STDs in Popular Culture
With the spread of sexually transmitted diseases becoming more and more of a problem, it’s no surprise to see popular culture mediums picking up on the risk. The only surprise is that they’re not more prevalent in entertainment, as art mimics life, but there’s still a certain taboo apparent which makes each instance remarkable. Here’s some of the more memorable instances of STD is music, film and even video games!
The subject of sexually transmitted disease in film has been explored on an academic level, and indeed an article in a 2005 Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine made an interesting discovery with regards to STD in cinema. Taking the top 200 films as voted for on the Internet Movie Database (removing films pre the HIV epidemic and those unlikely to contain adult themes) it was reported that there were 53 sex scenes in 28 of the remaining 87 films reviewed, and only one of those implied the use of a condom. There were no depictions of consequences of this recklessness – no pregnancies, HIV or any other STD. It went on to report a few references to STDs in the dialogue (“disease spreading whore”, “I get checked every month”), but generally the scripts encouraged promiscuity and ridiculed celibacy.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this, and especially if you veer beyond the mainstream of IMDB’s top rated films. The first example of this is 1938’s “Sex Madness” (currently rated 2.0 / 10 on said film database) – a horribly heavy handed warning on the evils of loose living and the risk of resultant syphilis ruining your life. 1983’s TV movie “Intimate Agony” (5.3 / 10) fares a little better as a morality play, but had its thunder stolen weeks after its release when the AIDs epidemic started to make headlines. Films tackling HIV and AIDs are far more common, but two of the best examples are 1993’s TV movie “And the Band Played On” (7.6 / 10) – a dramatisation of the history of AIDS – and 1994’s “Philadelphia” (7.6 / 10 ) which depicts an AIDS ‘sufferer’s court case against wrongful dismissal. The latter won 2 Oscars for Tom Hanks’ accurate and affecting portrayal of the physical deterioration brought on by the end stages of the sexually transmitted disease.