Trends: Historic Interracial Couples on Film

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in 'Loving' (Evening Standard)

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in ‘Loving’ (Evening Standard)

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the conversation around movies in Hollywood centered around the fact that there was no diversity. #OscarsSoWhite gained prominence during the national conversation. It seems the entertainment industry listened, because movies with diverse casts and themes will be released. Even better, a couple of movies will tell stories from history that need to be more widely known than they are.

The story of Virginia couple Mildred and Richard Loving are featured in Jeff Nichols’ Loving. Mildred, a Black woman (played by Ruth Negga), and Richard (Joel Edgerton), a white man, were arrested in 1958 for the crime of being married when interracial marriage was a crime. The Lovings’ ordeal to have their union be legally recognized led to the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case in 1967. The ruling struck down every anti-miscegenation law still on the books in 16 Southern states. (At least in theory; several states still tried to unofficially enforce the law.)

Too few people know this story, and I’m glad it’s gaining more recognition. The case is seen as a landmark in the struggle for civil rights, and can be regarded as the spiritual predecessor to the recent marriage equality fight and decision.

Loving isn’t the only historic interracial love story debuting this winter. Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom focuses on the story of Sir Seretse Khama (played by David Oyelowo), a member of the Bechuanaland Protectorate’s royal family, and Ruth Williams (played by Rosamund Pike), an English woman and Khama’s eventual wife. The Khamas’ romance and eventual marriage set off an international scandal which took years to rectify.

Director Asante’s previous feature was Belle, the true story of a mixed-race English woman in the 18th century. I enjoyed it, particularly because it was something I hadn’t seen before: a woman of color in a period costume drama. Asante won my attention and my dollars with that film, so I’m curious to see her new one as well.

Loving will be released on Nov. 4th, and A United Kingdom will be released Jan. 17, 2017.

 

Thursday Trends: Censorship of Cunnilingus on Film

'Black Swan' cunnilingus (That Just Won't Do)

‘Black Swan’ cunnilingus (That Just Won’t Do)

With the announced remake of the 1973 film “Don’t Look Now” on the horizon, there’s a good chance that one of the film’s most controversial scenes will once again make the cut: Laura Baxter receiving cunnilingus from her husband John. (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland played the roles in the original film.) But this time, it might not raise much of an outcry.

Movies began to be bolder about depicting cunnilingus around the end of the last decade. In the 2009 movie “Away We Go,” the opening scene shows Burt (John Krasinski) going down on his partner Verona (Maya Rudolph). Two years later, “Blue Valentine” showed Dean (Ryan Gosling) pleasuring Cindy (Michelle Williams). However, this depiction led to some pushback on the part of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which tried to give the movie an NC-17 rating. Interestingly, the 2010 film “Black Swan” was in theaters, which also featured an oral sex scene, but with two women: Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman. “Blue Valentine” star Ryan Gosling spoke out against the hypocrisy of rating a film with an oral scene involving two women an R, while a film that depicts the act with a heterosexual couple (as well as within marriage) would get slapped with an NC-17. “Blue Valentine” eventually received an R rating.

Within the past two years, more films involving cunnilingus scenes have been released: “Wild,” “Charlie Countryman,” and “The Counselor.” A very notable example occurred in 2014’s “Gone Girl.” Amy (Rosamund Pike) ecstatically receives pleasure from Nick (Ben Affleck) after their first date, which occurs within the first 15 minutes of the film. There was no pushback from the MPAA regarding ratings for this one (presumably, they didn’t need to fight that battle twice).

It’s great to see cunnilingus depicted as normal within the smorgasbord of sexual acts. Let’s hope media depictions of the act continue to grow so more people become normalized to it.