(Here’s the movie jacket–the one I should’ve picked up, with Derek Jacobi’s face front and center.)
This past year, in an episode of “Modern Family,” Cameron was talking to Jake on a cell phone, trying to give the young boy advice as to how to impress a girl Jake liked.
But when adult bystanders heard his half of the conversation, they surmised that Cameron was a sexual predator attempting to lure a young boy on the other end of that phone. The more Cameron tried to explain to onlookers, the deeper he got in the muck, and the more suspicious they became.
It reminded me of an incident in my past.
In 1976, to be exact, when my two girls were young, I’d put them in the car Friday afternoons, throw the bags and snacks hurriedly in after them, and beat it out of town. We were off to the Maine hinterlands to visit my sister and brother-in-law in that little town of Monmouth, near the Lewiston-Augusta region. I needed to make it through Boston and the busier hubs before 4:15 or we were “toast.”
If all went like clockwork, we’d get to my sister’s by 8:30 PM, still time to go to the local video store to get the movies we’d watch for the weekend.
Just before we entered the store, I repeated the guidelines. But, once inside, I’d find myself saying: “No… too violent,” or “Sorry…rated R,” when they held up a movie for approval.
Oh, I was the good mother, making sure my kids weren’t exposed to violence, profanity, or depravity.” I told them to keep looking.
Then, suddenly I saw it– a title of a series I’d seen on the classic station, PBS. It had held me in rapt attention for weeks, filled as it was with the pomp of Rome, covering the period of that Empire’s history when Rome suffered various ineffectual leaders, the ones who ultimately spelled its demise.
I’d waited anxiously each Sunday for the latest segment in the series. The male lead, Derek Jacobi won an award for his acting talents, and this PBS Masterpiece program was heralded as one of Time Magazine’s Best Shows of All-Time.
I thought it odd that Jacobi’s face wasn’t on the cover, but that didn’t dissuade me, for John Gielgud, Peter O’Toole and Helen Mirren were there, and they were actors of great accomplishment.
With my prize in hand, I took the video to the front and stood in the long line of customers.
When my sister came up, she appeared stunned. She asked me, “You’re getting that?“ I told her I loved the series and during the year, I’d missed many segments. I figured I’d catch up while in Maine.
She wisely asked: “Don’t you mean “I Claudius”? And then it hit. In the confusion and rush of trying to get videos before the store closed, I’d picked up “Caligula,” a movie known for its graphic plunge into the world of sexual perversion. After all, it was based on the emperor of the same name, one who personified incest, sexual perversion, bestiality, and sadism.
And then the irony struck. In this place in rural Maine where the plaid-clad men brought their kids to the local video store on a Friday night to choose “family entertainment,” they all saw an out-of-towner bring in her two daughters and reject all their choices.
But, instead of thinking me a good Mom, they now believed me a depraved soul from nether regions . They doubtless thought: “Oh, yeah, she’s a really good mom–steer the kids from the R-rated stuff to go for the whole enchilada, triple-X.”
This episode (and the one on “Modern Family”) got me to thinking: “How many times over the course of our lives have people misinterpreted our actions or misheard a conversation that ultimately led them to a very wrong conclusion?”
P.S. I wasn’t the only one snookered. I recall the interview of a major star in this film being asked if he regretted his signing on for “Caligula,” especially in view of the fact Bob Guccione (producer and owner of Penthouse mag) substituted whole blocks of original footage with graphic scenes portrayed by actors in sex films. He answered: “No, I never saw it in its totality. They just shot my part and added it later.”
And here’s the latest, speaking of Helen Mirren. At 66, she just won the LA Best Body Contest, beating out many lovelies for the honor…..She gives all of us older women cause for celebration. Well done, Dame Helen (she’s Brit, you know!)
(Here’s the movie jacket I mistook for I Claudius, a simple enough confusion, in hindsight. I believe those are Malcolm McDowell’s eyes peering out. He played the perverse monster, Caligula.)