The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Jennifer » 24 Oct 2014, 11:15

I've been watching old movies, and while we already know "Sexual mores today are much less strict than they used to be," it's baffling just how straitlaced the movies were back then. In modern terms, when I hear that a movie is "sexually explicit," I figure that means "You can actually see real or simulated sex acts, or at least you will hear authentic-sounding sex noises, or a detailed discussion of exactly what acts are taking place." Yet in the black-and-white movie era, "sexually explicit" seems to mean "Anything which suggests that sex has taken place, or is about to."

Last night I saw The Outlaw starring Jane Russell, which I know caused a huge censorship controversy back in the day, but by modern standards, it's barely racy enough for a PG rating.

Here is what passed for "a sexually explicit movie scene" before America entered World War Two: a handsome, idealized Billy the Kid has been bedridden for weeks after a gunshot wound (although he stays clean, his hair isn't matted and dirty and he hasn't the faintest hint of beard-stubble on his baby-smooth face). Now he might be dying; he's gone from "hot with fever" to "wracked with chills," and if he doesn't "get warm" soon he is going to die. So we see Jane Russell take off her shoes (actually, high-heeled open-toed sandals of the sort worn by pioneer women in the arid southwest, according to Howard Hughes) and stockings, then walk toward the bed while saying "You won't die. I'll keep you warm." Fade to black.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by tr0g » 24 Oct 2014, 11:43

Aresen wrote:I do remember something about the direction of the bend in the arms of the swastika being significant. The Nazi ones bent right (as you look out from the center) and the "ok" ones bent left.

There was supposedly some arcane significance about the direction of the bend.
The arcane significance was added later to try to diffentiate between 'good' and 'bad' swastikas. The Nazis, being German and all, made theirs all go one way. The other people who have used swastikas in the past didn't seem to care very much. The influence of the mystical/occult tendencies of the Thule Society on what followed has been grist for conspiracy theorists for years, but is on the whole overstated.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by JD » 24 Oct 2014, 12:42

Jennifer wrote:I've been watching old movies, and while we already know "Sexual mores today are much less strict than they used to be," it's baffling just how straitlaced the movies were back then. In modern terms, when I hear that a movie is "sexually explicit," I figure that means "You can actually see real or simulated sex acts, or at least you will hear authentic-sounding sex noises, or a detailed discussion of exactly what acts are taking place." Yet in the black-and-white movie era, "sexually explicit" seems to mean "Anything which suggests that sex has taken place, or is about to."
Although I think a lot of that was a reaction to early Hollywood movies. Pre-Hays-Code movies could be pretty racy. Back in the 1920s and even into the early 30s there were movies that dealt with adultery, homosexuality, drug use, prostitution, etc. Frankly, the Hays Code is one of the worst things that ever happened to American popular culture and resulted in kind of a 30-year dead spot in American film, IMO.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Jennifer » 24 Oct 2014, 13:00

JD wrote:
Jennifer wrote:I've been watching old movies, and while we already know "Sexual mores today are much less strict than they used to be," it's baffling just how straitlaced the movies were back then. In modern terms, when I hear that a movie is "sexually explicit," I figure that means "You can actually see real or simulated sex acts, or at least you will hear authentic-sounding sex noises, or a detailed discussion of exactly what acts are taking place." Yet in the black-and-white movie era, "sexually explicit" seems to mean "Anything which suggests that sex has taken place, or is about to."
Although I think a lot of that was a reaction to early Hollywood movies. Pre-Hays-Code movies could be pretty racy. Back in the 1920s and even into the early 30s there were movies that dealt with adultery, homosexuality, drug use, prostitution, etc. Frankly, the Hays Code is one of the worst things that ever happened to American popular culture and resulted in kind of a 30-year dead spot in American film, IMO.
I've only seen a handful of non-animated, pre-Code movies, but even then, "racy" seemed ridiculously straitlaced. The first pre-Code "sexy" movie I saw was a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde version, with a non-sex scene very similar to the Jane Russell one I previously described: sexy woman wants to seduce Dr. Jekyll (he doesn't fall for it), so she sits on the bed, smiles directly at him/the camera, and takes off her stockings. You do not actually see any of her "naughty bits"; IIRC they didn't even show any leg above the knee. So, the mere fact that "a woman is removing her stockings, especially in the immediate vicinity of a man and a bed" is enough to qualify as "explicit."

I remember having similar thoughts years ago when I read the book Forever Amber; I first heard about it when reading Florence King's autobiography -- born in the late 30s, adolescence and young adulthood in the 50s, and she was describing a school assembly where a police officer gave the kids a safety lecture about only crossing the street if you have a green light, never try crossing the street if there's a red light, and if the light is amber you -- and all the kids burst out in embarrassed, naughty laughter or giggles, the embarrassed, blushing teachers ran around trying to make everyone settle down and behave, and King then said something like "My [intellectual British expat] father was the only person I knew who read Forever Amber for its descriptions of Restoration London, not for the sexy parts."

So when I found a copy of the (long out of print) book in a thrift store I read it, and I still have it today because the descriptions of Restoration London really are well-researched and well-written, whereas the sexy parts are (by my contemporary standards) completely non-existent. For example: you only know she ever had sex because she got pregnant despite being unmarried; it's not like you actually read about the act of conception or anything. IIRC, I didn't even realize anything had happened until Amber already had the kid.

EDIT: If you're a modern American and you're looking to read an interesting and well-researched description of life in Restoration London, by all means read Forever Amber if you get the chance. But if you're a modern American looking for titillation .... seriously, don't bother, unless you're capable of being genuinely turned on by the following paragraph:
"Sex exists. People sometimes have sex. And sometimes those sex-having people are not even married."
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by JD » 27 Oct 2014, 11:29

Well, there was also a 1926 Broadway play, written by and starring Mae West, titled simply "Sex", and advertised in newspapers as "SEX WITH MAE WEST". I'm not sure that would fly even today.

Anyway, on a different note, I was looking through another old magazine, from 1955 IIRC, and ran across an article about air conditioners, which ranged in price from about $329 to $399. My jaw just about dropped when I read that. That's more in constant dollars than I'd expect to pay today, and $350 in 1955 dollars is the equivalent of about $3000 today.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Jennifer » 27 Oct 2014, 12:42

As I think more about it -- by modern standards Amber isn't remotely "titillating," "sexy," or anything, but even by today's standards she was unquestionably immoral and even in violation of the law -- not in any "unapproved but consensual sexuality" sort of way, but IIRC she eventually married into money and the aristocracy (or at least attempted to; can't recall if she was successful) by deliberately poisoning a rich old man to make him sick, so she could win his heart by "nursing him back to health."

Still -- that wasn't what inspired all those embarrassed middle-school shrieks and giggles, when a 1950s cop talking about traffic lights mentioned the word "amber."
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Eric the .5b » 27 Oct 2014, 13:18

I suspect that reaction was powered by hype.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by JD » 07 Nov 2014, 08:26

From Ottis Dykes' Sewing Machine Service Manual, 1978:
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 07 Nov 2014, 10:15

People do still use clockwise and anticlockwise, surely. Many wristwatches and home and office clocks are still analog. Right and left can always be misunderstood, which is why directors always use stage right and stage left.

Sewing machines are, of course, increasingly rare in the average household and it is certainly no longer a given that the average woman even knows how to use one, let alone does so. Which, btw, is just another factor that makes claiming Americans' standards of living is in any serious sort of decline. If people do any sort of sewing at home it's more likely than not that it's for some craftwork such as quilting and certainly not for mending, let alone making clothes for the family.

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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Jennifer » 07 Nov 2014, 10:35

Yeah, it is surprising nowadays, how the 1970s -- the era of the women's movement and "I am woman, hear me roar" and whatnot -- nowadays seems almost as sexist compared to the 2010s as the 1950s appeared in comparison to the late 1970s.

Earlier this week, MeTV (the channel which exclusively airs old shows from the 1950s through late 70s/early 80s), Tweeted a vintage TV Guide ad from summer 1979 touting the season opener/Sweeps Week episode of "CHiPs": a special "roller disco" episode featuring FIFTY superstar celebrity guest stars! Vic Tayback! Melissa Sue Anderson! A buncha people whose names I don't recall ever hearing!

Of course, MeTV was re-airing the episode, hence their publicity Tweet. So Jeff and I figured it would be fun to watch the episode and bask in thick 70s-era cheese. Sure enough, the episode was very "70s disco era" -- more 70s-discoey than the actual 70s-disco era, I suspect -- but the clothes and hairstyles struck me as less jarring than some of the attitudes.

The episode starts with "Ponch," the clean-cut-sexy highway cop played by Erik Estrada, worried because the California Highway Patrol will be hosting a roller disco/beauty pageant thing as a charity fundraiser, and Ponch has to arrange the whole thing and find a bunch of celebrities for it. Meanwhile, he and his partner still have to solve crimes -- there's a highway maniac played by one of the doctors from M*A*S*H driving around and deliberately causing serious accidents, and on the boardwalk-beachfront there's a trio of snatch-n-grab thieves who operate on roller skates, which is why ordinary pedestrians are never able to catch them. Also, there's a subplot starring a teen music idol played by a pre-addiction Leif Garrett having arguments with his manager/father figure (who I think played the annoying military-officer-guy on I Dream of Jeannie), and of course they both learn some important Life Lessons by the end of the episode.

And there are lots and lots and LOTS of gratuitous "California fun-in-the-sun boardwalk culture" shots: look, a bunch of gorgeous and scantily dressed 20-somethings are roller-skating! And now they're standing in a circle watching someone else roller-disco-ing! Now more skating, and more dancing, many scenes shot in front of a skate-rental place in case any remaining viewers don't realize roller skating is a big deal, here in late-1970s beachfront southern California .... eventually Ponch and John end up talking to two gorgeous, scantily dressed young women who agree to give them roller-skating lessons so they can catch the trio of thieves. And I was kind of surprised by how P&J -- on-the-clock police officers requesting citizens' assistance to help catch some criminals, remember -- kept calling the roller-skating teachers "girls" instead of "ladies" or something. "Do you girls know any celebrities who'd appear in our charity event?"

Eventually, thanks in part to the roller-skating teachers and in part to Leif Garrett and his manager/father figure, Ponch manages to find some celebrities to appear in that charity roller-disco thing. And finally, with barely five minutes left in that special-event two-hour-long episode, the celebrities appear: we see a roller-skating rink decked out in disco lights, and banners announcing the CHP roller-disco charity whatever, and then celebrities on roller skates come out while the announcer lists their names. Then Leif Garrett plays an entire song.

THAT was considered a major-big-deal sweeps-week television event in the late 70s -- watch an episode of this highway-crime show, an episode twice as long as usual, and at the very end you'll catch very brief glimpses of celebrities on roller skates: 50 different people in about 60 seconds. And I said to Jeff: "I can definitely see why something like this would be popular if it were real -- 'Hey, we're having this fundraiser, and if you pay your admission fee you'll not only have the fun of roller-skating for charity, you'll also get to rub elbows with some celebrities if you wish.' And if you're a big fan of a particular actor, I also see why you might want to watch an episode of a show where that actor actually guest-stars and plays a role. But the idea of watching a fake roller-disco contest solely so you can catch a brief non-speaking glimpse of a celebrity you like -- I just don't get it."
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by tr0g » 07 Nov 2014, 10:44

D.A. Ridgely wrote:People do still use clockwise and anticlockwise, surely. Many wristwatches and home and office clocks are still analog. Right and left can always be misunderstood, which is why directors always use stage right and stage left.

Sewing machines are, of course, increasingly rare in the average household and it is certainly no longer a given that the average woman even knows how to use one, let alone does so. Which, btw, is just another factor that makes claiming Americans' standards of living is in any serious sort of decline. If people do any sort of sewing at home it's more likely than not that it's for some craftwork such as quilting and certainly not for mending, let alone making clothes for the family.
We have 4. And a serger that neither of us has taken the time to figure out yet. But I have been aware for some time that no matter what axis you pick, my household probably isn't average on it. We're statistically anomalous!
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by JD » 07 Nov 2014, 10:50

D.A. Ridgely wrote:People do still use clockwise and anticlockwise, surely. Many wristwatches and home and office clocks are still analog. Right and left can always be misunderstood, which is why directors always use stage right and stage left.

Sewing machines are, of course, increasingly rare in the average household and it is certainly no longer a given that the average woman even knows how to use one, let alone does so. Which, btw, is just another factor that makes claiming Americans' standards of living is in any serious sort of decline. If people do any sort of sewing at home it's more likely than not that it's for some craftwork such as quilting and certainly not for mending, let alone making clothes for the family.
I'm not even that surprised about the sewing machine stuff, although they are increasingly rare, as you say. Perhaps not as rare as you might think, since I keep running into people who have one, but definitely not as common as they used to be. The really surprising part to me here was the "average woman operator" bit. The whole passage sounds like for men (because only men are going to be repairing machines, right?) explaining how women operators are not going to understand stuff like "left" and "right". (Although I think the author is completely correct in saying that "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" or "anticlockwise" are better terms than "left" and "right".)
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Mo » 07 Nov 2014, 11:30

If you can come up with a better rhyme than "righty tighty, lefty loosey" with clockwise and counter-clockwise.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by lunchstealer » 07 Nov 2014, 11:39

Mo wrote:If you can come up with a better rhyme than "righty tighty, lefty loosey" with clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Clockwise, Spockwise; Anticlockwise, Anti-Spockwise? Where Spock is a metaphor for tightness? Because he's all uptight and stuff?
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Ellie » 07 Nov 2014, 12:03

lunchstealer wrote:
Mo wrote:If you can come up with a better rhyme than "righty tighty, lefty loosey" with clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Clockwise, Spockwise; Anticlockwise, Anti-Spockwise? Where Spock is a metaphor for tightness? Because he's all uptight and stuff?
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 07 Nov 2014, 12:59

Mo wrote:If you can come up with a better rhyme than "righty tighty, lefty loosey" with clockwise and counter-clockwise.
I learned "Right in, left out," as well.

And, btw, we own (well, my wife owns because she said she wanted one thirty years ago so I bought her one) a sewing machine which she does use for the occasional alteration or mending of some things but mostly uses for quilting and to knock together cheapo costumes.

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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Hugh Akston » 07 Nov 2014, 13:09

Guys it's counterclockwise.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Eric the .5b » 07 Nov 2014, 13:41

Hugh Akston wrote:Guys it's counterclockwise.
It's widdershins.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by tr0g » 07 Nov 2014, 13:43

Eric the .5b wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote:Guys it's counterclockwise.
It's widdershins.
Only if the opposite direction is deosil.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Aresen » 07 Nov 2014, 13:45

tr0g wrote:
Eric the .5b wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote:Guys it's counterclockwise.
It's widdershins.
Only if the opposite direction is deosil.
Beat me to it. Except the spelling I learned was 'deasil'.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Ellie » 07 Nov 2014, 14:04

Eric the .5b wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote:Guys it's counterclockwise.
It's widdershins.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Jadagul » 07 Nov 2014, 14:43

Mo wrote:If you can come up with a better rhyme than "righty tighty, lefty loosey" with clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Rotate it into the door to make it go into the door? By the right-hand rule, "clockwise" is the same as "away from you."
Hugh Akston wrote:Guys it's counterclockwise.
They say anti-clockwise in Britain still.

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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Hugh Akston » 07 Nov 2014, 14:49

Jadagul wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote:Guys it's counterclockwise.
They say anti-clockwise in Britain still.
Right. And since when do the British know how to speak English?
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Timothy » 07 Nov 2014, 16:51

NO! It is dextrorotatory and levorotatory.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

Post by Aresen » 07 Nov 2014, 16:56

Timothy wrote:NO! It is dextrorotatory and levorotatory.
That's a sugary comment.
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Never bring a knife to a joke fight" - dhex

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