I’m a big fan of old black and white movies, particularly those starring Kathryn Hepburn. The other night I stayed up watching “Without Love,” a comedy with Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. I knew that they’d end up together in the end, but I wanted to SEE it! At 11:30 p.m., I started to regret staying up so late… then, at last, witty, rapid-fire dialogue about how they’d fallen for each other. The finale: they hug. Hug? Where’s the passionate kiss? Well, there’s the subtlety in these old films. “Philadelphia Story” with Hepburn and Cary Grant is the same way. There’s innuendo and some titillation but it’s up to the viewers to use their imaginations rather than have the directors include explicit love scenes.
As a writer, I faced a similar dilemma recently. My current protagonist, an 18-year-old psychic/medium starts seeing the ghost of a teen boy who’d been killed in a tragic car accident. She learns that she and this guy have shared numerous lifetimes together – including lives as adults who’ve had sexual relationships. While they don’t remember exact details of those lives, they know they’ve ‘done the deed,’ so to speak. They consider trying to have a sexual relationship as human and ghost. I deliberately wrote these scenes without being in-your-face explicit.
People knock Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight trilogy for its archaic, prudish treatment of the two main protagonists who wait to have sex. In the last movie, “Eclipse,” there’s a scene in Edward’s bedroom where they consider having sex. It’s sexier than many of the films I’ve seen with outright coitus and full nudity. “Cold Mountain” is another great example of showing an intensely passionate relationship between two people without looking between the sheets.
I believe we’ve lost subtlety in describing passion, suspense and horror. Books and films beat us over the head until we no longer feel the building emotion.
Do you agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts.