General News

Writers say 'keep the sex'

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Jun 10, 2001 | 12:15pm EDT

Academy Award-winning screenwriter and novelist, John Irving (The Cider House Rules) vehemently supports a writer's right to be as graphic as need be to tell a story.

According to Associated Press reports, Irving says children do not need to be protected by politicians from so-called inappropriate images. "What they need is more artistic truth," Irving argued at the Lake Placid Film Forum in New York on Saturday. "What they need is to be more truthful to how people really are."

A panel of writers, including Irving, Russell Banks (Affliction), Francine Prose (Household Saints) and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), attended the forum to discuss how politicians increasingly blame Hollywood for the wrongs in the world, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman's push for a voluntary system to stop the marketing of sex and violence in films to children.

And one point was made very clear: the writers were all opposed to political censorship.

"What's wrong with this country is not its movies, but how little we value education," Irving said.

Irving and Banks commented that sex and violence in their works aren't just there for titillation or voyeurism. It's the writer's responsibility to carefully present stories that explore the complexities of sex and violence.

Banks' Affliction examines two generations of haunted, violent men, as does The Sweet Hereafter, based on Banks' novel of the same name, which deals with incest. Banks wants to produce in the audience a "stunned silence."

"The response you hope to get is that you're bringing home a sacred truth...in a way that you can't avert your gaze," Banks reportedly said.

Irving's novel The Cider House Rules deals with incest as well as abortion; however, when he wrote the screenplay, Irving deliberately kept the sex and violence to a minimum. He believes that if Michael Caine's Oscar-winning ether-addicted abortionist or the incestuous migrant apple picker were as harsh as they were in the book, the audience would not have empathized with the characters as much and the "story would have fallen apart."

However, Shane Black's big budget Lethal Weapon may be considered one of those scripts that simply glorifies violence for the sake of it, rather than contributing to the story's ultimate meaning. And Black did not make any apologies for it.

"You don't like titillating violence?" Black said. "That's fair. Any more questions?"

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