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Cory Silverberg

First Hollywood Does Vibrators, Next Up Sexual Surrogates and Disabled Folks

By September 7, 2011

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One doesn't turn to Hollywood for complicated stories, and as I'm girding myself for the onslaught of articles about how Victorian women were just like us, only much more uptight, and how far we've come, courtesy of the new movie about vibrators, I'm crossing my fingers that someone who is connected to poet and journalist Mark O'Brien is involved in the upcoming movie about his experiences with a sexual surrogate.

The surrogate is being played by Helen Hunt, and John Hawkes is playing Mark O'Brien. This isn't the first time O'Brien's life has been projected on the big screen. In 1995 Jessica Yu directed a documentary called Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien. I haven't seen the documentary. I first encountered Mark not through his poetry but from a piece he wrote about his experiences with a sexual surrogate. That article used to be available through his site for free, but it seems as if his site is down, perhaps in anticipation of the Hollywood treatment. Mark died in 1999, I'm not sure who was maintaining his site.

Mark's life and work deserve to be known. And there are plenty of good conversations we all could (and should) have about what constitutes good or bad representations of a person, an experience, a life. From everything I've read by Mark these are conversations he would have wanted to engage in. And it's certainly possible to do beautiful complicated things with film. It's just not Hollywood's style.

So we can hope that is what comes of this instead of having to prepare ourselves for an onslaught of articles about how brave and amazing disabled people are simply because they're "just like us". Really, we should all aim much, much higher than that.

New York Magazine - Helen Hunt Will Play a Sexual Surrogate in The Surrogate

Related - New York Times Obituary for Mark O'Brien

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Comments
September 24, 2011 at 12:10 am
(1) Rebecca says:

I’m starting to track a trend in Hollywood with a focus on psychosexual films…not only do The Surrogate and Hysteria play with such issues, but also Croneberg’s A Dangerous Method and the sex-addiction flick Shame. I’ll be interested to see how these films effect cultural conversation on sex and therapy…

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