Karel and Bobbie were sitting together before the ancient technologies class the next Friday just after lunch, reading their notes and the reference books that formed the bulk of the text of the class.
"Look at this," Bobbie exclaimed quietly. "This picture from the renaissance could be a picture of the living room of one of my friends when I was growing up."
Just as in our world, in the world of this novel there had been a period which many of their academics considered benighted which had been followed by a period they considered one of enlightenment -- a period of a re-birth of the sciences. The term Bobbie used translates well to renaissance.
"Is that a piano?" Karel asked about a keyboard instrument in the picture.
"Maybe it's a harpsichord. But the skill in the woodworking is as good as any you see today."
The two instruments Karel was talking about were very similar to the ones in our world. The one I'm calling a piano used a padded hammer to strike the strings. The one I'm calling a harpsichord used a plectrum to pluck its strings. Other elements of the instruments were fairly close in design, as well, and it would take a professional musician from either world to distinguish the differences. The history was similar as well, the plucked instrument being developed before the struck.
You'll excuse the deliberate conflation, I hope.
Thinking about their studies, Bobbie asked, "Do you think you could make a harpsichord?"
"It'd be fun to try. But I don't think I'm doing it without modern tools and materials."
Other students came in. One whom we shall call, for no particular reason, Piers, sat down by Bobbie. We have met him before, by the way. He was the one who offended Kristie at the first dance the four went to together, and he was in Dan's stake. Now, he was behaving himself reasonably well.
"So, which of the projects are you two going to work on?"
Bobbie grumbled under her breath, "Us two?"
Karel turned to him. "The fibers technologies project?"
Bobbie replied first. "I'm going with heavy fabrics. I want to try to weave enough to make a jacket with."
"And I'm going to work on manufacturing paper for writing," Karel said. "It'd be fun to write my thesis on paper I'd made, myself. How about you?"
Piers sat back "I'm just going to make some rope. Anything else will take too much time."
"Things I want to do, like, there's a film at the International Cinema tonight I want to see."
Movies. Yes. Of course they had movies.
OHU had made it a practice to bring prominent foreign films in and show them in one of the larger lecture halls on Thursday and Friday nights. A nominal admission was charged, to help pay the royalties. Oh, they had royalties, too.
Karel asked, "What's playing?"
Piers named a movie from the country that I'm calling France. It was a bit infamous for containing risqué plot elements and scenes. Picking a movie from our world to compare it to would be difficult -- there would be too many to choose from. And the closest one I can think of might actually be German.
Karel shook his head. "I'll pass."
Bobbie looked up from her homework and met Karel's eyes. "Why?" she asked.
Karel looked back in surprise. "What I've heard about it doesn't sound to me like the moral message is worth the trash it asks you to wade through."
"Trash?" For some reason, Bobbie didn't seem to want to let Karel just dismiss the movie out of hand.
"You know, nudity, sex, violence."
At the time, censoring the movies only occurred in the selection process. The movies were being brought in for academic purposes, and any movie considered worth bringing in would be made available to the students as it was. Otherwise, it would be difficult to deal with the movie at an academic level. Movies that would need scenes removed or such just were not ordered.
"Such things happen in the real world, you know."
"But why should we deliberately subject ourselves to them?"
"Seeing other people's problems can sometimes help us work through our own."
Karel wondered whether Bobbie was talking about her own problems or someone else's. But before he could work out an approach to ask Bobbie, Piers had pointed out a few things that he had heard about the film.
"It does show a bit of the underbelly of society," he said, "but some critics say it portrays abused women in a sympathetic light. And they also say that the movie helps people talk about important social problems. Bobbie," he suggested, "if Karel isn't interested, you could watch it with me."
Karel and Bobbie were challenging each other with their eyes, and Piers suddenly felt the awkwardness of his proposal, but he refused to back down.
Bobbie blinked first. "Maybe," she said, "but I wonder if Karel is uninterested in thinking about the abuse some women go through."
Challenges can be communicated fairly easily without words, through the eyes and with other non-verbal cues, but history cannot. Karel decided to ignore history and refrain from defending himself for the time being. "If Piers doesn't think my presence would be too extraneous." He didn't mean it as a counter-attack, but there it was.
Piers still refused to back down, even though he felt really awkward at this point. "Uhn, no, I guess three's not a crowd."
Then Karel remembered, "Aren't you on duty at the hospital tonight, Bobbie?"
"My shift starts pretty late. What time is it showing?"
"It's scheduled for six o'clock, seven forty-five, and nine thirty. I guess you'll want the six o'clock showing?"
"That's a little tight after the ballroom class," Karel pointed out.
"It's on campus. Six it is. We can meet you at the lecture hall, or you could meet us at the gym at four thirty, Piers."
Piers met them at the gym, and they all walked back to Bobbie and Kristie's apartment, our four friends talking about the dances and steps they had worked on that day. Piers mostly listened and watched.
At the apartment, Bobbie changed the subject. "Kristie, have you got any plans for six o'clock?"
"Tonight? You mean the movie that Piers and Karel and you are seeing?"
"How about you, Dan? Are you interested in a foreign movie?"
"What was the movie again?"
Karel told them the name of the movie.
Dan looked skeptical. "Karel, you're one of the last people I'd expect to go see that movie."
"It wasn't my idea."
"Hey, now it's my fault!" Bobbie said in mock indignation.
"You could've sided with me when Piers brought it up."
Piers defended himself. "It's said to be a culturally significant film. And socially important, as well." He shrugged. "You don't have to go."
"I think it sounds interesting!" Wendy spoke up from the kitchen, where she and Michelle were baking cookies.
"You want to come?" Bobbie asked her.
"Have you seen it, Dan?" Kristie asked.
"Uhm, yeah. Some of the team thought it would be a good movie to see. I don't think they were paying attention to the moral lessons, though."
"I thought it tended to glorify prostitution a bit." Kristie pursed her lips and wrinkled her forehead. "I don't particularly care to see it again."
"You and I can stay here and guard Wendy's cookies."
"Oh, no you don't. These are for a Relief Society social."
The Relief Society is what the Mormon's women's organization is called in our world, and the name of the E-P-ists women's organization in the world of this novel is basically the same.
Karel asked, "So how was it you saw it, Kristie?"
"My aunt took me to it."
Dan was taken aback. "Your aunt?"
"She said it would show me things about men that I needed to think seriously about."
Dan responded without thinking, and he let his sarcasm show through. "Considerate of her."
"She said something like what Piers is saying -- that it's a defense of women who can't defend themselves. But I think it's exploiting the subject too much. And it's pretty explicit in places where it really doesn't need to be."
Joy and Jennifer returned about then. They said they wanted to go bowling at the game center in the basement of the student union building, and asked if anyone wanted to join them. Dan and Kristie said they could do that.
Michelle said she really needed to study, and guard the cookies.
But they all agreed to meet at the cafeteria in the student union for dinner before Bobbie had to go on shift at the hospital.
Bowling translates okay here, although the rules are slightly different. So does student union. But "Wilkie" or "Wilkinson Center" as a name for the student union building would not be meaningful at OHU, for various reasons.
At the cafeteria, they discussed the film.
"Such a sad movie," Wendy said with a sniff.
Bobbie said, "You were right, Kristie. Some of the scenes were scenes I really didn't want to see again."
Karel was momentarily distracted by Bobbie's choice of verb.
Michelle, Joy, and Jennifer, not having seen the movie, just listened.
"What are you eating, Karel?" Piers asked. "Do they have anything good here?"
"I take it you don't eat at the on-campus cafeterias."
"Not since I was a freshman and lived in the dorms."
"Let's see what they've got today."
"You told me the nuts and harf salad was good, didn't you?" Dan mentioned.
Nuts, of course. Harf -- well, the animal looked and behaved pretty much like a pig. But it was a reptile, and the meat tasted more like chicken.
Karel read the menu. "It doesn't seem to be on the menu today. Just steak, potatoes, and tossed salad, and cream of onion soup."
Steak. Breet steak. Tasted like mutton more than beef, and the animal looked more like a sheep than a cow.
"It'd be hard to mess those up, I'd think."
"There are the usual sandwiches, too. Soup and sandwich wouldn't be bad."
"So you guys don't want to talk about the movie?" Wendy asked. "I thought it was an important movie. Sad, but very meaningful. We shouldn't forget that there are lots of people living in situations like that all over the world -- tearing themselves apart to put food on the table for their children, and too poor to change jobs or do anything about it. Suppressed and oppressed by the people around them."
Karel looked at the floor. "I just really didn't want to see the graphic portrayal of the services, as they called them, that the prostitutes performed."
"How are they supposed to tell people how bad it is if they don't show how bad it is?" Piers asked.
"What do you mean? Naming the acts in narrative isn't enough?"
"So how did you learn what the words mean?" Kristie asked. "I do think they showed too much. As I say, I think the movie tends to glorify prostitution. But is a verbal description actually less of a problem than pictures?"
Karel shook his head. "I am sure that there will be many men who will see this movie and think that they have a right to demand this kind of behavior from their wives. And many women who see it will think they have to do that kind of thing to keep their men, just because they showed those scenes."
Wendy asked, "But is it wrong for married people to do?"
"If they both agree to it, without any feeling of coercion, maybe it's not wrong. I guess it would be between them and God. But if there are any feelings of coercion, it's wrong. And I mean any feelings, including peer pressure kinds of feelings of coercion, and, but they did it in the movie kinds of coercion."
"I think I agree with Karel, here," Dan said.
Wendy frowned slightly. "So, should society censor this movie?"
Kristie shook her head. "I don't think either Karel or Dan are thinking that. The problem really is that watching a movie is an individual thing. Some people may be hurt by seeing that movie, and some may be helped."
Dan and Karel nodded. And Karel added, "We just need to be able and willing to admit it if the graphical depictions offend us. And ask if there might not be other ways of talking about the problems, other ways to approach trying to change things for the better. Different people can help in different ways. And I won't be recommending this movie to anyone."
Bobbie kept the remainder of her thoughts on the movie to herself. "I'd better order something and get back, to get ready for my shift."
So they all ordered and talked about other things, and Michelle, Joy, and Jennifer joined in the discussion. Karel showed his dorm pass when they paid, and they all got dorm rates.
[Backup and edit history here: http://joel-rees-economics.blogspot.com/2017/02/backup-soc500-03-04-risque-movie.html.]
[Chapter 3 part 4 is original to the second draft, and is not found in the first draft.]