Monday, July 12, 2010

A word about systems

Not long ago I watched a film about middle-aged white women from the US and Canada having sex with teenaged Haitian men at a beach resort in the 1970's. The film is unselfconsciously entitled "Heading South," but I have to warn you: the plot is a lot less erotic than the Netflix description would have you believe! I attribute this to the fact that our Netflix writers have an easier time identifying the sex act than the social context in which it transpires!

What's compelling about the film is the sympathy it evokes for its main characters, while pointing to the moral problems that are apparent in their relations -- in the circumstances overall. The women, who hail from different walks of life, are lonely and face the challenges of being women in their own societies; the boys have their own problems, but being paid to have sex with doting foreigners is one that ameliorates so many others; and an older man who manages the resort resigns himself to everything he identifies as wrong with his country, powerless as he feels in the face of it.

It's difficult to pin anyone in particular as driving what's wrong with this scenario. In fact, one of the challenges of the film is trying to ascertain whether there is something wrong at the individual, moral level. The underlying premise is abominable, and yet everyone gets on reasonably well; they laugh and love under the sun. The tragedy which continues is plain to see, but obscured nevertheless.

Today someone related to me the "adult vacation" they took under similar circumstances, except that the lonesome soul in question is an African-American man, and the "escort service" he retained was a 24-year-old mother of one. Legal in the country of concern, one thing revealed among others was that she really needed the money! My associate, nearing middle-age himself, and who never before traveled outside the United States, had concluded it was time for a special sojourn away from work, which to hear him tell it in his unassuming way, ended up being "pretty good" overall. For someone who has never had a lot, whatever money he had took on a social power in another country that he had never before experienced in his own. It bought him companionship, and his companion, the necessaries of life for herself and her child, which she might otherwise lack.

In the introduction to the film, our resort manager is approached by a local woman, who asks that he keep her teenaged daughter -- being "beautiful and poor ... she doesn't stand a chance." The manager refuses, and the woman, blessing him, adds: "But be warned. It's hard to tell the good masks from the bad, but everyone wears one."

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