Body Parts is something of a history of sex scenes in film and television. The documentary examines on screen sex from a female perspective. Using a number of interviews and trade secrets, it also explores the toll on the women involved and the impact on those who watch. Early on, the film presents a little known and interesting fact. Before the Motion Picture Production Code, screenwriters in Hollywood were pretty equally split among gender lines. This led to many movies of the time with women being more forward, in command, and well written.
The Hays Code created a number of rules written with Catholic undertones that forbid a number of things. This included not influencing the minds of specific audiences such as women and putting severe limits on sexuality. In essence, it made the depiction of women male-centric. This increased after the Code fell out of use in the 1960s.
Body Parts also includes shocking interviews from women who were placed into awkward situations involving nudity. These moments are powerful and the idea of “that’s the way it was done” is a recurring theme. The film does a great job of making the point of how instrumental movies and television are to learning about sexual interactions with others. This makes the sex scenes of the past seem even more dangerous.
It is not all bad news, however. Jane Fonda talks about the changes between when she got started versus her work today on Grace and Frankie. While working on The Deuce, Emily Meade was instrumental in the introduction of intimacy coaches. These coordinators are being found more often on production sets. There are also stories of bravery from Sarah Scott and Sara Tither-Kaplan.
Body Parts is an enlightening documentary that has a habit of taking on too much. The themes covered are very important, but it does have a tendency to be all over the place. (There is a montage in the middle of the film that is very well done, but also feels out of place.) Race relations and LGBTQ representation receives what amounts to lip service. It may be erratic, but it is an important watch.
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