Each week in the podcast Scriptnotes, screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin get together to talk about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. For this week's episode, August, Mazin and sex columnist Dan Savage set their sights on the portrayal of sex – or, rather, the lack thereof – in the industry and Marvel's sexless superheroes.
When asked what he'd like to see movies and TV do more to portray sex in a positive but realistic way, the following exchange occurred:
Dan Savage: We are paranoid about young people's sexuality. I really haven't thought about this but off the top of my head, there is, maybe it's a reaction to the AIDS epidemic that's still sort of broiling through the culture. This attitude that sexual expression, out of the context of a committed relationship, is not okay. And so when I'm thinking about the sex I've seen in movies, it's kind of limited to Rom-coms or relationships that are established, which aren't very sexy. Sex in an established relationship is considered routine and not remarkable, not an extraordinary event, or film worthy. So we get these heroes who don't have time for sex, or aren’t interested in sex.
John August: I would say there are small exceptions. The Tony Stark character in "Iron Man," you feel like he has sex with Gwyneth Paltrow. That's a thing that happens. But it feels like he's sort of a bad boy for having sex. And if you look at the other characters in the Marvel Universe, they don't have sex basically.
Savage: I don't go see those movies. Does Thor have sex?
Craig Mazin: I don't think so, because technically Thor is a Norse God and, I think, they make weather.
August: Captain America is a Boy Scout. Even Black Widow, it's Scarlett Johansson, she is inherently a sexual creature, but they don't actually use any of that as part of the story because it's a PG-13 Universe it has to be able to sell toys and you don't want to sexualize toys I guess.
Dan Savage: Spider-Man would be like the world's greatest bondage top. Does he have sex? I haven't seen a Spider-Man movie. I'm a terrible guest for your show. I don't get to see a lot of movies.
Mazin: It's great. Spider-Man, actually, is a great example of what John's talking about. He is a high school senior. He's got this super hot girlfriend that's totally in love with him. I think at one point they actually move in or live together -- maybe even get married? I can't remember because there's been a lot of them. But you get the feeling that all they do is kiss and then go to bed like Ricky and Lucy in separate beds. I mean there's just no balls to that character. It's all Jesus-based heroism. Like I am a pure person -- that's part of the problem. A lot of these heroes that we put out there in movies are just a retelling of the Jesus story. I am a pure person who will absorb the sin of the world around me, suffer for your sins, and then save the world through my resurrection.
Savage: I cannot compromise my desire.
Mazin: Bingo. Bingo. And this is part of what goes on, I think, these days at least, a lot of the narrative we put out to kids. You just Augusted me.
To give the whole bit a listen, check out their latest episode. Savage comes in around the 480minute mark, just shy of the segment quoted above.
What do you think? Do Marvel's PG-13 heroes need to get laid, pronto?