All in the Family |


All in the Family

Examining the recent films depicting incestuous relationships

This article contains key plot points from several current films.

Remember that crass playground maxim ”Vice is nice, but incest is best”? These days you might hear it in Hollywood story meetings, judging from the inordinate number of fall films with incest as a significant plot element. A Thousand Acres, Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, and Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (due in November) all turn on unnatural father-daughter relationships for twists — as do Eve’s Bayou, Cold Heart, 100 Proof, and the French import Nenette et Boni. A kinky brother-sister bond is the pivotal secret in the new black comedy The House of Yes. And incest themes fueled other notable works this past year (Showtime’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Kathryn Harrison’s memoir The Kiss). ”In fact,” laments Egoyan, ”incest has become almost a cliché — what drugs were in the ’70s.”

So what’s behind the current obsession with family affairs? For one thing, Hollywood may be reflecting some disturbing societal concerns. ”On our radio show, half our calls eventually distill down to some form of abuse, and probably half of those are sexual abuse,” says Dr. Drew Pinsky, cohost of the advice program Loveline (both the radio and MTV versions). ”I think the people making these films have [witnessed] this among their peers, so to have the culture embrace this as something that really is out there is extremely important.”

Then again, some filmmakers may be interested in brandishing the taboo strictly for its shock value. U-Turn screenwriter John Ridley believes that with interracial and same-sex relationships no longer capable of causing a stir, Hollywood will turn to other areas of sexuality for provocation. ”There may come a time when it’s oversaturated,” says Ridley, ”but I don’t think there’ll ever be a time when you see incest on screen and the audience thinks, Been there, done that.”