Sunday, 13 September 2015



56. THE YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS (1968, dir. Michael Elliott)


I am sure the title of this TV play got your attention - I think that was why the bigoted distraction Mary Whitehouse called for it to be banned before it was broadcast. However, its writer, Nigel Kneale, caused questions to be asked in Parliament in 1954 over subversive and horrific content, after his BBC adaptation of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" was first broadcast, only silenced when it was found that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had watched it, and enjoyed it. 

Broadcast on BBC Two, "The Year of the Sex Olympics," a play of the type that existed before the "TV movie," proved that Nigel Kneale could produce as prophetic a work as George Orwell, but while the nightmare of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" has arguably been avoided since the Cold War ended, we could still be well on our way towards the world depicted by Kneale.

This time, the way to keep the masses sated is to give them exactly what they want to watch on TV, all the time, to the point where they will not want to do anything else but continue to watch. TV programme with titles such as "Foodshow," "Sportsex" and "Artsex," the last two being qualifying events for the Sex Olympics themselves, are deliberately as coarse in their intention as they sound, targeting the Freudian id of the audience as directly as the Seven Deadly Sins tries to warn you in the other direction. That everyone is seen taking their food-drink from a container looking not unlike a baby's pacifier dummy hits the message home.

To be clear, this is not like showing pornography to someone who needs to masturbate, or showing pornography in order to have the urge like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's titular character in his film "Don Jon" (2013), this is showing pornography as a substitute for having sex, to the point where the drive to have sex is satisfied. As the play puts it, it is TV made by "high-drives" for an audience of "low-drives," observed for their every reaction, steering them into the right sort of complacency. 

Lack of drive means no wars, no tension, peace for all. The English spoken in "The Year of the Sex Olympics," a 1960s hippie-ish parade of stunted slogans, devoid of prepositions, is like the Newspeak of "Nineteen Eighty-Four," but instead of reducing the language by design, words instead lose their meaning when what they describe no longer exists - it's all aiming for the top, "big king style." The LSD-laced psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, and the hopes of expanding consciousness, are used to inevitably cynical ends to separate the elite from the rest.

However, standing behind the backdrop of the Arctic, as two high-drives do in one scene, doesn't mean you feel cold. All the above is failing, due to boredom - everything has now all been seen before, on the TV screen. The shrieks and laughs and joys when a protestor falls to their death at the Sex Olympics, trying to show their deliberately horrible art - anything for a reaction - prompts "The Live Life Show," showing a family attempting to survive on a remote island, climaxing when a psychopath is introduced to island and kills the family - "something got to happen," apparently.

I would have loved to know why this state of affairs was needed, as the events of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" followed a war - perhaps "The Year of the Sex Olympics" was just pointing in the direction of where everything looked to be going, judging by the play opening with the phrase, "sooner than you think..." It cannot be an accident that, when "The Live Life Show" eventually appeared on TV, it was given the name "Big Brother."

Basically, we are being told to go out, get a passport, and experience life. I might do that, after I've surfed the internet for a couple of hours.

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