What Makes a Great Movie? NOT Sex Scenes…

I haven’t written a blog post in awhile, so thanks for making your way back to my blog!

Since getting married in 2017, I’ve watched a lot more movies and TV shows than I used to. Jesse and I like picking apart a plot line or character and analyzing it from a Catholic standpoint. It’s a fun little theological game and there’s certainly no shortage of material to use with Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc.

So let me just start this blog post by saying, officially, that I take back ALL the nice things I said on my blog and to friends about The Man in the High Castle. Because Season 3 is trash and I’m REALLY disappointed.

Let me explain.

To recap, this show is asks the question, “What if the US had lost WWII?” as it explores what an occupied America would look like, along with the mystery of different realities and strange films that keep popping up depicting events of different timelines. Seasons 1 and 2 were amazing… so amazing that I wrote a gushing blog post about how it was an awesome show and everyone should watch it.

I don’t regret writing that, because S1 and S2 were excellent. Thought-provoking, creative, and deeply moving… but S3 was entirely different. To be honest, we didn’t even make it past episode 3. Why? Because this season had a different feel to it and I really didn’t like it… more explicit sex scenes, more vulgarity, and – if possible – more violence.

It was such a stark contrast to S1 and S2; the first two seasons had only two sex scenes and they were easy to fast forward through/weren’t really overbearing in terms of the plot line. But S3 was trash because it took a thought-provoking, intellectually challenging show and turned it into just another sex-in-every-episode show like most others are these days.

You might be thinking, “Why is that a bad thing? So what? Who cares? It’s just a TV show!?” Sure, but the point is that the show didn’t have to go this direction. It didn’t have to add explicit sex scenes and just plain revolting plot lines focused on sex to draw in the audience. The story was amazing without adding borderline soft core porn to every episode, and it really didn’t need to do that to drive the plot and get viewership. Instead, it turned me, Jesse, and many other viewers away because shows that rely so heavily on sex to drive the plot are supremely disappointing, rather than entertaining.

So it’s made me think about how often sex scenes occur in movies and just why exactly I have a big problem with them… and how they’re totally unnecessary to make a really great movie.

Sex is Sacred, Not Entertainment

I’m sure people will read this and think I’m stuck up, a prude, whatever. But the main problem that I have a problem with explicit sex scenes in movies is that my faith teaches that sex is something that is sacred… not crass entertainment.

The Church teaches that sex is a gift — specifically, a gift of self that is to be full, faithful, fruitful, and total in the context of marriage between a man and woman committed to each other for life. It is meant to be always open to life, always totally self-giving, for the purpose of bonding and if God wills, babies. It is the full expression of authentic, self-sacrificial love. How often do we see sex portrayed in this way in movies and TV shows? Literally NEVER. No wonder the culture is so confused and backwards when it comes to the meaning of sex.

That’s why I have a problem with movies that portray sex crassly. I’m not talking about love stories in movies… those are fine and sometimes can be really great. Obviously there are sometimes some sexual elements to love stories in movies but subtle, implied things are entirely different than leaving no question as to what is going on. I’m talking about scenes where it’s uncomfortable to watch (well, for me at least)… scenes that make you feel like you need to look away. There is literally no purpose for explicit scenes like this other than to appeal to an audience who wants to watch soft core porn and call it entertainment.

Sex is sacred self-gift between spouses. So I have a problem with it being portrayed as something done for recreation or personal gain or for selfish reasons. Obviously, unfortunately, and sadly people use sex for these reasons in real life, but I’m not going to voluntarily watch that play out in a movie and call it entertainment. Because when it happens in real life it results in use, pain, and eventual heartbreak for all involved.

Good Movies Don’t Need It

I’m still trying to figure out why the writers of The Man in the High Castle decided to turn up the dials on the number of sex scenes in S3. Was it lazy writing? An attempt to appeal to more viewers? It’s a shame because a plot as creative as this one really didn’t need to do this to keep people intrigued.

The reality is that there are a LOT of amazing movies that DON’T rely on sex scenes to drive the plot. In fact, I’ve watched a handful of them lately. Here’s a list… feel free to add your own in the comments:

  • Man of Steel (Henry Cavill is the best Superman. And the soundtrack is epic.)
  • The Lord of the Rings (Read my blog on LOTR here.)
  • Hidden Figures (Excellent, please go watch it if you’ve never seen it.)
  • Wonder Woman (DC’s best movie yet…)
  • The Martian (I’m not a Matt Damon fan but he’s great in this.)
  • Interstellar (Confusing. But thought-provoking.)
  • Arrival (Amy Adams at her best in this one.)
  • Star Wars (The originals. The new ones aren’t good. And yes, we like space movies…)

… And more. Those are just a few off the top of my head that I’ve watched relatively recently. But they’re all excellent, in my personal opinion, and none of them rely on explicit sex scenes to drive the plot or attract viewers. Some of them may have sort of amorous relationship depicted, but it’s done in a tasteful way

My point is that in all of these movies, and in any movie in general, the story line and characters should be strong enough that you don’t need to sell it with sex. Sex scenes, it seems, are an easy way to get viewers attention and capture an audience and if you can’t write a great movie without that, then perhaps producers should reevaluate why they’re making the movie.

This is certainly not to say that movies without any questionable scenes or themes are always great. For example, there’s nothing questionable or explicit in any Hallmark movie but you really can’t get any more cringe-worthy than titles like “October Kiss,” “A Prince for Christmas,” or “It’s Christmas, Eve.” But the point is that there are awesome movies out there with great character development and fascinating plot lines that are truly entertaining and don’t have a ridiculous sex scene every 20 minutes.

What Makes a Great Movie?

I’m no Roger Ebert, but I do have opinions on movies and TV and I think we can all agree on some basic qualities that make a great movie: a strong, engaging, thought-provoking plot. Themes that challenge us or make us think. Characters that entertain us because they are human and relatable yet very different from us at the same time.

You can do all of this and, as the movies I listed above prove, create an awesome movie or TV show WITHOUT adding tons of explicit sex scenes to appeal to the lusts of the masses. Unfortunately, the writers of The Man in the High Castle chose not to and in doing so, lost a lot of fans.

With all the sexual brokenness in our culture, I’m still waiting for people to wake up and realize that treating sex as something so trivial and recreational both in real life and on the movie screen — treating it as something that can be used for entertainment and exploited to gain viewers — only further distorts the real meaning and depth of human sexuality, and contributes to things like the use and degradation of women and things like #MeToo.

Lust isn’t entertaining; it’s sad and a sign of a broken culture. Luckily, there are lots of movies to choose from that don’t use sex as a selling point. I hope to see more movies like this in the future, because those movies that rely on strong writing, great acting, and an engaging plot are the truly great ones.



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