Friday, March 18, 2005

Can We Laugh?

[Note: sometimes I feel obligated to remind readers that these are my own opinions, and are not necessarily shared by everyone at -- JimK]

A few months ago, the local little theater in Kensington put on the musical "The Rocky Horror Show." We packed up the family and had a wonderful time singing along, doing the Time Warp, using all the props they passed out. The night we were there, the audience ran the full range from old-timers like me to high-school age kids. Costumes were optional -- it was hard to tell who was in the cast and who was in the audience.

Rocky Horror is a celebration of polymorphous, unrestrained sexuality. If you haven't seen it, it's the story of a naive newlywed couple who have a flat tire in a rainstorm, and end up knocking on the door of an old mansion where a party is being held. The house is full of Transylvanian transvestites and transexuals and ... it just gets crazier from there. Sex is everywhere, it's fun, it's wild, it's funny.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- the movie -- has been showing in theaters in every city in America, every weekend since 1975. People dress up to see it, they sing along, they get up and dance, they shout out call-and-response lines synchronized with the movie, shoot squirtguns into the air, all that stuff.

And ya know what? I don't believe that movie has ever turned anybody gay.

Oh, it may have loosened some laces, some couples may have tried stuff afterwards that they wouldn't have tried otherwise, but basically the impact of the movie was ... nothing. Everybody has a laugh at the expense of the uptight, innocent Brad and Janet, and at the straightlaced world in general, and when the movie's over everybody goes home and cooks dinner and does whatever they do, maybe humming a tune while they do it.

So it is against that backdrop that I try to make sense of people who freak out when they learn that the health curriculum will be teaching high school students that a family can have two mommies. The whole paranoid fantasy about the "gay agenda," I mean, c'mon, we're supposed to take that seriously?

I look at it this way. Rocky Horror didn't turn anybody gay. Yeah, maybe it was good for Frederick's of Hollywood, and who knows, maybe they even sold an unprecedented number of XXXL corsets. But it wasn't the end of the world. People growing up in the seventies managed to get married, have kids, raise the kids, and go gray without any big catastrophe. And look, Rocky Horror didn't just "normalize" homosexuality -- the prude's great fear -- it actively glorified it. Made the gay guy look like fun, he was the hero. Made the prudes look silly.

And what happened? Nothing.

So now here we are, the Montgomery County schools have been teaching sex-education since 1970, and teachers have not been allowed to bring up the concept of homosexuality. And if it came up in a question in class, they were told to deal with it in a "perfunctory" manner. In the meantime, the world has moved on, there are gay characters on TV, in politics, everywhere you look; kids know there's something going on, and they deserve to be told honestly what it is.

So the schools have expanded the curriculum the very slightest bit. Now sexual orientation will be mentioned, and the prudes are in full huff-and-puff mode.

I have the intuition that laughter is the missing ingredient here. The prudes have defined the topic as a v-e-r-y s-e-r-i-o-u-s one, no laughing matter. It's all sin and heaviness to them. But maybe the sin and heaviness is the problem. 'Dya ever think of that? Life can be a happy thing, nature has been kind to us, offering us love and beauty and the pleasure of living. How terrible would it be if we simply enjoyed it?

I'm willing to bet that well informed teenagers can weigh the risks of sex with the attractiveness of it, and make the right decision. They do want to live life to the fullest, and no matter what some people think, that doesn't mean that they want to experience everything right now, right here. Kids understand the importance of relationships, of love, of marriage. I say, give them the information to make responsible, life-affirming decisions and let's be happy.


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