Howl: Everything Has Changed

Howl 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!


  1. says

    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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