Monday, January 16, 2006

Worth Watching

If you missed out on it the first time round, SBS is screening The Staircase again in its "Hot Docs" spot, starting tomorrow night at 10.00 pm.

The ABC is once again repeating Walking With Beasts, on Saturday afternoons at 3.30. The last episode of the series, about homo erectus, is worth taking a look at, if only for the sequence showing two hominids copulating. In any other context, you might call it fucking but this is a nature documentary after all, so it's probably more appropriate to use the more respectable scientific term. It's pretty clear that the producers of the show went out of their way to forestall any accusation that they were just slipping in a gratuitous paleo-anthropological soft porn insert. In your average stick flick, the visuals would have been accompanied by some pretty enthusiastic grunting, gasping and give-it-to-me-babys accompanied by some off-the-peg electronic music, heavy on tinkly chimes and sugary synthetic strings but, instead of that, the action is accompanied by an earnest voice over from Kenneth Branagh, explaining how the vulva of the female erectus shifted forward to accomodate an upright posture, obliging homo erectus to copulate face-to-face. In the missionary position, of course, with the female lying back and distracting herself from the whole sordid business with thoughts of all the berry-gathering she'd be doing tomorrow.

I have no idea how Branagh kept a straight face while he was reading this guff, which tells you a lot more about the sexual experience of the narrative's author than it does about mating behaviour in homo erectus. The truth is, we have no idea how homo erectus went about the business of screwing although the current state of human sexual practice suggests that they had a lot of options. Whether they had the imagination to exploit them is another matter and somewhat moot; anything we say on the subject is completely speculative, however entertaining the possibilities might be.

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