Recently, I watched a documentary on Formed called Unprotected: A Pope, the Pill, and the Perils of Sexual Chaos (2018). It is great. One thing that you might not get from the title is the focus it gives to the so-called Sexual Revolution. As somebody who has read a lot about the 1960s and 1970s, the period when this epoch kicked off in earnest, I have been increasingly coming to the conclusion that the 1960s ruined everything. What cannot be taken away from that period are the civil rights gains. Unfortunately, as related in the documentary, these decades also began with the introduction of the first federally approved birth control pill. Please understand that I am not here to argue whether such a drug should be available. You can make any assumption you like about me as a practicing Catholic, which is safe to do as I adhere to Church teaching. Instead, and hopefully this does not come off as too jarring of a juxtaposition, I would like to use the film Road Trip (2000) to symbolize why I believe our society is worse off for what happened in this country decades ago.
Road Trip is told from the perspective of somebody who does not go on the title trek. This is Barry Manilow (Tom Green), and he is giving a group of perspective students a tour of the fictional Ithaca University. Yes, he has the name of a popular musician, but he is strange in plenty of other ways. For example, he tells his charges that the school’s library was built in the 1600s, which is, of course, impossible. When they start pointing out how awful of a job he is doing of giving them information about the school, he switches to a story about one of his classmates. This is Josh Parker (Breckin Meyer). He has been dating his childhood friend, Tiffany Henderson (Rachel Blanchard), for years. After high school, though, he goes to Ithaca while she is accepted into veterinary school in Austin, Texas. They try to keep up a long-distance relationship, calling each other every day and even videotaping messages to mail across the country. That is right, kids, that is what we did before FaceTime. As if this is not pressure enough, there is that which is added by peers. For Josh, the main one is his friend E.L. Faldt (Sean William Scott). Josh wants to remain committed to Tiffany, but E.L. preaches promiscuity. His message becomes all the more strident when Beth Wagner (Amy Smart) shows interest in Josh. Cracks are beginning to form in his will power, too, when a few days go by and he does not hear from Tiffany. The dreams that he has featuring her cheating on him do not help. His classes are not any easier, particularly his philosophy course. His professor’s teaching assistant, Jacob Schultz (Anthony Rapp), has a crush on Beth and does not like Beth’s interest in Josh. Jacob makes it clear to Josh that unless the underclassman gets a B+ on the mid-term, he is not going to pass the course. Following the familiar pattern of many a college student before him, instead of studying, Josh allows E.L. to convince him to go to a party. At the soiree, there is a distasteful auctioning of dates with girls. One of these is Beth. To save her from Jacob, who she finds creepy, and with some help from E.L., Josh wins the bid. This is when everything goes haywire. They end up in his dorm room and do adult things, which he inadvertently records on the same camera he uses to send messages to Tiffany. The next morning, he realizes when his roommate Rubin Carver (Paulo Costanzo) wants to watch the tape of his late night activities that he had mailed the explicit one to Tiffany. As this realization dawns on Josh, he finally gets a call from Tiffany, which he lets get picked up by the answering machine. It is to a recorder that she explains that she had not been communicating lately because her grandmother died. This triggers Josh, along with E.L. and Rubin, to approach their shy neighbor Kyle Edwards (DJ Qualls) and ask for his car so they can make it to Austin before she opens the package. This is the four that set out from upstate New York, though the car is lost to them somewhere in Pennsylvania. I do not mean that they misplaced it or that it is stolen. Instead, it blows up after they jump it over a downed bridge. So, yeah, it is that kind of movie. Doubling down (or perhaps it is even more compounded by this point?) on the awful, E.L. obtains new wheels by stealing a bus from a school for the blind. There are a number of other capers they get into along the route to Austin that I would rather not describe. I will save some of it for the next paragraph. The main point is that they get to Austin and are able to intercept the package before it gets into Tiffany’s hands. It also leads to Josh and Tiffany to finally see each other. Once she gets over the shock of seeing him in Austin, she explains that it is best that they break up. Before this happens, she gets a phone call from Beth telling him that his midterm has not been postponed as Jacob had led Josh to believe. From there, it is a mad dash back to Ithaca to be in time for the test. He is given a reprieve when Beth phones in a bomb threat to the building in which the class is held, allowing him to be on time. Basically, this is the end of the movie, and everyone lives.
At the end of Road Trip, with Josh walking out on the heels of his midterm, he is soon joined by Beth. She admits to him that it had been her that had made the bomb threat. She then asks if she did well, and he says it is the most amazing thing anyone had ever done for him. My, oh my, how times have changed. Can you imagine someone committing such an act today? She did it, though, because she is trying to prove to Josh her worthiness as a partner. I will submit to you that this has everything to do with the fact that they had sex. One of the main points of the documentary mentioned above is that the Sexual Revolution ultimately devalued women. A lot of what you see in it takes its cues from Theology of the Body. If you have not read that, I encourage you to check it out. What we have increasingly seen since the 1960s and 1970s is people defining themselves solely on the basis of the sexual act. Instead of bringing equality, whatever that means, it has increased the power men have in these scenarios. I see this in Road Trip in so many places. There are the men bidding on dates during the party. There are the lengths that Beth goes to in order to please Josh. There are the so-called rules that guys follow when it comes to getting around cheating. E.L. is the one that relates them to Josh, and they are all misogynistic. Astonishingly, they are all basically repeated by Tiffany as she gives her reasons for why they should end their relationship. In short, women in this movie, and in society at large, have not been liberated by the Sexual Revolution, particularly not when we see movies like this one. It should be noted, too, that the Church has never taught that it is a must for a Catholic couple to have as many babies as possible no matter the circumstances, which is one of the bases for the Sexual Revolution. At the same time, children do not equal prison.
I wrapped up that last section of my discussion of Road Trip because there is a lot of discussion of contraception in it. There are also many references to pornography, and a visit to a sperm bank to get money for their trip. This is all without mentioning the drug use and rampant nudity, which is all meant to be a joke. There is nothing comedic here, or of value. It even makes light of the more positive aspects, such as Kyle bringing his new girlfriend home to meet his parents. As such, it is best to let this one fade off into the distant past, hopefully never to be heard from ever again.