No, I’m not being sarcastic…
There is way too much sex on television nowadays, everyone knows that, so if our rather large, high-definition screens are going to be filled with skin, it might as well be for the sake of education. You all know my thoughts on the History Channel and sister-network H2, so you can imagine my initial reaction when I first heard the title for their latest new series, How Sex Changed the World. I was aghast, but I was also curious, because sex is the one thing we are all curious about, except for, well…aliens. In a way, it was about time that a show like this was made. There was a series or two back in the early 2000’s called The History of Sex, but it is rather dated now, and given all that has changed in our society by way of what is accepted more now than then, it was time for a revamp. This new series, though, is a total rejuvenation that takes the viewer all over history, to the different men and women who changed our world, simply by having sex or choosing to go against societal norms in that manner.
There is a new angle present in How Sex Changed the World that will help you develop a new perspective on history. While we all know what transpired behind certain major events, few realize how much sex may have had to do with it. Few may realize the laws banning sexual conduct (or certain kinds of it) that existed over the years. While ridiculous now, it gives insight into how people lived and thought. It also makes you gain a new appreciation for scientists, psychologists, and the “sex rebels” they became, by seeing what they went through, most often by a persecuting and iron-fisted Catholic Church. Everyone from Catherine the Great to Leonardo Da Vinci and Lyndon Johnson are profiled here, all in somewhat comical ways that actually make you forget you are watching a historical program. The editing is very similar to that of another one of my favorite shows, The Naked Archaeologist, in that it quickly splices still photos, stock footage, and title-cards to keep you going from one thing to the next, without losing focus. The experts that are interviewed during the program are also able to discuss the topic in a light, carefree manner (though still full of graphic information), full of funny little stories, which in turn, does not make the viewer feel uncomfortable at any time, though your jaw might drop at some of the things they say!
The one thing that does bother me, in regards to the editing, is exactly how quick the filmmakers go from shot to shot. While the speed does contribute to the humor in a blink-once-and-you-miss-it sort of way, it also shows just how far the human attention span has fallen in recent years. It’s almost as if they will not hold a shot of anything, including the experts, for longer than four or five seconds, for fear the audience will lose focus. Because my brain is actually capable of watching something for longer than that, it can become tedious and annoying at times. The other item which they could do without, or at least condense, is what they call the “Watercooler Lowdown”, which is a brief review at the end of every segment, of which there can be up to six per episode. While this review does enforce the previously learned facts, and again, does it in a funny way, there are way too many of them and it kills all the momentum such a fast-paced show just produced. I also get the feeling it acts as a time-kill, like the people who make each episode fell a few minutes short of the desired running time and made up for it by scattering these breaks around.
Overall, though, this is a very promising show that is only going to get better the deeper they get. I am sure there are plenty of people horrified that such a show would make it to television, but given all the other garbage out there, this is actually worth watching. To me, it is breaking barriers and going into things people have long been uncomfortable about. In a way, this series has become one of the “sex rebels” it constantly discusses. Give it a try if you think you can sit through it—you will be shocked at how much more information there is about every time period, what was going on behind closed doors…literally. This is real history for a change, and certainly much better and more valid than aliens, swamp-logging, fixing cars, and seeing people getting screwed at a pawn shop.