Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to ‘A Clockwork Orange’—How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos
Who wrote it?
Robert Hofler, former senior editor at Variety, currently a theatre critic for The Wrap.
Plot in a Box:
The title pretty much says it all: Sex in mainstream media, 1968-1973.
Invent a new title for this book:
As the actual title may or may not be taken from this My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult album, for the alternate titling let’s lift the name of the first track from that record, The International Sin Set.
Read this if you liked:
Hofler’s previous book, Party Animals, Robert Evans’s The Kid Stays In The Picture, and Kirby Dick’s documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
Meet the book’s lead(s):
Philip Roth, Gore Vidal, Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey, John Schlesinger, Lance Loud, Jack Nicholson, Bernardo Bertolucci, Mart Crowley, Ken Russell...If you don’t know some of these names, read the book.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
David Bowie played Andy Warhol brilliantly in the film Basquiat. Thomas Dekker played Lance Loud in Cinema Verite. Of all the names left on the above list, I think Jack Nicholson is the toughest. However, as you can see, Leonardo DiCaprio might be the man we’re looking for.
Setting: Would you want to live there?
I’ve always fancied living during the 60s and 70s. A resounding yes!
What was your favorite sentence?
"Never a stickler for accuracy, the newsweekly went on to complain that ‘the characters are all homosexuals and junkies,’ despite the fact that Nico had sired a child by actor Alain Delon and committed other flagrant acts of heterosexuality."
Sexplosion is a bona fide page-turner. Hofler’s extensive research into a relatively short period of time bursts forth on the page like a swinging period film. Think Boogie Nights without the “bad-time” consequences in the latter half of the narrative. To be fair, Hofler does present the troubles these trailblazing authors and auteurs met, both from censors and certain sects of the populace not ready for all that taboo-breaking, but overall their efforts are presented in a positive light. Fascinating, funny, and thorough, this book is a must for anyone interested in media studies and our not-too-distant cultural past.
While Sexplosion covers all aspects of sexuality during the period, perhaps the most eye-opening narrative involves the homosexual revolution in novels, non-fiction, plays, and films. I had no idea that The New York Times was such a gay-bashing, socially conservative publication, throwing around the word “faggot” without blinking an eye. Ditto for studio executives and film crews, who were clearly uncomfortable with gay themes in the works of Schlesinger, Vidal, and a host of others. Though we still have some distance yet to travel, overall we’re doing well where cultural acceptance of homosexuality is concerned, and Sexplosion tells the story of the people who made our current enlightenment possible.
I’m honestly hard-pressed to find any flaws with this book. There aren’t many female voices explored, but Hofler addresses this in his epilogue (unfortunately, much of the mainstream media was still dominated by men at the time, even if some of them were members of a minority as well) and overall the text is decidedly not anti-feminist in nature. For example, the author sympathizes with actresses Susan George and Maria Schneider, whose misgivings about scenes of rape and sodomy were cruelly dismissed by their respective male directors and co-stars. He also dedicates significant chunks of the book to other actresses with “controversial” viewpoints on sex (Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, etc.) as well as prominent female critics like Pauline Kael. This plus his epilogue show me that while Hofler’s lens may be focused on a particular group of artists who crossed certain boundaries in mainstream media, and those particular artists all happened to be male (because sexism), the author is no less concerned with women and their experience during this culturally transformative period.
In short, Sexplosion is pretty damn good. Check it out!