So, I’m sure you are wondering how I could tell if we were really in love. Well, thanks to How Can I Tell if I’m Really in Love? I know our bond will stand the test of time. Created by Paramount Pictures in what appears to be an effort to get a tax write-off, this was available as a free rental in Hollywood Video locations. Jason and Justine Bateman host this “hip” look at relationships and sex aimed at teenagers in 1992. It features interviews with several students at Uni High in California, awkward musical numbers, and monologues with Jason and Justine, all of which get sandwiched around segments of a presentation that Sol Gordon gave at Uni High earlier.
The interviews with the students range from the “same ol same ol” all the way to “HOLY SHIT, NOTHING ABOUT THAT SOUNDS REMOTELY ETHICAL OR LEGAL”. My personal favorite scene involved a female freshman talking about how she met her true love. She points out her coral earrings, explaining that she met her true love when he saved her from drowning when she was scuba diving at age 13. After saving her, they connected and started dating. Oh, the guy? He was a full-fledged adult. She is describing herself dating and being in love with someone who could potentially be grooming her towards being an abuse victim.
Sol Gordon ends up being the best part of the tape, as everything he covers is as far from the abstinence-only approach as possible. While he does mention that his audience should avoid having sex, his reasoning was based more on wanting the audience to be comfortable and emotionally ready for a relationship that features sex rather than suggesting that not abstaining would be morally bad. Sol’s segments explain in simple terms what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like and what effects those can have on people, and actually talks about requiring partners to “wrap it before they tap it.” But for how good those segments are, there are very few in the tape. Which is sad, because his bits sound like the main point of the whole damn thing - Paramount based the whole film on “Ten Heavy Facts About Sex,” a comic that Sol wrote in 1977. The comic was considered risque because of how honest and straightforward it was about the subject. Sol, who was credited as the writer of How Can I Tell if I’m Really in Love, seems to have been given minimal creative control over this tape. Perhaps Paramount saw an earlier version, and had the producer film some reshoots to make the tape more palpable and accessible to the “general public.”
Oh, and how could I forget the most important part of the tape? The person who brings this all together with a neat little bow? How could I forget Ted Danson?!? If the Batemans’ scenes were phoned in, Ted Danson’s scenes are the modern equivalent of sending a medieval squire to deliver a message by horseback and trumpet. He spends all of his segments sitting in a black leather chair in the center of some sort of sound stage filming all of the segments in one solid block of time. Ted Danson may have just done the whole thing in one take, wanting to just get out the door and do almost anything else with his time.
As a final addendum, Justine introduces a female doctor who answers some of the questions that still confused the students at Uni High. While all of the segments aside from Sol’s feel thrown in after-the-fact, this whole part feels exponentially more thrown in after-the-fact. The answers are straightforward enough, but the editing and production quality of the tape shows just how little Paramount actually cared about their audience. For them, the only reason they put anytime into producing the tape was just to pay as few taxes as possible. Not for the benefit of the youth of the 1990s, not to help spread Sol’s work, Paramount just wanted to hold onto as much money possible while spending the bare minimum amount of money and effort.
And based on what Sol talked about, my relationship with Catie is a million times more healthy and mature than Paramount’s relationship with kids in the 1990s.