity trial in Miami, and his conviction. Later Anita Bryant would become famous for her anti-gay crusade in 1977.

It talks about Hugh Heffner and the “play thing” mentality, and then goes on to Billy Graham’s crusade even to clean up Broadway (Oh! Calcutta!), hailed by critics. Actors could be arrested for appearing, but the NYPD didn’t close it down. The show would run for 22 years.

Hollywood’s old production code was changing. In 1965 the Best Picture was “The Sound of Music”; in 1969 it would be “Midnight Cowboy.” But the real shocker was a Swedish film “I Am Curious Yellow” (also Blue). Then came “open marriage” and “Bob Ted Carol and Alice”.

1969 was, of course, the year of the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC, that would lead to the modern gay rights movement. A few years before, most gay bars in NYC had been closed down to “clean up” the City for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair (which I attended in August 1964). The film covered the status quo even in NYC until Stonewall: men were not allowed to touch or wear women's clothes in bars. After bar raids (often avoided by Mafia-style protection), names of arrested men were published in newspapers, an old variation of "reputation attack".

The film covered John and Barbara Williamson and the Sandstone Retreat in Topanga Canyon. “Life” was more fun if you didn’t have babies, or if you didn’t have to think about the state of American culture. The “Black Bear Ranch” commune (subject of a film named “Commune”) would be similar.

The link for the film is here.

A lot about our outlook changed in 1969: that was the year man walked on the Moon, three weeks after Stonewall.

The documentary airing was sponsored in part by “The Institute for Human Continuity” – that is, the movie "2012" from Columbia Pictures. The website is real; try it. I don’t think the lottery is real. The idea was already tried in “Deep Impact” in 1998. How does that connect to the Vatican idea that sexuality is only for procreation?

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