Jomo Mojo writes:
> I know that sexual libertinism and repression tend to
> succeed one another in cycles. (Well, that model worked
> as far as the '60s & '70s succeeding the '50s – but I
> don’t know how to decribe the past ten years. Confusing).
Most theories in which things run in cycles are really nothing but selective observation of the facts and attempts to find trends where there aren’t any. What you’re doing here is saying, “Let’s look at the past several decades and try to characterize them in regards to sexual freedom or repression. Let’s see - the '50’s. This is portrayed in movies and TV as being repressed. The '60’s - that’s portrayed as being a time of sexual freedom. The '70’s - that’s usually portrayed as being sort of free too, but the image is actually kind of confused. The '80’s - well, I remember that time from my childhood, and I’m not sure which it was. I know the '90’s even better, and I really can’t classify it as free or repressed.”
Even within the past few decades, it’s not really true that the decades can be easily characterized in this way. Sexual trends, like social trends in general, don’t neatly go up and down by the decades. Changes tend to be slower and not very complete in any case.
I think there’s two reasons why people like to neatly characterize decades in this way. One is the habit of the news media to turn every event into a trend. It’s no fun to see every crime, every social fad, every small change in statistics on marriage, divorce, drug use, sexual habits, etc. as just being a normal blip. It’s much more interesting to turn them into major trends. You sell more papers and get more viewers that way, and, besides, it’s more fun to write impassioned articles about why this small event presages some big change.
The other reason is that it’s easier to portray the past in a movie or TV show or a novel if people have a small set of images of each decade. It’s no fun writing a movie, TV show, or novel set in a decade if you don’t have an easy stereotype to play off of. Why bother to set a fictional piece in the past at all if you can’t play off the reader’s or viewer’s stereotypes? You wouldn’t want the audience to actually think, would you?