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January 21, 2007

Too Prudish?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards--

The familiar thing these days is for people to complain that biographies have become far too invasive, unkind, and salacious. Who needs to know all these seamy details, what's the world coming to, etc. But perhaps it's also possible for biographies to be too prudish. The Wife and I just watched an A&E Biography of the actress Vivien Leigh, for example. Intelligent, informative, well-done. Yet -- while perfectly frank about Leigh's mental troubles -- it ventured not one peep about Laurence Olivier's gay adventures (Sir Larry was the love of Vivien's life), or about Leigh's own compulsive promiscuity, which apparently rivaled that of one of her best-known characters, Blanche DuBois. Given that their marriage was the central event in Leigh's life -- she preferred to be addressed as "Lady Olivier" even after they divorced -- you'd think that two of the main reasons why their union experienced the tensions it did would have merited at least a quick acknowledgement.



posted by Michael at January 21, 2007


Tch, tch, tch. You should know better than to ask politically incorrect questions like these, Michael. :-)

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on January 21, 2007 6:52 AM

Homosexuality has become one of those "mine field" issues, like race, and you have to step gingerly or you might say something that gives offense. Sometimes its easier just to avoid it.

Posted by: kyle on January 21, 2007 9:47 AM

Details such as one's religion, politics and yes, sex life, often seem to be used mostly to pull eyeballs to a newspaper, magazine, TV show, etc., etc. This is a judgment call on the part of the editor/producer/whoever, but my take is that really personal stuff should be left out unless it is relevant to the focus or thrust of the piece.

Barbra Streisand, for instance can be treated strictly as a singer. But since she's so publicly political, that too could easily be included in a bio-show unless the focus was music. Bing Crosby, so far as as can recall, pretty much kept politics out of his show biz activities ... I'm not sure what his politics even were. So to bring his politics into a TV bio would be gratuitous.

I seldom watch TV and missed the program you mention. From the way you lay it out, I think your case regarding Olivier is valid.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 21, 2007 1:32 PM

Gee, next you'll be telling people that you have to mention Hitler's genital malformation (apparently his urethra didn't exit his penis in the conventional place) in every documentary on the History Channel. Or the impact of George Washington's sterility on his descision not to go royal on the Americans. Or the relationship between Frederick the Great's homosexuality (which was the despair of his father) and his determination to add more territory to Prussia than all of his ancestors combined.

Where will all this excessive, pointless candor end?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 21, 2007 4:32 PM

Friedrich, if all this stuff was pointless and excessive, how did it get into print and how come it stuck with you? Are you going to tell us that Wallis Simpson's unique sexual equipment, which evidently was a good match for her husband's unique and equally ambiguous sexual stance, didn't affect the fate of nations? Or that Clinton's liking for a licking in the steward's galley is not a good metaphor for his whole personality? Michael Jackson's "spotted dick" is not a pudding?

Certainly far more relevant than Paris Hilton's bald eagle. (Hmmm. Was that Hilton's? There are so many. They look so much alike.)

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 22, 2007 3:53 PM

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