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Video Reviews

THIS REVIEW DEALS WITH GRAPHIC SEXUAL CONTENT AND IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama
Cast
Liam Neeson as Alfred Kinsey; Laura Linney as Clara Kinsey; Chris O’Donnell as Wardell Pomeroy; Timothy Hutton as Paul Gebhard; Peter Sarsgaard as Clyde Martin; John Lithgow as Kinsey’s father; Tim Curry as Thurman Rice; Oliver Platt as Herman Wells
Director
Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters)
Distributor
Fox Searchlight
Reviewer
Tom Neven
Kinsey

It’s the early 1900s, and young Alfred Kinsey is being raised in a strict Methodist home where newfangled inventions such as automobiles, electricity, telephones and zippers are thought to be the spawn of Satan. They’re just waiting to lure the unsuspecting into sexual immorality. Spurning his father’s wish that he become an engineer, Kinsey’s fascination with nature leads him to become an entomologist, specializing in the study of gall wasps.

Because of sexual difficulties early in his marriage and appalled that no one seems to have answers to simple questions about sexuality, Kinsey sets about researching human sexual behavior to fill that void. Using three specially trained assistants, he interviews men and women in "nonjudgmental terms" to find out what’s going on behind the bedroom doors of America. Along the way, he encourages his assistants to swap wives, allows his children to engage in frank sexual discussions at the dinner table and turns America’s sexual mores upside down.

Positive Elements

Anything positive is derived only indirectly. Kinsey approves of wife-swapping, but natural jealousies arise, proving that man’s God-inspired instinct toward monogamy cannot be changed by social fads. His wife eventually denounces wife-swapping: "Did you ever think those prohibitions [against adultery] are there to keep us from hurting each other?" she shouts. "What about our children?"

Spiritual Content

The movie is not two minutes old when it begins mocking Christianity. It shows a stern preacher denouncing modernity, and it implicitly equates disapproval of sexual deviancy with disapproval of all that makes up the "modern" world (e.g., electricity and automobiles). In an interview, Kinsey says he was raised a Methodist but, since age 19, has never attended church.

A professor comments that a student’s search for the gall wasp "Garden of Eden" has managed to bridge the Bible and Darwin in one stroke. Kinsey’s "freethinking" wife at first finds him too "churchy." At one point Kinsey asks, "What would our country look like if the Puritans had stayed home?"

Sexual Content

The entire movie is saturated in sex. It features frequent and explicit sexual dialogue and several scenes of male and female nudity, including close-ups on genitalia. (See discussion below on how the movie escaped the NC-17 rating.) We see a boy masturbating beneath a blanket. A man masturbates in front of Kinsey (shown from the waist up).

Kinsey and assistant Clyde Martin engage in a homosexual kiss and then embrace passionately before the camera cuts away. Upon hearing about his homosexual tryst, Kinsey’s wife says in a joking way that she’s not surprised. Kinsey later encourages her to have an encounter of her own with Martin. (We see them after the act in the upstairs bedroom with her wearing a cotton slip.) Kinsey praises Martin by saying, "He’s the ideal assistant because he’s had relations with both sexes."

One discussion involves sex with a horse. Kinsey describes pornography as "just a depiction of man in his natural state." He denounces his critics by saying, "The forces of chastity are massing against us, trying to silence science." A professor who preaches abstinence is made to look like a fool. Archival footage of copulating animals (provided by the Kinsey Institute) runs under the end credits.

Violent Content

Two men engage in a fistfight.

Crude or Profane Language

Several uses of "h‑‑‑," once in a theological context. "D‑‑n" also makes several appearances. God’s name is abused about five times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several characters smoke, and social drinking takes place at a party. One scene is set in a gay bar.

Conclusion

Alfred Kinsey riled the world when he released his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 and again in 1953 with Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Based on interviews of thousands of people, these books purported to show that the average person engaged in all manner of sexual behavior such as homosexuality, adultery, masturbation and pornography—at rates no one would have guessed. He claimed, among other things, that humans are sexual from birth. His book had tables charting how long it took to reach orgasm in children as young as two months old. He also claimed that as much as 90 percent of the population was bisexual.

The problem with these conclusions is that Kinsey’s research methods were seriously flawed. For a study to be considered scientific, it must use randomly selected individuals; the larger the sample size, the more accurate the conclusions. (Compare this to political polling today.) But Kinsey’s sample was self-selected. People willing to talk to a total stranger about their sexual behavior—from normal marital intercourse to sex with babies and animals—can hardly be considered a representative sample of the American public. Moreover, Kinsey used questionable statistical analyses to reach his conclusions, even assuming the population sample was not skewed.

The problems with this movie, including its pornographic content, are too vast to itemize. To say that it is rank propaganda for the sexual revolution and the homosexual agenda would be beyond stating the obvious. First and most important, the film completely glosses over the immoral and damaging methods Kinsey and his associates used in the course of their research. Chapter 5 of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, for instance, contains studies about the sexual response of infants, toddlers and other children. The Kinsey Institute for Sexual Studies claims this information was gleaned from a single pansexual who kept a diary of all his sexual encounters, but it’s simply not possible that the tables in that chapter could be derived from one individual. Because these studies were timed with a stopwatch, it seems clear that they had to involve the actual sexual abuse of infants and toddlers. (Kinsey’s assistant Wardell Pomeroy has basically admitted that the studies involving children were derived from Kinsey’s own experiments.)

Next, the film skirts the truth when it comes to Kinsey’s motivation. Onscreen, he’s portrayed as a man of science forced into his study of sexual behavior by his own marital difficulties and the ignorance and superstition of society. In truth, Kinsey had been motivated to overthrow the sexual mores of Western culture from childhood. Biographer James Jones, in Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, wrote, "For years, he [Kinsey] had dreamed of creating a body of scientific data that would be so vast and so compelling that it would force local, state, and federal governments to revise their sex offender codes."

Kinsey utilizes a clever propaganda technique in that it shows some of Kinsey’s flaws to fool viewers into thinking they’re getting a warts-and-all portrayal of the man, but it does not tell the whole truth. Kinsey and his wife, Clara, did not engage in a lone adulterous tryst, as shown in the film. They were serial adulterers—both with other men. The movie has one scene where Kinsey engages in a mild act of sexual self-mutilation (mild in Kinsey’s world, at least), but in fact he was a masochist of the highest order, including self-circumcision.

Insidious too is the worldview underlying the film. It says "science" (as defined by its practitioners) is the only way to know truth; all else is mere opinion and superstition. Therefore, in a bit of ham-fisted screenwriting, everyone in the film who represents the view that sex is a gift of God reserved for marriage is openly mocked and made the fool. We hear Kinsey boldly stating that "society has interfered with what should be a normal process." He asks, "What keeps you from acting on your feelings? It’s social convention." He denounces criticisms of his work as "morality disguised as science." He also asks, "What would our country look like if the Puritans had stayed home?" Well, simply put, it probably would not be a country that allowed Kinsey the freedom he had to pervert truth and science. It is the uniquely Judeo-Christian worldview of the Puritans and our Founding Fathers that created a society such as ours. That worldview gives us the freedom to do what is right—a freedom that can be easily abused if its underlying worldview is lost.

Kinsey’s legacy is that he played a role in unleashing epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases, rampant divorce, massive numbers of out-of-wedlock births, the breakdown of the family, abortion and the destruction of marriage. The myth, still commonly repeated today, that 10 percent of the population is homosexual is based on numbers that Kinsey simply snatched out of thin air. His defective studies have resulted in many laws being struck down, and the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas that overturned state laws against homosexual sodomy relied in part on Kinsey numbers.

That anyone would want to make a film lionizing the man simply boggles my brain. But actress Laura Linney said she was proud to participate in the project, and writer/director Bill Condon has long been known for his advocacy for homosexual rights. Roger Ebert, the dean of film critics, said, "Kinsey is likely to be the best-received biopic since A Beautiful Mind" and claims that actor Liam Neeson gives an Oscar-worthy performance. (Simply judging the craft of filmmaking, however, Kinsey is fairly pedestrian.)

The unbelievable fact that the movie received an R rating is more astounding. Condon said he was surprised when the film got an R, with no cuts. "We thought it might get the NC-17 and be an ideal test case for challenging that rating," he told Ebert, "but they thought it was a serious and informative film and they passed it with no cuts." The only funny part of that statement is that it includes the words serious and informative.

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