Eric’s Sack of Mail: Atomic bombs, non-sensual sexuality

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We have two letters to discuss in this installment of Eric’s Sack of Mail. First, a reader named Carl wrote in response to my review of “Madea’s Family Reunion,” which ends: “‘Madea’s Family Reunion’ is better than its predecessor, but only in the same way that the bomb on Nagasaki was better than the one on Hiroshima.” Carl writes:

While I’ve generally agreed with your movie reviews for the last seven years, this is the first time I’ve wondered enough about your choice of imagery to write an email. Specifically, I wonder how appropriate is the comparison of the two atomic bombs and two crappy movies? Seems like the death toll from the movies is smaller. It also seems like the mention of a nuclear bomb is a little strong for the average person; especially when it’s the only nuclear bomb ever used against another country. I just think it’s a little strong even as a joke. Of course, I did read your review of The Aristocrats so maybe I’m a little off the mark as to what makes a good joke. I don’t know for sure, I never majored in journalism or film, so maybe my thoughts on a choice of words doesn’t mean much.

The question of whether the mention of an atomic bomb in a joke is too much for the average person is a fair one. I can say that yours is the only e-mail I’ve gotten so far.

The thing about jokes is that everyone has an internal list of things that they consider off-limits — and everyone’s list is different. What offends one person might not bother someone else at all. That’s why I rely on my readers to let me know if they feel like I’ve crossed a line, and so I thank you for letting me know that for you, I did.

Next, Sara has a question about my review of “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” — specifically, the part at the end where I explain the film’s potentially objectionable content: “Rated R, a fair amount of harsh profanity, some strong (but comic and non-sensual) sexuality, brief nudity.” Sara says:

I’m curious as to what “some strong (but comic and non-sensual) sexuality” means. I get the “comic” part, but am a little fuzzy on “non-sensual sexuality.”

Well, it’s a man and his wife in bed, having marital relations under the covers, but no naked bits are visible, and it’s happening very mechanically and dully. It’s very obviously being done out of duty, with neither of them enjoying it. That makes it not only funny, but very non-sexy, in my book. I meant for “non-sensual” to suggest that there’s no way anyone would find it arousing or lascivious.

That’s all for this edition of Eric’s Sack of Mail. Keep those cards and letters coming!

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