Sex in reel life

Amy Cooknick

To say that sexuality in movies has progressed over time might not be the most precise word choice.

More accurately, the portrayal of sex in films has changed since 2000.

Sex and movies have gone together since the beginning of film (if you know where to look), so what sets this decade apart from all the rest is the transition of sex from a dramatic element to a comedic one.

In the comedies of the past decade, sex creates plot, rather than detours it. The most distinctive emergence on this front has been the “guy comedy,” the more explicit and less formulaic man’s answer to the ever-popular romantic comedy.

With that in mind, here is a timeline of sexuality in film from 2000 to 2010.

2000: “American Pie” squeaks in under the wire as the first movie to hint at what the new decade would be as far as comedies centered on sexuality. Although it was released in July 1999, the many sequels to “American Pie” put it on this list as a movie of the decade.

2001: “Moulin Rouge!” isn’t really a comedy, but its artsy and innovative portrayal of the Bohemian revolution in turn-of-the-century Paris makes it a milestone for the decade. This is a love story at heart, but one with a lot of sex drive.

2002: In addition to the notable sex comedies of this decade, the ‘00s should be memorable for pushing the boundaries of what makes a film sexual. This year, one of the most sexually progressive films released was one the average audience missed. Ranked repeatedly as one of the most controversial films of all time, “Irreversible” was banned in many countries for its reverse-chronological depiction of a rape victim, but received critical acclaim during awards season.

2005: When it was first released, “Brokeback Mountain” was probably the most talked-about movie on this list, if not one of the most talked about movies of the decade, period. It led to what became another recurring theme in sexually progressive films of this decade: the LGBT film. “Brokeback Mountain” followed the release of “Transamerica” earlier in 2005, each of them examining a different aspect of a theme that had not always been so openly depicted with such positive results.

Overall, 2005 was a big year for sexual films. This was also the release year of the comedy “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and the controversial “Hard Candy,” which put actress Ellen Page on the radar of many critics for her role as a 14-year-old girl who sets a trap for an Internet predator.

2006: This year things got serious with “Notes on a Scandal” and “Children of Men.” “Notes” won over the critics with its depiction of how two women’s separate affairs get tangled. “Children of Men” took an unusual sci-fi route and makes the list because of its total lack of sex in a not-so-distant future where the human race is threatened by an unexplained inability to procreate.

2007: Ellen Page makes the list again for “Juno,” a comedy about (what else?) teen pregnancy. The funny kept coming this year with the releases of “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” both featuring Seth Rogen, who seems to appear in every guy comedy of the decade. If it stars Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill or just about anyone they’ve ever acted with (they all do the same movies), it probably deserves to be on this list.

2008: The movie adaptation of “Sex and the City” brought the New York City gals to the big screen, while the first installment of “Twilight” brought the shiny vampires and hoards of teenaged girls. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was another comedy aimed mainly at the guys.

2009: Released for the New Year, “The Reader” brought back the serious side of sex by winning over critics with its post-WWII lovers, reunited by a war-crime trial.

2010: There hasn’t been much this year so far, but “Easy A” makes a great close to the list. Loosely based on “The Scarlet Letter,” “Easy A” addresses the main sexual stereotypes of the decade. Unlike movies up to this point, the main character is a smart girl, pretending to be the school floozy-tart-temptress-harlot-flirt-tramp-trollop

And the list goes on.

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].