Sex and the cinema : what American pie teaches the young

Pearce, Sharyn M. (2006) Sex and the cinema : what American pie teaches the young. Sex Education, 6(4), pp. 367-376.

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This paper focuses upon the wildly successful blockbuster American Pie teenpics, especially American Pie 3 – the Wedding. I argue that these films, which are sited so securely within the visual and pedagogical machinery of Hollywood culture, are specifically designed to appeal to teenage male audiences, and to provide lessons in sex and romance. Movies like this are especially important as they are experienced by far more teenagers than, for example, instructional films or other classroom materials; indeed, as Henry Giroux has observed, "teens and youth learn how to define themselves outside of the traditional sites of instruction, such as the home and the school… Learning in the postmodern age is located elsewhere – in popular spheres that shape their identities, through forms of knowledge and desires that appear absent from what is taught in schools" (Giroux, 1997, p.49). In this paper I discuss whether the American Pie series is actually a "new age" effort which, via insubordinate performances of gender, contests the hegemonic field of signification which regulates the production of sex, gender and desire, or whether it is more accurately described as a retrogressive hetero-conservative opus with a veneer of sexual radicalism. In short, I intend to probe whether this filmic vector for sex education is all about the shaping of responsible, caring, vulnerable men, or is it guiding them to become just like their heterosexual, middle-class fathers? And whether, despite its riotous and raunchy advertising, American Pie really dishes up something spicy or something terribly wholesome instead.

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ID Code: 4581
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: sex education, teen films, youth cultures, american pie, male audiences
ISSN: 1472-0825
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting) (190402)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > FILM TELEVISION AND DIGITAL MEDIA (190200) > Cinema Studies (190201)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 Taylor & Francis
Copyright Statement: First published in Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning 6(4):pp. 367-376.
Deposited On: 05 Jul 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:26

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