Friday, November 19, 2021

The Year of the Sex Olympics


The Year of the Sex Olympics
Michael Elliott

The Year of the Sex Olympics is a lot of things, comical, absurd, mean spirited, and deeply cynical about the future. It’s primarily notable for a) being written by Nigel Kneale who brought us the Quatermass films as well as Halloween III (1982) and b) predicting much of what would become the reality television landscape. The Year of the Sex Olympics postulates that television as literally the opiate of the masses as in it is a tool to control population. Shows emphasize sex so that the overpopulated proles watch rather than practice. Shows put kings on the end of slapstick comedy to quell revolution. Art and games are automated, requiring no human input.

During the show, 'Sportsex' where couples are given points for having sex, a protestor dies live on camera causing the disinterested audience to suddenly become engaged. The programmers realize that placing people in real life situations with life and death consequences is key to keep the population watching and thereby keeping them from doing anything else, like questioning their world.

Sex Olympics special choking exhibition game.
The real predictive part comes in when Nat (Tony Vogel), Deanie (Suzanne Neve), and their daughter become part of a show where they live outside in a small hut. They have to survive on their own with no real technology. To Nat this is a way to escape their dystopia, but the trick is, there is no escape. They are still on a television program and the reality that they think is authentic is being manipulated too. There is no way out of this panopticon. The events take a turn for the vicious here and whatever absurdities we were faced earlier are brought into sharp contrast.

Where The Year of the Sex Olympics is less successful is in its interpretation of future culture. It’s really nothing more than 1960s youth culture stretched out the nth degree. It works as note of satire in the moment but by 50 years later it just feels outdated. Just a few years later, A Clockwork Orange (1971) would create a future youth culture that just unfamiliar enough to feel like it is from another time while still feeling connected to human culture of the time.

"My head is warm, but my torso is freezing."

The future language of these people is simple and sprinkled with slogans that sound like they were taken from commercials. Kneale stated that he saw these future humans as being post spoken language, instead relying on shared memes and visuals. It can be difficult to parse what people are saying early in the story but the overall plot isn’t complicated so it is easy to keep on top of things.

Nigel Kneale was no fan of the youth, and you need only look at this story and the Quatermass Conclusion (1979) to see that in action. The kids aren’t alright, they are lost in their own indulgences and ignorant of the past at best and deliberately amoral and cruel at their worst. Nat bucks the trend of his peers, but he pays dearly for it.


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