Kinsey Pushes Science and Sex



I recently saw an episode of the late 1950s show Naked City, where the protagonist is invited to witness the execution—by electric chair—of a man he helped imprison. Apart from the startling idea of being invited to witness someone’s death, the mere notion of showing such an episode on television during such a conservative time dumbfounded me. Granted, we only see the reactions of the spectators and not the writhing chaos of the execution. Yet, I still found it amazing something so morbid would be allowed on television, but anything that would even hint at sexuality—particularly female sexuality—faced the wrath of the masses.

In the 1940s, Alfred Kinsey took it upon himself to explore the sexual world we so often swept under the rug. The sexual education classes consisted of antiquated mistruths and religiously motivated teachers who were unwilling to waver in their lessons. Kinsey released “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” in 1948 and addressed sex in a scientific manner. His efforts to make the follow-up about female sexual behavior were met with staunch opposition before its release in 1953.

Fast forward to 2004 when Liam Neeson relishes the chance to portray Alfred Kinsey’s determination and stubbornness alongside the powerful Laura Linney—who warranted an Oscar nomination for her performance as Clara McMillen, Kinsey’s wife. Kinsey succeeds in numerous ways, but its most amazing feat is avoiding the temptation to use Kinsey’s sexual studies as the main appeal of the film. Rather, it’s an intellectually stimulating and scientifically structured insight into Kinsey’s methods and progress.

BSex could have been used gratuitously as a draw for the film, but writer/director Bill Condon uses it sparingly, focusing more on Neeson’s performance and the process of accumulating the information and funds for Kinsey’s works. Linney maintains a level of strength while her husband begins looking at sex as a tool and not as something connected to emotion—a notion on which the film does not take a firm stance, by the way. She flashes vulnerability, but follows it with the rage and pride we have seen from Linney in prior performances.

The film retained a level of intrigue since I knew little on the matter. If you are well versed in Kinsey’s life then maybe it would seem sensationalized. Regardless, it’s a well-acted and entertaining film that is worth a viewing.

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