Sean McDowell | December 20, 2016

How 'Passengers' Subverts the Sexual Revolution

How ‘Passengers’ Subverts the Sexual Revolution

The movie Passengers releases this Wednesday, December 21. The film features Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as two passengers on a 120-year trip to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them up 90 years too early. When the ship malfunctions, their job is to protect the other 5,000 passengers from certain death.

The movie is PG-13 for sexuality, nudity, and action. As the trailer makes clear, there is a “love” scene between Lawrence and Pratt. Since she has not done many sex scenes like this (especially with married men like Pratt), Lawrence has talked about how awkward it was and that she got really drunk beforehand.

She even told the Hollywood Reporter, “I knew it was my job, but I couldn’t tell my stomach that. So I called my mom and I was like, ‘Will you just tell me it’s okay?’ It was just very vulnerable. That was the most vulnerable I’ve ever been.”

Pratt also felt uncomfortable. In an interview with Jess Cagle for People Entertainment Weekly, Pratt was asked how he, as the male actor, made the scene comfortable for his co-star, Lawrence. As the interview clearly portrays, Pratt is visibly uncomfortable with the question. After fumbling around awhile to get the right words, he describes how he made sure the set was closed only to those who needed to be there. And he also checked in with her regularly to be sure she was okay.

I am glad to hear that Pratt is concerned for his co-star. But I have some deeper questions that seem to have been left out of this entire conversation—Why should they be uncomfortable at all? What’s the big deal with filming a sex scene? Why did Cagle simply assume this was a sensitive issue at all? (And, as a side note, why did he assume the male actor had some responsibility? Is he implying there really are gender differences and responsibilities in sexual relationships?).

Of course, I do believe that filming a sex scene would be qualitatively different than filming any other scene for a movie. And I fully understand why they both would feel uncomfortable and experience anxiety in preparation. After all, they’re about to take their clothes off and simulate having sex for a film that will be shown around the world—including to their own friends and family.

But their discomfort puzzles me for a different reason. The heart of the sexual revolution has been about the ongoing destigmatization of all forms of nonmarital sexuality.[1] In essence, the sexual revolution has aimed to portray sex as just another recreational activity. It’s not about babies. It’s not sacred. It’s not about commitment. It’s simply a recreational activity for consenting adults, like any other.

If so, then why should Pratt and Lawrence even feel discomfort filming a sex scene in the first place? Why does Cagle ask about Pratt’s comfort level when filming this scene, but not his comfort level for different scenes, such as when they walk down the hall together or eat dinner as a couple?

The fact that Lawrence got drunk before the scene, and that Cagle felt the need to ask Pratt how he cares for his co-star, shows that no one really believes sex is just another physical activity.

Here’s the reality: either sex is a big deal or it isn’t. If it were really no big deal, then why would Lawrence bother to get drunk beforehand? Why was Pratt noticeably uncomfortable with the question and feel the need to protect his co-star on set? And why did Cagle even ask about this scene in particular? If the pundits of the sexual revolution are correct, we ought to tell them to quit whining and grow up. But we don’t. And we shouldn’t.

The engines of the sexual revolution can keep producing songs, movies, art, YouTube videos, and TV shows to argue that sex really is no big deal. But we know better. And in reality, so do they.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog:

[1] See Mary Eberstadt, Adam and Eve after the Pill (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2012), 12.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: