Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hostages of All Sorts

I've been living with this strange kind of time layering, where elements from the 70's keep intruding in my 21st century life.

I haven't been getting enough sleep, because I've been staying up to watch the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Vietnam documentary.  I've been captivated by the storylines about the POWs, and the increasing American awareness of these captives.  The show gave one sentence to the POW bracelet.

I wonder what became of my bracelet.  Somewhere there's a photo of a Christmas in my childhood, and my sister and I are wearing our POW bracelets.  I have a memory of going to Maxwell Air Force Base to see a plane of POWs return, but I've always wondered if my brain just claimed the popular culture footage of the return as something I experienced.

This morning, I did a Google search.  There was a plane of POWs that came to Maxwell AFB.  And going to the base to welcome the captives home is an activity my family would have done.

As I was researching, I listened to yesterday's edition of Fresh Air, which had an interview with creators of The Deuce, the new TV show about Times Square, back in the 70's, where prostitutes worked, just before the porn industry was about to transform us all.

Near the end of the interview, David Simon says, "We don't sell anything without using the tropes of pornography. We don't sell beer or cars or blue jeans without in some way referencing a lot of what has become normalized imagery and normalized culture through the ubiquity of pornography over the last 50 years. It's been a long time. It's been half a century that this stuff has been in the ether. And you know, in the same way that early pornography certainly took a lot of its tropes from mainstream film and played with them, it's gone the other way. And now I mean I think, you know, everything from fashion to music to regular cinema - the pornographication (ph) of America has been profound."

He goes on to say, ". . . you don't have a multibillion-dollar industry operating every year and not have it transform the way we think about ourselves and each other. And I don't think anyone's got a good handle on the depth of that. I think it's happened so fast, and it's been so unexamined, so without any - I don't think anyone's examined it with any degree of seriousness. I'm not sure we know what we've built."

I wonder if he's right--surely some academic somewhere has published a serious book.  I'm not sure I have the stomach to read such a book.  I'm not a Puritan, but I do mourn a certain lack of privacy that has come with our current age.  I hate how some of these images colonize my brain and refuse to leave.

It's an interesting juxtaposition to listen to that interview while thinking about Hugh Hefner, who just died.  I confess that I was first aware of him in his later years, where he aged, but his female companions didn't.  I don't think of him as a free speech pioneer, but as a creepy old man.

I heard a brief news story on NPR that reminded me that Playboy devoted page space to much more than naked females.  Hefner was committed to fiction in a way that many publishers never were.

The mainstream porn of my youth seems so tasteful now compared to what I occasionally stumble across.  In my early morning monitoring of Hurricane Irma, I came across some very explicit pictures of penetration; talk about strange juxtapositions!  Eventually, the site monitors took them down.  I'm glad I never saw such photos in my younger years; they'd have made me very afraid of sex, not because they were violent, but because they were so very explicit.

How strange to come to this, to saluting Hefner for his trailblazing ways, while also hating elements of this free wheeling society he helped create, a brave, new world where I stumble across pictures of sex on a weather site, a world where we are all prisoners of a different war.

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