In a recent article in the New York Times, Caryn James discusses "one of the year's hottest topics" in movies and on TV: infidelity. Whether it's recent movies like Closer and Kinsey, or the hit television series Desperate Housewives, cheating on your mate and then telling him or her about it is the order of the day. While James does a good job in describing the phenomenon, her explanation comes up short. That's because her explanation omits an important factor: that is, the nature of our creative class. In both Closer and Kinsey, a character admits to infidelity, expecting that being honest will somehow make up for their betrayal. In both cases, the betrayed party disabuses them of that notion. As Kinsey's wife tells him, the traditional restraints against adultery "keep people from hurting each other..." The unfaithful character in Desperate Housewives was prepared to tell her husband when her "confession" was interrupted by his arrest. What's behind this sudden interest in infidelity? According to James, it's a belief on filmmakers' part that "infidelity [is] one more fact of life." In these movies, "monogamy has come to seem an impossible goal; [thus] the new ideal is honesty about infidelity." In their estimation, filmmakers are portraying the world as it really is. There's another, albeit politically incorrect, explanation for the increased onscreen depiction of infidelity. In an essay about HBO's Sex and the City, Lee Siegel of the New Republic noted that the show's creators were gay men. This led him to suspect that the promiscuity on the part of the female characters was really "an ingenious affirmation of a certain type of gay-male sexuality," which is notoriously promiscuous. Siegel called the popular show "the biggest hoax perpetrated on straight single women in the history of entertainment." Single women who saw themselves in the relationships and anonymous sex portrayed on the screen were actually watching what was a justification for the gay men who produce the show.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone that "monogamy has come to seem an impossible goal" on TV and in the movies. But believing that life onscreen is just like real life would be the worst kind of hoax: self-deception.