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A Kinder, Gentler Sexual Fetish

A Kinder, Gentler Sexual Fetish (photo)

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In “Lars and the Real Girl,” Ryan Gosling plays the reclusive young man of the title who suddenly finds a fulfilling romance… with a sex doll he ordered online. But anyone on the hunt for something salacious might as well stay home — Lars doesn’t use “Bianca” for the anatomically correct purpose for which she was created, but instead treats her as a genuine (mobility-challenged) companion, bringing her to dinner at his brother’s, taking her with him to church and inventing a whole back story for her while the town gamely plays along.

This isn’t the first time a film has spun an outrageous fetish-based premise into something softer and soulful — in fact, the kinder, gentler tale of unconventional sexuality has become a trend, particularly in indie film. Is the treatment of such topics like a fairy tale a way of normalizing them or just sanitizing them for wider, titillated consumption? Here are a few notable entries in the field:

Boxing Helena (1993)

Leanings: Acrotomophilia

Generally considered an abysmal howler of a motion picture, this film from Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David) stars Julian Sands as Nick, a surgeon obsessed with a woman named, yes, Helena (Sherilyn Fenn) who scorns his attentions until she’s conveniently hit by a car outside of his house. A few emergency and then non-emergency amputations later, Helena’s a foul-mouthed torso with nothing better to do than dig into Nick’s sad psyche and eventually fall in love with him. What’s meant to be a gauzy exploration of love at its darkest is mostly just extremely silly, even before the “it was all a dream” capper.

10082007_fetish2.jpgKissed (1996)

Leanings: Necrophilia

Lynne Stopkewich’s first film caused a minor furor when in premiered at the Toronto Film Festival — which is as you’d expect, given that it follows Sandra (Molly Parker) from a death-obsessed girlhood to a life as a full-blown practicing necrophiliac/embalmer. The film isn’t squeamish about Sandra’s sexual preferences, but it is insistent on painting her acts as ones of spirituality, flooding a shot of her, erm, communing with a corpse with white light as she compares what she’s doing to “looking into the sun and going blind.”

Secretary (2002)

Leanings: S&M

Director Steven Shainberg and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson transformed Mary Gaitskill’s dark little short story into an improbably sweet film about sadomasochism. Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a damaged girl with a self-mutilation tendency who finds in her new boss (James Spader) unexpected salvation when he bends her over his desk and spanks her for making a few typing mistakes. The film keeps its exploration of S&M practices on the tame side, being more a film about an unconventional romance than an underground lifestyle, but, as one character observes in support, “Who’s to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?”

10082007_fetish4.jpgTalk To Her (2002)

Leanings: Macrophilia

The lives of the two men in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Talk To Her” are subsumed by those of the women they love, who burned brighter while conscious and who, even in comas, seem to loom larger than their caregivers. It’s appropriate, then, that in “Talk To Her”‘s movie within a movie “The Shrinking Lover,” that dynamic is literally realized in the form of a scientist who takes a potion that shrinks him to Tom Thumb proportions. Wandering the landscape of his sleeping lover’s body, he ultimately (and Freudianly) crawls inside her and vanishes, an act of love and sacrifice that, in the film, is followed by a far more disturbing real life echo.

Zoo (2007)

Leanings: Zoophilia

Any documentary that focuses on a man who died from a ruptured colon after having sex with a horse is going to have an inherent rubberneck factor. Director Robinson Devor is clearly intent on subverting all those who’d wish to gawk, perhaps to his film’s detriment — “Zoo” is a lyrical, beautifully shot meditation on love and connection that mostly manages to avoid the man-on-horse sex that it is, in theory, about. Good taste and humanism all have their place, but it’s hard to imagine that even those involved in the bestiality community that investigations later broke up would be so prudish.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.