Comment: Religion and sex - Bill's big problem

Share
Related Topics
A NEW film has just opened in British cinemas, a romantic comedy about a man who decides to track down his high- school sweetheart. The woman is played by Cameron Diaz, who beat Julia Roberts to the altar in My Best Friend's Wedding, but did it so sweetly that even Ms Roberts gave the happy couple her blessing.

In the new movie, Ms Diaz is an orthopedic surgeon with whom men just can't help falling in love, including her old flame, Ted, played by Ben Stiller. The question is whether she will end up with Ted or one of her other suitors, and you can't get a more traditional plot than that.

But when I tell you that the two big setpieces in There's Something About Mary are the penis-in-the-zip joke and the semen-in-the-hair joke, it will become clear that Ms Diaz is not a romantic lead in the Doris Day mould.

The Farrelly brothers, whose previous credits include Dumb and Dumber, have made a movie in which Mr Stiller prepares for a big date by masturbating in a hotel bathroom and answering the door with a dollop of semen stuck to one ear. Ms Diaz, mistaking it for hair gel ... well, you get the idea.

On the day I saw a preview of the movie, President Clinton's spiritual advisers provided a detailed account of their attempts to save "a man whose soul is in mortal danger". Tough measures, said the Rev Gordon McDonald - clearly not a chap who likes dirty jokes or levity of any kind - are needed to save Mr Clinton.

Turning up at the White House two or three times a week, Mr McDonald gives the President a very hard time. "We have gone to the bottom with this man," he boasted on American television. "We have said things that are very, very confrontational."

The cynical reaction to these revelations is that they are a manoeuvre by the White House to show that Mr Clinton is truly repentant. They certainly strike me as an over-reaction to the sexual acts in the Starr report, especially in a country where audiences have already spent $100m at the box office to watch Mr Stiller masturbating.

In that sense, both the President and his Republican accusers have underestimated the degree of tolerance which is to be found beyond the Bible-belt states of the Deep South. Cinema-goers who flock to films made by the Farrelly brothers, and to other entertainments which revel in scatological humour, are hardly likely to think that Mr Clinton is going to hell in a handcart because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

A more alarming possibility is that the President himself believes it. He professes to, which is why he allows these busybodies through the portals of the White House.

Presidents are as entitled as anyone else to respond to Jehovah's Witnesses or Baptists who come calling, with a firm announcement - "I don't subscribe to your morality, so you can go and boil your head" - and a polite closing of the door. Mr Clinton's inability to do so is a consequence of the unresolved contradiction which got him into trouble in the first place.

It is also what makes the belated support offered to him last week by women's groups and signatories of a letter in Le Monde, including Gerard Depardieu, Emma Thompson and Carlos Fuentes, so misplaced.

Mr Clinton, they argue, should never have been required to answer intimate questions about his private life. Feminism has been placed in the dock here, as I expected it to be, for breaking down the traditional barrier between public and private life. There is something unedifying about people on the left trying to re-write the rules when the culprit is regarded as being "one of us", rather than some ranting right-wing ideologue. It cannot be said too often, however, that the scandal is not really about the President's private life but his conduct at work - about a pattern of behaviour in which female employees, from Paula Jones to Monica Lewinsky to Mr Clinton's secretary, Betty Currie, were expected to provide favours for him. These included sex and, in Ms Currie's case, acting as cover for a relationship the President was ashamed of and wished to conceal.

We are talking here about Mr Clinton's secret life, the disjunction between his covert, enthusiastic promiscuity - he apparently told Ms Lewinsky he had had 'hundreds" of women before the age of 40 - and his public promotion of himself as a devout family man.

If Mr Clinton is unable to reconcile his religious beliefs with his sexuality, as appears to be the case, then he has a big problem. His solution, to lead a double life which has now been exposed to world-wide ridicule, may not be grounds for impeachment - but it does convict him of hypocrisy and sexual cowardice, as well as placing him out of step with the relaxed attitudes of the nation he still aspires to lead. The Farrelly brothers, as we can see from their latest offering, may not make great movies, but at least they think sex is funny, rather than a mortal sin.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living