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Not Quite a Top 10 List, or In Defense of Dan Brown (Sort of)

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“What is your favorite phone app?”
The question made me pause. I was sitting across from another business professional in a “speed networking” event as we got to know each other. Neither of us knew how to answer.
I mentally reviewed the apps I use most frequently, but they fell more in the “necessary” category than the “fun” category. Right before settling for a rote answer, it hit me: my favorite app, by far, is Libby.
The service Libby provides isn’t new. In fact, it’s probably old hat for most of you. But as someone who is historically behind the times, I’ve only started taking advantage of technologically-enhanced reading aids this year. Libby allows me and my wife to borrow audiobooks from the library and listen to them while doing dishes, folding clothes, driving, or performing other mindless tasks. It’s free and fun, and why haven’t I been doing this longer?!
If not for Libby, I would have only gotten through two fiction books this year. With Libby’s aid, however, I completed ten f…

The Author Who has Forever Changed My View of Movies

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There are times when the best film commentary comes from a pastor. Not just any pastor, mind you. There are some who practice such complete avoidance of movies that they lack a healthy perspective. Their discernment is hindered by a willful ignorance of God’s gift of cinema.

At the same time, there are others (and not just pastors) who practice such complete immersion in the world of movies that they too lack a healthy perspective. Their discernment, however, is hindered, not from ignorance, but from overstimulation.
It can be tricky to find a balance between the two. As I attempt to acquire a greater sense of that balance, I am grateful for one author—one pastor—whose writing on film has dramatically changed my life. Because I have learned so much from him, I wanted to share some of the wealth of his knowledge with my readers.
That is why I am honored and excited to interview Pastor Wayne A. Wilson. He is the author of Worldly Amusements, which is one of the five most influential and li…

The Fault in Our (Movie) Stars’ Simulated Sex

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In the last few weeks, we’ve been examining the claim that simulated sex scenes are not real sex. Some argue that, because mainstream movie sets are tightly controlled and highly contained, these scenes cannot be categorized as sexual in nature. As I heard one person put it, “Even when filming sex scenes, film sets are the least erotic places on earth.”

Thus far, we have looked at three problems with that line of reasoning. Let’s complete this blog series by examining two more problems.
4. Sometimes the Sex Isn’t Simulated
I said earlier that a typical sex scene in a film, TV show, or stage play doesn’t involve actual penetrative sex. I used the word “typical” for a reason: there are atypical mainstream forms of entertainment where actual sex does take place on set. I won’t link to them, but there are plenty of lists of which films show actors (or body doubles) engaging in bona fide copulation.
Furthermore, to quote a 2012 article from The Independent, “films where the actors have real, a…

3 Inconvenient Truths from Evangeline Lilly’s LOST Exposé

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In 2004, the television series LOST introduced the world to several new (or fairly unknown) faces, not the least of which was Evangeline Lilly. And unknown until very recently, LOST introduced Evangeline Lilly to a seedy undercurrent of Hollywood’s secret subculture.
A few weeks ago, Lilly made a guest appearance on a LOST-related podcast hosted by Jack Shepherd (yes, really) and Jacob Stolworthy. During the interview, Lilly revealed how she was coerced into partially disrobing for a scene:
In Season 3, I’d had a bad experience on set with being basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked, and I felt I had no choice in the matter. And I was mortified and I was trembling. And when it finished, I was crying my eyes out.
She continued by describing a similar situation in Season 4, after which she put her foot down and outright refused to take her clothes off for the show ever again.
At this point, much has been made in the media of these two experiences—and rightly so. What I want …

When Actors Enjoy Simulated Sex, What Does That Prove?

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A Hollywood set is a professional work environment. Whenever a sex scene is filmed, the atmosphere is far from erotic. It’s only as real as two actors pretending to argue, or two actors pretending to fight to the death. Because the sex is only simulated, it can’t really be counted as sexual—and certainly not as actual sex.
So the argument goes. It’s an argument I’ve addressed before (here and here). Last week, we looked at the first of five problems with the “sex scenes aren’t real sex” logic. Now let’s look at problems two and three.
2. It’s Not True
This second point comes into greater focus after taking into account what we learned from Mindy Kaling earlier: there are actors who find sexual enjoyment and/or arousal during scenes of simulated intimacy. That alone points to the sexual nature, not only of the finished product of filming these scenes, but the actual filming of these scenes.
Think about the alternative. If we maintain that these scenes of simulating sex acts are not sexual,…

“But Simulated Sex isn’t Real Sex”

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A couple weeks ago, we looked at a chapter from Mindy Kaling’s book Why Not Me?, entitled “I Love Sex Scenes!” In it, she claims that she isn’t the only one who enjoys onscreen simulations of sexual intimacy. And even though she uses some hyperbolic language to make her point, she’s still right in that she is not alone:

The conventional response to sex scenes is that they’re horrible and not sexy and it’s all so unnatural. But I’ve always found filming sex scenes to be quite a turn-on. I like the experience of being in a sexual position when you’re not supposed to be in one.” (Hugh Grant)“Sex scenes are great. A lot of my costars have been sexy guys my age who are really respectful and cool. So, why not? I’m not going to pretend it’s not fun.” (Amanda Seyfried)“You are not supposed to say that you enjoy doing sex scenes, you are supposed to say ‘Oh it’s really difficult, you know with the lighting and the cameramen and the boom operators are all watching,’ but I never had that. I just…