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.