THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE Add To My Top 10
Release Date: January 01, 1970
Runtime: 119 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Classics
Director: Tod Williams
Producer: Karen Barber & Jasmine Kosovic
Writer: Tod Williams
Address Comments To:
"I decided to become a woman," says Hank (Clark Gregg) one day to his shocked wife, stepson and stepdaughter. The result is immediate domestic chaos: Hank's alcoholic wife, Joan (Margaret Colin), decides to leave the country for her native England, and binges on beer in her son's presence, with drunken fits of anger and hopelessness, while Sebastian's sister runs off to California with her selfish boyfriend. Meanwhile, Sebastian has to choose between his parents following their divorce.
After experiencing his mother's drunken rages in England, Sebastian comes home to upstate New York, to live with Hank, the stepfather who cares enough about his welfare to set boundaries for his behavior and his school attendance. Hank lays down the rules for Sebastian, while he breaks rules of conventional morality himself. Sebastian tells Hank that his goal in life is to seek "adventures," and he engages in borderline juvenile delinquent behavior with two rowdy high school friends, who despise his stepfather and tell him about their contempt. Sebastian strips to his underwear and lies on the roof in a driving rain. He forges his high school transcript and rides through the halls on a bicycle. He makes out with his girlfriend in his mother's abandoned house. On a dare, he chugs a fifth of scotch with one friend, collapses in a bloody coma and nearly dies, except for the timely intervention of his former girlfriend, who takes him to a hospital.
Meanwhile, his stepfather, Hank, continues to cross-dress, while acting as macho as ever. He takes Sebastian to a baseball batting practice cage and beats up an assistant who taunts him. He takes Sebastian to a restaurant, where he leers at the waitress, momentarily forgetting his supposed preference for men as a soon-to-be woman. He goes shopping with Sebastian and pointedly asks him to put a packet of tampons in the shopping cart, entirely oblivious to the fact that the tampons would be useless to him, since transsexuals do not grow the internal organs of the opposite sex. The climax of this domestic chaos occurs when Hank joins his former wife and her new English husband at Sebastian's graduation, and alienates his grandmother and grandfather. The story ends tragically.
The weakness in this movie is that Hank's decision to become a woman remains unexamined. Although Sebastian's people-pleasing, alcoholic mother's behavior follows logically from her evident alcoholism, and she logically might be expected not to risk her second husband's anger by confronting his choice to change his gender, this movie almost assumes the immutability of a transsexual's desire to change gender. It seeks to "justify," "rationalize" or "normalize" an acutely abnormal situation, and, in that sense, it defies God's natural order.
Essentially, sex change operations challenge God's natural order. Despite the challenge the movie presents, dramatically there is neither struggle nor any motivation for the challenge. Hank seeks no spiritual counseling, nor deliverance nor consolation in his beliefs. He may be bold-faced, but the writing leaves his sinful willfulness woefully underrepresented.
For a man to seek to change his gender is exactly analogous to Jesus' agreeing with the devil's temptation in the desert to change the rocks to bread to assuage His hunger after fasting for forty days. The devil's temptation was a subtle demand on Jesus to disrupt God's natural design, but instead of acquiescing to the devil's demands, Jesus rebuked him, telling him the importance of God's presence and words in the lives of human beings.
Thus, this film leaves moral viewers feeling disturbed. Although it does not depict explicit sex or violence and displays a curious, upstate New York, back-country charm, the way it "normalizes" a transsexual's aberrant behavior leaves the viewer feeling strangely sad by movie's end. Sad not so much at the explicit tragedy of the story of the wayward teenager and his more grossly-wayward stepfather, but sad that a major Hollywood studio deems this aberrant subject matter worthy of a feature release, with accompanying prints and advertising budget.