American Pie, Served Hot and Condom-free
Ah, youth. Filled with first times. Doubt and discovery, fear and possibility. The exquisite taste of a next unfolding frontier. Erotic dawning.
To remind us of that scary, sacred time, the folks at Universal Pictures are serving up a second helping of American Pie this summer. If we're lucky, American Pie 2 will rise above the belching sexcapades of many teen flicks and, like the 1999 original, be spiced with key adolescent ingredients of absurd, agonizing anticipation and awkward, yet divine, conquest.
Okay, the original film's bakers also stirred in a pinch of sophomoric humor. Probably bucketfuls. The titular American Pie referred to Mom's warm apple pie with which Jim, the film's high school senior protagonist, masturbates. And the story hinged on four best buds swearing on their sex bible to get laid come prom night. But it's fun. Maybe even feminist, since the young women involved know what they want, and don't, and groove accordingly.
This summer's American Pie 2 promises more raw tasty treats. The same crew returns to relate and titillate. Jim gets caught masturbating yet again, this time involving superglue, cops and an ambulance. Hot Czech-chick Nadia materializes to consummate the premature encounter of AP's first baking. "This one time at band camp" Michelle polishes her flute to stick in her, uh, and the rest of the horny and clueless crew come together at a beach house.
Bottom-(panty)line, this blockbuster sequel is all about young sex. From dorm-room frolics to lesbian chic to cunnilingus pointers, the studio gags swivel around nubile bodies getting some. Following Hollywood's recipe for success, American Pie 2 will have no more problem than the first capitalizing on otherwise frowned-upon teen sex. Selling responsible sex, however, is where the studio feels some morality heat.
Typical of movie marketing today, Universal Pictures entered into a corporate sponsorship deal with Ansell Healthcare Inc., makers of LifeStyle condoms. The agreement includes product placement in the movie, an Internet promotion, a sweepstakes and joint television commercials.
Only Universal won't be airing the TV spots (featuring both the film and the condoms) because Hollywood's rating board, the MPAA -- which has final say over all marketing materials -- won't approve them. The offense is not the flick's exposure of youthful flesh, but what might cover up (at least some of) that flesh -- LifeStyles condoms. The MPAA has a policy of not allowing condoms in commercials meant for general audiences, according to spokesman Rich Taylor.
"This movie is all about sophomoric sex, but the moviemakers don't want to be associated with condoms?" said Ansell marketing VP Carol Carrozza. "The irony is that these same studio execs don't seem to have any compunction about making films that glorify gratuitous sex and targeting those films to young people. They only have qualms taking -- and talking about -- responsibility."
Here the MPAA is playing the prurient prude. But such is the paradox that perverts sexual policymaking throughout the States. The myth is that ours is a sexually open society, bent on gratuitous expression at every turn. But the non-stop, over-the-top, in-your-face sex shoveled for American consumption is cartoonish and corporate. Sex packaged to sell whatever movie, music, or buy-this-to-be-happy merry-go-round. Sex real or raunchy, intimate or responsible, routinely gets swept under the censorship carpet of "to protect the children."
So our "kids" will flock to see American Pie 2 in all its randy coming-of-age humor, but will be protected from TV spots promoting a product proven to protect against (unwanted) life and death should these same kids decide to come themselves.
Such hypocritical social control is reminiscent of Fox TV running the ridiculous reality-tease Temptation Island, but refusing to air a commercial for Encare, a vaginal spermicide suppository. Despite television's increased programming of sensationalized, violent and comical sex, advertising condoms and other contraceptives is somehow too controversial for community standards.
Although 71 percent of Americans believe condoms should be advertised on TV, only three out of six networks accept such ads. And then only when serious in tone, not erotic in nature, for disease prevention not birth control, and shown after the kids have gone to bed.
The world's top condom maker, SSL International PLC, just launched a humorous global marketing campaign to push Durex. One ad shows a raucous crowd of "sperm" following a young man walking toward his date. Just as the couple meets, a latex wall balloons between the sperm and the couple standing in the middle of the street. The tagline reads: "Durex: For a Hundred Million Reasons" as the sperm squirm trapped in a huge condom. "We've moved away from the preaching campaigns that create anxiety," says an SSL spokesperson.
But preaching and anxiety over sex are official U.S. policy. Although such humorous Durex ads will be seen in Europe and Asia, more somber versions will appear here because of our much stricter condom-advertising guidelines. Yeah, European countries have lower rates of STDs, AIDS, teenage pregnancy and abortion than does the United States. Plus Europeans average first intercourse a year or two later than do we Americans. Yet our moral sensibilities dismiss the reality of such statistical harm and draw the line over the threat of non-procreative sex without consequence.
In Europe, condoms ads can be good for laughs. Here condom humor is fine only in the movies. Seems sexual schizophrenia is as American as apple pie.