Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Woman Caught in Adultery

I have a feeling that much more will still be said about the sex scandal in the coming days. Regardless, I'd like to jump ahead to a likely postscript, not the most certain one, of course, but fitting however the whole episode turns out.

Image from The Thorn Crown Journal

Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?"
This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."

And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She said, "No one, Lord."

And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

Go, and do not sin again.

Privacy, Consent, and the Nature of Our Acts

"Isn't the issue here the filming of the act without the participant's consent?"

That's the question posed by one of the commenters on my blog. And another one adds: "The issue, really, is about the consent to take the video. there was no mutual consent."

Really? Is this what this is all about? Consent? And privacy? But all these questions and issues are really just glib misdirections. Is it just privacy and consent at stake here? Or is it the acts that necessitate privacy and consent?

Let's take it through some thought experiments.

If you were to take a video of me walking, just walking, down the street, and if you were to broadcast it on TV and on the Internet, has my privacy been violated? One might say yes, based on the arguments above. I did not give my consent, and yet my image is being broadcast to the public. TV networks do this all the time with their establishing shots.

But no one cares, and why? Because the act itself is uninteresting and because I'm a nobody.

So let's say something interesting happens to me. Let's say I'm walking down the street and I slip on a banana peel. You capture that on video and put it on Youtube. Again, my privacy has been violated. Upset, I might take it up with you, but it's hardly something that will merit a court case or a senate investigation. No one cares. Why? Because the incident itself may have been interesting, but I'm still a nobody.

So now let's say that it's this starlet, KH, who slips on the banana peel, and whom you capture on video. Has her privacy been violated? At this point, it's arguable. She's already a public figure to begin with, but we might also say that the banana peel incident happened to her while she was in her private persona. Will publishing the video merit a court case or a senate investigation? I don't think so. At best, the clip will air on SNN or Star Talk or Bitoy's Funniest Videos. Other than a few chuckles and embarrassed interviews, it's not going to make much of a ripple. It might even launch her on a career as a comedienne.

What's that you say? Slipping on a banana peel isn't the same as having sex? But why shouldn't they be? They're both natural acts. One is a result of gravity and the other a result of biology. One might say that slipping on a banana peel is more embarrassing because it was accidental and involuntary, while having sex is willful and voluntary.

Slipping on a banana peel is innocent? But aren't they fond of telling us prudes that sex is innocent? No magazine or TV program has ever taught us the many ways we can slip on a banana, but we have scads of local magazines and TV programs that purport to teach us the many ways we can have sex.

And yet, when sex becomes public, it suddenly becomes a private matter that requires consent? Ano ba talaga, ate?!

So just why is Katrina Halili so upset? Is it just because she was filmed without her consent, full stop? Or she was filmed without her consent performing an act that she found shameful and embarrassing? What was that shameful act? Dancing in her underwear? But that's something we've all seen, and as I said before, she's practically left nothing to the imagination anymore. Dancing to Careless Whisper? It's a cheesy song, but it's not that bad. Or was it because she had sex with someone she shouldn't have had sex with?

Or was she simply upset that she was discovered? That, with the evidence firmly in place, it's no longer something that she could hint away with a giggle, a wink, and a tart innuendo?

No, I don't think this episode is about privacy at all. Privacy is not an end unto itself. We value privacy because there's something of value that we want to protect. This episode is about our whole confused approach to sex. As another commenter said:

"Post-Christian Filipinos, trapped between their Catholic heritage and their pagan obsessions, have absolutely no idea how to deal with moral issues."

Either sex is some trivial, irrelevant act, no better than slipping on a banana peel, in which case we should be wondering why we're all so worked up; or sex is something sacred and valuable that we want to preserve its sanctity in the privacy of our rooms.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Puri, Prurience, and Hypocrisy

On the upside to the raging sex scandal, I've finally seen Katrina Halili fully clothed, without makeup, and looking like a normal 23-year old woman should.

It's quite a shock to me, really, because in all my past encounters with her posters and magazine covers, she wore nothing but see-through lingerie and a come-hither-I'm-ready look. When I finally caught a glimpse of the start of her controversial video, I had to stifle a yawn. Nothing that I hadn't already seen before.

Indeed, what's with the big to-do? Isn't this what Katrina Halili has been selling all along? Three time solo cover girl for FHM Philippines (December 2005, October 2006, February 2008), four straight years in the FHM 100 Sexiest Women (gaining the top spot in 2007), and the most prestigious of all, FHM Calendar Girl in 2008.

Now comes the time to seal the deal, to close the sale, to deliver on the goods, and Katrina Halili has suddenly discovered the virtues of modesty and chastity? You mean she wasn't serious with her come-ons? I'm confused and disappointed.

Don't be so surprised that I know these things. I'm what they like to call a hypocrite. On moral grounds, I object to the overt sexuality in media. Yet deep down, I am more attracted than repelled by the display. Can I help it if the scantily-clad visions are everywhere I look? They're in the newsstands, in the billboards, and on TV, and they're all targeted at me.

But if I'm a hypocrite, so apparently are they. A hypocrite is someone who acts in a manner contrary to what he preaches. I'm a hypocrite because I like what I claim to despise, and I can't help but take a peek every now and then. But they're also hypocrites because they claim liberation in sexuality, but who can only find scandal and shame in sex.

If we're all hypocrites, the difference is that I value sex enough to want to raise my head from the trough of sexuality, whereas they've immersed themselves in the swill only to find that there are dregs that even they're not willing to swallow.

Is there, or isn't there an intrinsic and instinctive value which we associate with sex? If sex is nothing, if it's as casual as a throwaway "Hello", then why find titillation and scandal in its display? But if it's special, sacred, and private, why flaunt it and flout it in public?

Why show it if you're not willing to sell it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bright and shiny crap

Call it media brainwashing. Because all my friends liked it, because the reviews were generally positive, and because The Onion said you were an old fogey if you complained about it, it took a while before my dislike of the new Star Trek movie bubbled to the surface. But bubble up it did. So let me make it clear:

The new Star Trek movie, the so-called "reboot", is a mess. I don't like it. And you can call me all sorts of names and I still won't like it.

What's not to like? After the dark and dismal stories of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, the new Star Trek is colorful and optimistic. On the surface, Star Trek is bright and shiny again.

But that's the problem: it's all on the surface. Underneath, the Star Trek movie is flimsy and weak, with muddled motivations and an overreliance on deus ex machina.

It's not about canon. It's about good story. I don't care if it's old Trek or new Trek or new old Trek or what. I want a good plausible story. And in that respect, the J.J. Abrams film failed to deliver.

I mean: the Romulan miners travelled to the past, so why didn't they work to prevent the destruction of their planet when they could? It's not as if it was the Federation or the Klingons who caused the supernova. If anything, the Federation tried to save Romulus. It just so happened Spock was late. Was that his fault?

And they waited 25 years for old Spock to appear? What did they do in the meantime? Twiddle their thumbs? They obviously had the firepower to destroy Klingon and Federation armadas. And in all that time, they're just waiting?

People say that the old Star Trek relied on technology doubletalk to advance the plot, whereas this new Star Trek uses action. Hello? Red Matter? That can cause singularities with a single drop from a giant hypodermic needle? Transwarp transporter technology? So they can get back on the USS Enterprise without the dirty business of getting a fast ship? This new Star Trek has got convenient doubletalk plot devices in spades!

How convenient, too, that new Spock should just happen to order new Kirk thrown off the ship so that he conveniently lands on Delta Vega where old Spock has been conveniently marooned, and where they conveniently happen to meet Scotty who was conveniently left to man the outpost. Oh, and by the way, Scotty conveniently invented transporter gobbledygooky technology, too, so they can conveniently transport to the Enterprise travelling at warp speed.

The Kirk that I remember managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by some unconventional, clever, and underhanded trick (that being the point of his Kobayashi Maru solution). This Kirk's solution? Beam aboard the enemy ship and find a way to destroy it. Why not just fire a torpedo up the exhaust port while you're at it? It's so...ho-hum.

This Star Trek story, in fact, is so ho-hum, but you just won't notice it under the relentless assault on your senses by its arsenal of bright and shiny designs, lens flares, one-liners, and Orion beauties (what I really wanted to say was Orion slave girl, but apparently they're Federation now.) Even if your brain wants to complain, you you'll be drowned out by the nostalgic sighs of old starcrossed fans and the cheers of newly reconstituted "Trekkies."

And yet the fact remains: the new Star Trek is crap. Bright and shiny crap, yes, but crap nonetheless.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Disney robot army

Picked these up from SM City Davao over a couple of weeks. Believe it or not, they only cost P50 each! They came in keychain versions as well, but my sister appropriated those.

This reminds me of a scifi story I read a long while back, but whose title or author I can't remember anymore. It had a robot Mickey, Donald, and Goofy trudging across an apocalyptic wasteland. Has anyone else read the same story?