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Just how low can you go with Californication?


Now that we’ve all lost our stupid inhibitions, let me call the men who run Channel 10 precisely what I think they are.

Executive chairman Peter Falloon?

A pornographer.

Chief executive Grant Blackley?

A pornographer.

Not that there’s anything wrong any more with being a pornographer.

Heavens, no. Some of our best business leaders and all that.

In fact, we’ve so lost our hang-ups about porn that even our next prime minister can be found these days in a lap-dancing dive. What’s more, when he emerges, blind drunk, it’s to the overwhelming applause of voters, who tell our pollsters they’re grateful he’s so adult as to be up for an eyeful too.

So don’t think I’m being rude or finger-waggy to call a pornographer a … well, pornographer. We now live in a world beyond such moralising—moralising as comically restrictive as tight underpants or a buttoned fly.

Or, to be specific, we now live in a world in which Falloon and Blackley can happily broadcast—free to living rooms around Australia—a show such as Californication.

Of course, when I call Falloon and Blackley pornographers I don’t mean you to think these nicely suited men—backbones of the community—personally filmed this new show, which boasts X-Files star David Duchovny and premiered on Monday [27 August].

Nor do either of these two dignified men appear in any of Californication’s sex scenes.

It wasn’t them you saw on Monday getting oral sex from a nun, giving it to someone else’s wife or romping with any of the several women, who appeared pumping and moaning, buck naked, in the show’s first half-hour. …

Not that there’d be anything wrong with any of that, either. Please, please, don’t think me a prude because we all know there is now no greater shame.

It is only to give you a precise picture that I note Falloon and Blackley’s sole role with Californication was to have it run on their station, hoping thereby to rake in a sack of damp cash. They just pimped it, you might say.

And it is again just to be precise—not to damn—that I use the word “pornography” to describe the show Falloon and Blackley broadcast, and advertisers such as Holeproof, Holden and Pitos sponsored.

Check the dictionary to see precisely how precise I am. Pornography, mine says, is “the depiction of erotic behaviour (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement”. And what better description is there of Californication? Its very title describes its sexual intent.

Indeed, within its first five minutes, Californication’s “hero”, a depressed writer, is having sex in church, and no ad break then follows—it seems—without viewers first being treated to yet more sex or some full-breasted nude to keep them rigid in their recliners, leering but not leaving.

Being so keen to be terminologically exact, I did peer between the copulating bodies to see if the show had intentions beyond the pornographic.

To be fair, I did note scraps of a story about a writer wasting his life and talent in all this meaningless sex—which the director actually seemed to think so meaningful that he filmed every jiggle.

So, there is a chance Falloon and Blackley do see in Californication something much more than pornography, just as they might truly buy Penthouse for the articles.

In that case, though, they should have a word with Channel 10’s marketing ferals, who seemed too blinded by the show’s breasts to have noticed its brains. Far from selling Californication as a thoughtful drama on one man’s search for meaning, they flogged it to the hairy-handed in ads, promising … more sex than you’d see in a busy brothel.

Again, I merely describe, and make no moral judgment—just as so many of my colleagues have gloried in not judging, either.

Here, for instance, is The Age’s Paul Kalina, revelling in Channel 10’s pornography: “The buzz-worthy Californication kicks off tonight with considerable promise.”

Here is the The Daily Telegraph’s Stephen Downie: “Welcome to the eye-opening, acerbic, witty and controversial world occupied by the colourful characters of Ten’s latest comedy/drama …”

Both also joked in that refreshingly moral-lite, modern way about the show’s opening scene, a dream sequence in which Duchovny prays to Jesus in front of a giant crucifix while a nun gives him oral sex.

But here is where I get confused.

I’m prepared to accept—if I truly must—that the notion of a common morality is dead and that the new rule is: if you don’t like it, turn it off. (Rule two: if your parents won’t turn it off, get better ones, teen loser.)

Yet it’s this very scene with the nun that reminds me this isn’t true.

Californication is instead an attack on one specific kind of morality—and specifically on the values, teaching and imagery of the Christian faith that largely founded Western societies such as ours, and preached rules to help us to behave less heartlessly to each other.

That’s clear when you note the first episode mocks Christianity in a way Islam, say, is always spared.

If Californication really was so bravely “controversial” and “acerbic”, it wouldn’t have Duchovny getting oral sex from a nun in a church. It would have him getting it from a devout Muslim woman in a mosque. Now that would truly be “controversial”.

But that, of course, would also be dangerous. It’s as ABC host Virginia Trioli said when Muslims overseas were killing and burning in protest at a Danish newspaper’s cartoons of the prophet Mohammed: “I’m reluctant even to raise this as an issue, for fear someone will set fire to the building.”

Indeed, not one of the media outlets showing, promoting or applauding Californication’s fornicating nun dared to run a single one of those innocuous Danish cartoons. “Stereotypical smears,” The Age sniffed then.

Once more, I need to be precise. I’m certainly not calling for Muslim symbols to be made props for pornographers the way a nun’s habit and a crucifix were made props in Californication.

I’m simply saying we are eating ourselves alive—trashing moral values and a religious tradition that have produced societies that honour so much that is the best of being human.

You think me too alarmist?

Yet I could never have dreamed that Channel 10 would one day be run by pornographers. And you should ask what Falloon and Blackley may stoop to for their next fast buck.

Andrew Bolt (who does not claim to be a Christian) has been writing columns regularly for the Herald Sun newspaper since 1998. This article was first published in the Herald Sun on 29 August 2007 and is republished here by kind permission of the author.
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