When I was a kid, I was a special effects junkie. I loved them. I just loved them. I would watch sci-fi movies with even the most ridiculous premise if it meant I got to see futuristic vehicles and technologies. One time I even watched a horror movie by accident because the poster looked as if there might be some interest special effects.

The first time I realized that special effects wasn’t enough for me anymore was at a movie called Lost in Space. It had some cool effects moments, but the story was so ridiculous, the characters so cardboard-y, that I came out of the movie theater shaking my head. But nothing drove home the limited effects of special effects like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The trailer of the movie gave me shivers. The imagery was beautiful and fantastic. I read every article about the movie leading up to its release, tried to download a second trailer onto my desktop on a dial-up connection, and saw the movie the second day after it opened, late at night. The whole theater exploded into applause at “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” There were only a few half-hearted claps at the end of the movie.

When I watched the first trilogy again, I marveled. How was it that the mere image of Tatooine’s twin suns setting could affect me so much? And why was it that a Death Star made of plastic toy parts felt so real while Jar Jar Binks, despite his photorealism and painstaking details, was a stupid cartoon who only wished he were Roger Rabbit?

I’ve come around full circle in a similar way about on-page sex in romances.

I think I am fairly typical for someone who cut her romance teeth as a teenager on books by Rosemary Rogers and Johanna Lindsey. I like that heat. I expect that heat. I’m a firm believer in that you can talk all you want about metaphysical true love, but sustained physical attraction has to serve as the foundation to any successful relationship.

In other words, I’m all for the hot. But the more I read, the more I realize that unfortunately on-screen sex ≠ hot. A lot of times on-screen sex can be as dull as PCAOB Standards, and a jumble of pink parts madly attaching, detaching, inserting, squirting about as arousing as stray dogs in rut–I’d stop to look for a moment, but I certainly wouldn’t be fanning myself.

Many a time I’d wished that George Lucas didn’t have a practically unlimited budget to diddle around with special effects when he was making The Phantom Menace. When you watch the Star Wars prequels on DVD and listen to the commentary, only the effects people are there–the visuals so consumed Uncle George that character, story, and everything else took a backseat. Similarly, all the emphasis on hot in recent years has produced some reading material that’s taboo, derivative, and boring all at once–committing the unspeakable crime of sucking the fun out of hot loving.

Hot loving, like fab visual effects, should not be an end in themselves. They should exist only to serve the story. They should be an AND, not a BUT, as in “The movie rocked, AND the visual effects were kickass,”–The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, anyone?–and not “The sex was hot, BUT the story made no sense and the characters were made from soggy construction paper.”

The story always has to come first.

No pun intended. I swear.

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5 Responses
  1. Lara Croft says:

    OMG Rosemary Rogers who blew all her money up her nose! She was my hero when I was young. I wanted to write like her. I still have one of her books as a reminder of what NOT to do with my money when I become a successful writer. I still have friends who read those books and I try and just can’t now. I think it is like anything else we get accustomed to the norm and hunger for more. So in my movies and my books I have to have more ‘meat’. Have a great day -

  2. Sherry Thomas says:

    Holy @#$%!

    Granny Rosemary?!

    OMG, really? Where did you learn that? I had no @#$%ing idea!

  3. beverley says:

    Yes, the story has to come first or the sex is really nothing. I like my books pretty hot but the story has to be good and the emotional intensity leading up has to be super high for me to enjoy. Sex by itself is…well just sex (almost like the hooker type of sex) just put in to solely titillate. I need romance with my sex!

  4. Janine says:

    I had no idea about Rosemary Rogers either.

    I agree that the story has to come first. Context in the story is a big part of what makes a sex scene memorable.

  5. monika_schulze says:

    You didn’t like Lost in Space? I really liked the story line, but it wasn’t that well put together, I admit. As far as Phantom Menace is concerned, I’m totally on board.

    Oh, and I agree with the sex part, too.