I don’t understand how some voters can be more passionate about social issues than economic issues.
Social issues are hugely important, don’t get me wrong. But social changes are never simple; they are never just for the good or the bad.
If there are more private sector jobs with higher wages, that is purely positive. If you change the culture, there are always unforeseen consequences that you won’t like.
“Splendor in the Grass” explores the most dramatic cultural change of the 20th Century: the sexual and marital revolution.
A hundred years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a couple to lose their virginity on their wedding night. And they could expect to remain married until one of them died.
By the end of the century, that world and its values had disappeared. Premarital sex was ubiquitous and divorce had almost entirely lost its social stigma.
“Splendor in the Grass” was made at the dawn of the 1960s by people who looked at America’s Puritan past with confusion and condescension.
The film begins in 1928. Rich hunk Bud (Warren Beatty) and pretty girl next door Deannie (Natalie Wood) are the most popular couple in school. They are hopelessly in love.
They just have one problem: sexual frustration. And according to director Elia Kazan, it is a huge problem. Warren Beatty mopes around doing his best James Dean impression. And poor Natalie Wood is so confused about her bad-girl yearnings that she loses her mind.
“Splendor in the Grass” is an excellent film about first love and how high school is bound to be miserable no matter how good you have it. It actually reminded me of “Twilight,” minus the vampires.
In Puritan America, Bud and Deannie learn, you can’t trust anyone over 30.
Bud and Deannie earnestly ask for guidance. But their blowhard parents just talk at them and give them antiquated advice. Bud asks his doctor about sex and the old MD chuckles uncomfortably and dodges the questions.
There is an undeserved smugness to these scenes. 1960 adults were patting themselves on the back for how progressive they are about sex compared to their parents. Little did they know they were raising their own kids to become the most discontented and rebellious generation of teenagers in American history.
This brave new world of sexual liberation is a mixed bag. Premarital sex and longer courtships seem like great things to me. The threat of easy divorce and the tens of millions of children growing up without both parents are disastrous side effects.
In defense of the great Elia Kazan, though, “Splendor in the Grass” is a first-rate drama. And if I moved to a new country like he did and discovered that the people there were opposed to sex before marriage, I would be eager to change things, too.
Mr. Kazan was right to want to open the minds of American prudes. But wrong to be so confident that his progressive social change was going to be all for the good. Social change is always more complicated than that.
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