Undress Your Mind: The Question of Human Sexuality

“The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.”                                                Alfred Kinsey

One of the perks of living in London is there is often a new exhibition opening up somewhere. You may find a selection of recently opened and free exhibitions, but with all that London has to offer, there may not be many that immediately grab your interest.

The Wellcome Collection on the Euston Road is holding a 10-month exhibition titled ‘The Institute of Sexology: Undress Your Mind’, with the caption ‘A free exhibition that lays bare the big questions of human sexuality’. My attention was caught, and my friend Rachel and I visited in the opening week.

After heading past several warning signs reminding us that the exhibition contains sexually explicit material, we headed towards a darkened room. The exhibition contains over 200 objects related to sexuality, including art, photographs, footage, audio, letters, surveys, scientific research and a wide range of objects.

Covering 150 years of information, the exhibition itself looks at our ever-changing attitudes to human sexuality, and how research over the years has contributed to a better understanding of sex. In addition to research, a look at the changing behaviour of our culture also shows the changing attitudes towards sexuality and sexual identity within our society.

The exhibition itself is very well placed out, with objects kept behind glass with a detailed but easy to read description. Ranging from erotic artwork, condoms dating back decades, charts showing the process of an orgasm and 1980s leaflets on the AIDS pandemic, there will be something in this exhibition that you have probably not seen before.

In addition to the objects on display, the research of several pioneers, including Sigmund Freud, Marie Stopes, Alfred Kinsey and Masters & Johnson are also part of the exhibition, looking at how taboos around sexuality have altered through the decades, and how sex and sexuality has been analysed and observed over time. There are also a very interesting series of letters written to Marie Stopes from people who regard her research as ‘filth’.

There is an interesting display from renowned artist Zanele Muholi, exploring the identity of black lesbians in South Africa, and several other sections of the exhibition exploring the research and understanding of LGBT lifestyles throughout the years. A variety of footage is also placed around on display, ranging from animal intercourse to Woody Allen’s 1972 film Sleeper; set in the year 2173 when a machine called the ‘Orgasmatron’ is invented to induce orgasms very rapidly, reducing the need for human contact.

When looking at the research nowadays, it is very easy to see how views have changed quite dramatically. Although the research being completed by Alfred Kingsey in the 1940s and 50s may now seem dated or certain aspects are incorrect, there is no doubt that his work, and the work of other researchers, has paved the way for how we understand sex today. Their attempts to lift the taboo on sexuality has allowed for greater discussions in regards to sex, and the surviving research which can be compared and contrasted also represents the changing attitudes of society over the past 100 years or so.

You can comfortably move around the exhibition within an hour, and beable to look at everything on offer. Although there are several aspects of human sexuality that are not touched upon in the exhibition, such as virginity, there is enough to keep you interested, and may well leave you with more questions by the time you leave. A great exhibition will leave you thinking, rather than just giving you information, which this certainly does.

Join the conversation: #sexology

‘The Institute of Sexology: Undress Your Mind’ is open until 20th September 2015, and is located at The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1. Click here for more information.

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Steve Martin: A Comedy Life in Profile

If you asked someone who Steve Martin is, most people would probably know. For anyone who doesn’t know, or has heard the name but isn’t sure of the person, Steve Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician. His career spans almost five decades, and as of 2014, he is alleged to have a net worth of $110 million (although it could be higher). However, if I asked you which films Steve Martin has made recently, you might be a bit stuck for an answer.

Despite a long and continuing career in film and comedy, Steve Martin only received his first Academy Award in 2013. Despite earning billions of dollars for the US box office, it seems staggering that only in 2013 has he received an honorary Oscar. It is well known that comedy films are very often forgotten at the Academy Awards. At the 79th Academy Award ceremony in 2007, Will Ferrell, Jack Black & John C. Reilly performed A Comedian At The Oscars, a parody song about why comedians and comedy films are mostly forgotten from the Oscar categories.

In his emotional speech, he discussed his long and varied career. Steve Martin was born in Texas in 1945, and raised in California. His first job was a magician in Disneyland in his teens, and at the age of 21, he moved into stand-up comedy. By the mid-1970s, he was a regular guest host of Saturday Night Live, and viewing figures were reported to be one million more than average when he was hosting. This led a string of comedy albums, two of which went platinum.

In 1979, Steve Martin co-wrote and starred in The Jerk. The film was made on a budget of $4million, grossed over $73million, and was released to critical acclaim; it is now one of his most memorable and loved films. By 1981, Martin had left stand-up to concentrate on his film work. His style of comedy is hard to define, but appears to be a mixture of intellectual comedy, sexual innuendos, word play, comic anger, clownery and a slight amount of oddness. This mixture of comic style has helped his films and comedy remain visible through the years, without being too dated. His comedy appeal is very broad, and as such his highly acclaimed films are still very funny to a past and fresh audience.

How forgotten is his stand-up lifestyle nowadays? Steve Martin will certainly be remembered as being a “movie star”, and specifically a comic actor. Since The Jerk was released in 1979, Martin’s career has continually increased and increased in success to make him one of the most well known actors in the history of comedy. His most well known films include All of MeThe Three AmigosPlanes, Trains & AutomobilesParenthoodLA Story and Father of the Bride.

By the mid-00s, Steve Martin seemed to be hitting a different level in his career. In 2006, he played to role of Inspector Clouseau, made famous by Peter Sellers, in The Pink Panther. He reprised this role in the 2009 sequel. Despite receiving overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, the films jointly made over $235million in the box office (the money never lies!). Despite this, he could not escape criticism for the types of films he was now making, which has been described as, ‘containing mostly unfunny, lame slapstick jokes’. Ouch.

The comedian Paul Kaye, in character as his celebrity interviewer Dennis Pennis, asked Martin in the late 1990s, ‘How come you’re not funny anymore?’ Martin subsequently cancelled all scheduled press interviews that week, allegedly due to the comment.

There seems to be no specific film or date when Steve Martin was suddenly seen as ‘unfunny’, but rather as he was making more family-friendly films in the late 1990s and into 2000 and beyond – such as The Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen - he no longer has the appeal that he used to when making his ‘lovable idiot’ films of the 1980s. But does Steve Martin have the same appeal in 2013 as he did 20 years ago? Do any comedy actors keep their appeal after their peak? Tom Hanks became a dramatic actor, whilst Bill Murray made the move into indie films.

In the scheme of his career, it is already apparent that Steve Martin will be remembered for his peak films from around 1979 until 1995; the Steve Martin we know and love. As in, the 1980’s arrow-through-head, prop wearing, ‘Well, excuse ME!’ catchphrase-saying, box office hit. His appeal still seems very current; he has almost 5.5million follows on Twitter, and the focus of his career now seems mostly as a musician playing the Banjo on tour with his band. Although we may no longer see the 1980s comical Martin that we want back, we will always have DVDs and Youtube to re-live Steve Martin in his prime.

Read the article at yuppee.com

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George Prays

George is sitting at the bar of Martini’s. He raises his glass, and takes a sip of his drink. His head remains down, staring at the bar. Around him, he can hear a duo singing, as people are greeting each other. He drowns out the noise.

He moves his head down further, and notices the corner of a book peering from his inside pocket. He quickly tucks it away inside, lifting his head up as he does. His fingers slowly brush across his lips.

“God. Oh God.”

As he speaks, his hands continue to move across his mouth. He momentarily shuts his eyes, before opening them again and looking blankly at the space in front of him. He clasps his hands together, still wriggling his fingers.

“Dear father in heaven. I’m not a praying man, but, if you’re up there, and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope.”

The music continues to play around him. George doesn’t notice. Each clenched hand now rests upon a cheek, as his eyes begin to fill with tears.

I… show me the way, oh God.”

His voice trembles, and his hands are drawn together again, as he stares at the nothing in front of him.

Read the piece at readwave.com

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Does Disney Portray Their Female Characters In A Bad Way?

Disney is a large part of most people’s childhood. When you ask young people about their childhood memories, Disney will often be a part. It is something that everyone can relate to, no matter what class, area or background you are from – it is a universal subject. But what is the perception of Disney, and Disney females in particular, to the children watching their films? Are Disney changing with the times, and creating more feminist characters, especially among their females, or does Disney portray their female characters in a bad way?

If all of the Disney female characters were lined up together, it could be very hard to distinguish between them in terms of beauty. The tiny waists, the long flowing hair and the ‘come hither’ look are a trademark of the Disney Princess. Putting beauty aside, a main factor amongst these characters is that they mostly seem to be waiting for their Prince to turn up to save them from the problems in their lives, whether it be evil parents (or step-parents), loneliness or a boredom of being themselves.

Disney is slowly but surely advancing with the times, and their female characters are becoming more up-to-date. But, when looking at the female characters in Disney films through the years, was Disney representing their female characters in a negative way, or was Disney simply representing females as they were seen at the time?

Warning: Spoilers are contained below!

In the early Disney films, the female characters such as Snow White and Cinderella never appeared to make their own choices, and very often, the beauty of these characters led to their downfall through the jealousy of others. Cinderella is constantly relying on outside help in her situation, whether it is from the Fairy Godmother or the Grand Duke, as she seemingly cannot rescue herself. In some cases, these characters aspire to be the wife of a Prince who turns up on his horse to rescue them as they are staring out of the window, waiting for the sound of approaching hooves. What type of message is this sending out to the children watching these films?

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Belle from Beauty and the Beast is a character who ends up leaving her home, not because she wants to find true love, but instead to save her father’s life. Belle is ridiculed in the village she lives in for being more interested in books than the local men, and she falls in love with a Beast (who happens to be a Prince, bonus!) not because of his looks, but because of who he is. It is a shame that who he is includes verbally abusing Belle and holding her prisoner. Is it fair to say that Gaston, the villain of the film who tries to bully Belle into marrying him and the Beast are the same person? The only difference being that one is a Prince and the other is not, but both use violence and anger to get what they want from the lead female character. It cannot be denied that Belle is a strong female character, who does represent independence and who is sceptic to the idea of married life, but she stays with an abusive partner to try and change him; true love or Stockholm syndrome?

Mulan and Pocahontas can also be seen as strong female characters; Mulan joins the Army to protect her father, and Pocahontas tries to prevent a conflict from beginning. But ultimately, by the end of the film, both are defined by their relationship with a man. Unusually for Disney, Pocahontas does not end up with her man (not a Prince, but a Captain this time) and instead of following the path set out for her by her father and her community, she follows her own path which leaves her destiny up to her; she is not reliant on a male character. A definite step forward for feminism in Disney films.

The argument regarding The Little Mermaid and feminism is debatable, but the issue of a female giving up her voice, and therefore her identity, to get a man cannot surely be seen as fair? She then has to rely mostly on her looks alone to get her man. Many would argue that Ariel is in fact an independent character, and her song ‘Part of your World’ is her way of wanting to explore the world for herself. However, her sudden interest in Prince Eric cannot be ignored as perhaps the main reason that Ariel now wishes to become human.

Even in Mary Poppins, a live action Disney film, the suffragette mother has to find a woman to leave her children with whilst she is campaigning. Even the suffragettes have to find other women to look after their children whilst they’re campaigning for female equality and votes for women.

Merida from Brave is an excellent example of a new Disney character who defies the idea of finding a suitable marriage match, which her parents are pursuing, and is instead courageous and more interested in practising her archery skills than waiting for her true love to find her. Her character is a Princess, but she defies the typical Disney Princess ideal, and the fact that Disney has based a film on the relationship between a mother and daughter instead of a romantic relationship, can be seem as a different, but very modern and positive direction for Disney altogether.

The Director of Brave, Brenda Chapman, recently said how disappointed she was that Merida was re-designed before becoming the 11th official Princess at Walt Disney World, to make her waist smaller, her dress more sparkly and the removal of her trademark bow and arrow. Even after the film had been released, there was seen a need for the character to become more ‘sexy’, completely defying her character in the film. A step back for feminism and Disney females.

Disney have recently made a great leap forward with the amazingly successful Frozen, telling the story of two princess sisters and their relationship. Ultimately, it is their love for each other which saves the sisters from isolation and even death, and the idea of getting married to someone you have just met is ridiculed. In terms of representing female characters, Disney has made a huge leap forward with their female characters in Frozen.

It is not just the female Disney characters who face this gender characterisation. Indeed, many of the male Disney characters are described as ‘dashing’ (a word often used) and are either a Prince or in a position of power, such as a Captain. The male Disney characters are showing that love and a position of power are seemingly parallel.

There will be some people reading this and thinking that Disney can be interpreted completely differently, that they do their upmost to make female and male characters independent, and that I have simply taken this too seriously. I understand that Disney films are designed to be feel-good and teach children good morals, and I enjoy watching a Disney film as much as anybody. The fact that Disney are now representing more feminist characters in their films by not having the females rely on the male characters as much, or be waiting for marriage or to be rescued, can only be a good thing, and I hope Disney keep up this trend.

Read the article at yuppee.com

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Review: ‘White Reindeer’

In 2011 director Zach Clark began a Kickstarter campaign to finance his fourth feature film. Within 52 days, the campaign reached its goal of $33,500, and White Reindeer was born.

Written, directed and produced by Clark, White Reindeer tells the story of Suzanne Barrington, an estate agent living in Washington with her husband. As Christmas is approaching, Suzanne arrives home one evening to find her husband brutally murdered, and her life turned upside down. Suzanne faces more heartache when she discovers a secret about her husband’s life that he had kept hidden.

The format that many Christmas films follow, showing misery turning into happiness through the joy of Christmas, is not the message of White Reindeer. In fact, it is the opposite, with Suzanne’s misery coming out at Christmas, her favourite time of the year. White Reindeer is very much a non-traditional Christmas film.

Although it has a relatively short run time of 82 minutes, the many extended scenes of Suzanne simply crying or staring across the room can make the film feel like it lasted a lot longer. Indeed, it may seem that White Reindeer doesn’t have much to offer in the way of drama or plot, but it certainly does contain one factor which can be underrated in film nowadays: originality.

Although White Reindeer is a film about a woman coming to terms with her grief, there are several humorous moments within this dark comedy, perfectly coupled with the emotions of Suzanne being shown throughout. Even though we are seeing the grief from Suzanne’s point of view, it is very often in the film that the viewer feels like they are watching Suzanne trying to cope with her grief from a distance. We are close to the character, yet we can’t always tell what she is feeling. The journey of grief that Suzanne takes is interwoven with a range of interesting characters from strippers to wife swappers.

Anna Margaret Hollyman holds the film almost completely on her own as the grieving Suzanne, and enjoyably, the film resists an ending in keeping with standard Christmas fare. White Reindeer is perfect viewing for anyone seeking out an original dark comedy this festive season.

White Reindeer will be released on DVD on 24th November 2014.

Read the article at onthebox.com

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First ‘Cinderella’ trailer from Disney arrives in style

The first full length trailer for Disney’s upcoming live-action version of Cinderella has finally hit the web.

The trailer, at just less than 3 minutes long, shows us a range of characters, and many similarities to the animated version of Cinderella from Disney in 1950.

Downton Abbey actress Lily James stars in the lead role as Cinderella, whilst Game of Thrones actor Richard Madden plays Prince Charming.

In the trailer, we also see Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother and Hayley Atwell as Cinderella’s mother.

Directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, the screenplay has been written by Chris Weitz and Aline Brosh McKenna.

The supporting cast includes Sir Derek Jacobi as The King, Stellan Skarsgård as the Grand Duke and Ben Chaplin as Cinderella’s father.

Cinderella is one of several remakes currently taking place at Disney, with live-action versions of The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and Dumbo also in production.

In addition, Disney are also making a sequel to 2010s Alice in Wonderland from Tim Burton, and recently released Maleficent with Angelina Jolie, telling the story of Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent went on to become the second highest grossing film of 2014. With their success so far, it seems that Disney can only move steadily forward with their upcoming live-action remakes.

Cinderella will be released on 3rd April 2015 in the UK.

Read the article at focusfilm.co.uk

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Happy Birthday, Richard Burton!

The actor would have been 89 years old today.

Happy Birthday to Richard Burton!

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