Howl: Everything Has Changed

Well, my goodness.

Things certainly have changed since I was a girl.

And thank God for it.

This, more than anything else, was what kept drifting into my mind when I saw Howl, the new film about the renowned Beat poem and the obscenity trial that surrounded it, starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.

A lot of things drifted into my mind when I was watching this film. The connections between eroticism and artistic creativity. The connections between eroticism and anti-conformist rebellion. The roots of gay liberation that extended back years before the Stonewall riots. The They Might Be Giants song, “I Should Be Allowed To Think.” (I know, I’m a Philistine.) What a tasty little dish James Franco is. How to make films based on real events that don’t seem like Lifetime docu-dramas. (The film Howl has an interesting structure, one that gives it a feeling of authenticity while still having drama and artistry and without reading as a documentary. It’s just four interweaving threads, all of which are drawn from real events: the obscenity trial, a re-creation of the first public reading Ginsberg gave of “Howl,” re-created excerpts of interviews with Ginsberg (with the events described in said interviews sometimes being re-enacted), and a luscious, evocative animated interpretation of the poem by comics artist Eric Drooker. Deceptively simple; quietly compelling; elegant.)

But the idea that kept drifting into my head, again and again, gently and relentlessly, was this:

Damn. The world certainly has changed.

It has radically changed when it comes to matters of sex.

And thank God for it.


Thus begins my latest piece on CarnalNation, Howl: Everything Has Changed. To read more about my take on the movie Howl, and what it shows about how the world has changed in just a few decades, and how that change came about, read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to Carnal Nation — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

Howl: Everything Has Changed
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3 thoughts on “Howl: Everything Has Changed

  1. 3

    Our own Famous Obscenity Trial was for Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which wasn’t quite the same thing but gave rise to the immortal line “Is it a book you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”

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