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3.8 out of 5 stars
American Experience: Kinsey
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2005
If you've seen the recent movie ("the filme"), you'll want to check this out.

What I learned was that the film stayed fairly faithful to Kinsey's actual life experiences, with a few key omissions for dramatic purposes:

1. Kinsey's death is not treated in the film as it actually occurred. Actually, the movie pretty much avoids the issue entirely. The dang movie just had to have a happy ending.

2. Kinsey's ethical lapses are not treated objectively in the film. Gaps in his taxonomy and statistical technique are explained in the documentary, warts and all.

3. His wife's devotion to him is underplayed in the movie, as is Kinsey's more extensive personal experiments in sex.

Watch this documentary for a little balance...
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2005
This is the first PBS documentary where I've seen them start by warning, "This may be unsuitable for some audiences." This documentary is so true to the film "Kinsey" that it almost just replaces biographers for actors. Laura Linney did Mrs. Kinsey a favor because in real life she was far less glamorous and a little more physically squat. Kinsey's real-life daughter are interviewed here and they are respectable old ladies now. The researcher's bisexuality and practice of masochism are not swept under the rug here. Unlike the film which just ends abruptly, this documentary rightfully suggests that Kinsey helped to pave the way for the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Also unlike the film, this documentary noted that Kinsey interviewed few African Americans in his work. Oddly enough, the anthropologist Margaret Mead, also bisexual, criticized his work when she herself said bisexuality is more common than Americans believe and her work has been condemned as racist and projectionist. This would be a nice work for all sex-positive activists and scientific researchers to see.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2006
This was a great documentary. It was objective for the most part painting kinsey as neither a hero nor a villain. Too often I find that Kinsey is portrayed as one or the other. He played a large part in revolutionizing sexual research as we know it today but as the documentary showed this came at a price. His statistical methods were questionable as well as some of his methods of research. His level of authority and interactions with his employees were also questionable. He had his own agenda which clearly tampered with his objectivity as a scientist. But at a time when Americans were sexually repressed he was a voice of reason. He preached tolerance and acceptance and made it OK to talk about sex in the open and let it be known that it is normal to be sexual and nothing to be ashamed of. But the documentary also showed how Kinsey put science before everything. Even when it came to his family and making moral judgements at times.

But I felt like the documentary also glossed over a few subjects that could have been explored in deeper detail such as his marriage to Clara and his relationship with his children which was barely mentioned. Also, they never really said what specific masochistic tendencies he indulged in especially after he became depressed. The latter part of his life after the publication of his second volume of work was covered too briefly. I thought what his colleagues had to say on how he didn't include love in the "mechanics" of sex was also interesting and how he seemed to be detached. Ironic how the "father of sex" couldn't make love.....I would recommend the documentary and the movie with Liam Nieson as a complementary package. Whereas the movie portrayed him almost as the hero of sexual research, the documentary goes on to show that there were a few chinks in the knight's armor but without demonizing him.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2006
I thought this documentary was great, and I considered it a nice supplement or even antidote to the dramatic film. You get to meet and hear from Kinsey's colleagues, and you get more about the science and the lasting cultural impact of the man's work. I noticed the word "bias" in one customer review headline, and I suppose that's because Kinsey comes off so clearly as a hero in this documentary (or did to liberal-scientific me at least). Well, um, could that be because he really was a hero? I wonder how many heroes Western civilisation would have left, if we had docu-dramas of the sex lives and marital issues of all of them. The PBS film doesn't ignore the sex and personal dynamics of Kinsey's circle at all, and in fact may dish more dirt than the movie, but people who were there seem today, in the interviews they gave for the documentary, utterly unconflicted and full of admiration, not to mention love, for the man. That had a big effect on me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Kinsey is quite an interesting and well made documentary. It tells Kinsey's life and work in a succinct and well explained manner. The documentary includes interviews with Kinsey's daughters, co-workers, colleagues and other people associated with his life and work. The documentary is excellently done and accurately and objectively describes Kinsey's life and work. The documentary also does an excellent job at putting everything in context of the time and culture at the time of Kinsey's work. It also takes into account the lasting effect of Kinsey's work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Other reviewers here, who for good reason are opposed to Kinsey's agenda and the obfuscation of truth that has characterized his "deification" by leftist cultural reformers, have chosen to give this documentary low ratings mainly because they feel it DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH in exposing Kinsey for the charlatan he was. I'd be inclined to agree, except for the fact that I'm happy to see ANY exposure of the dark underside of Kinsey's "research." (Lord knows we didn't get any in Bill Condon's "biography.") And I'm especially delighted when that exposure comes from a bastion of liberal bias such as PBS.

For those who might assume this documentary ignores Kinsey's enabling behavior toward child rapists, think again. While not a main focus of the film, the producers do have the courage to at least give mention to Kinsey's "scientific" accessory to the rape of infants. Here's a transcript from the film itself:

-------------------TRANSCRIPT-------------------
Narrator: But what the world did not yet know was that there were serious flaws in Kinsey's methodology, flaws that would come back to haunt him. Buried deep in the male volume, in four small tables, was the most contentious data in all his work.

Bancroft: Tables 31 to 34 are about orgasms in pre-pubital boys. And they describe how many of the boys experienced orgasm, boys, young boys having repeated orgasm. Uh, it's not entirely clear from reading the book where this comes from.

Narrator: In fact, Kinsey had drawn nearly all of the material from the diaries of one person. In 1945, he had heard of a man with an astonishing, if perverse, sexual history. Intrigued, he went to meet 63-year-old Rex King.

Hardy: He had a family tree of thirty-six and he'd slept with seventeen of them. His grandmother introduced him to heterosexual intercourse, his father to homosexual intercourse, he'd slept with quite literally countless men and women.

Narrator: King claimed to have molested several hundred children, most of them Mexican migrants living nearby. He'd recorded detailed descriptions of his crimes in several cramped notebooks, which he handed over to Kinsey. The notebooks, Kinsey believed, were a unique record of the sexual responsiveness of children. He decided to use them in the study. But even some of his own team were dead set against it. "To get data," Pomeroy said later, "Kinsey would have made a deal with the devil."

Boyle: There is no moralizing in what he's doing. And perhaps one of his pitfalls is that at some point with sexual behavior, there should be some kind of moral restraints. That is especially with regard to pedophilia.

Gebhard: We figured this data is valuable data. Now just because the guy is a pedophile and it's illegal activity, you don't throw away valuable data. Of course now all the ethicists say we should have turned him in, nonsense. If we had turned anybody in, that would have been the end of the research. So we protected uh, him just like we protected everybody else.
-----------------END TRANSCRIPT------------------

Too bad this film doesn't also mention Kinsey's equally corrupt relationship with the notorious German Nazi pedophile Fritz von Balluseck, who makes Rex King look like an angel. Oh well...what should we expect from PBS? The unbiased truth? LOL
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2007
Though there are a few things left out in this 90-minute film (such as Dr. Kinsey's relationship with his children), most of the important aspects of his life and work are presented in an in-depth, informative, and interesting way. One can't underestimate the importance Dr. Kinsey had on the 20th century. Before he published his two ground-breaking reports on sexual behavior in the human male and the human female, society was incredibly sexually repressive and ignorant. The things he taught about in his class on marriage, human sexuality, and birth control in 1938 and 1939 at Indiana University seem rather tame and normal today, but back then it was a scandal when word got out just what he was teaching his students, particularly because he said that the only abnormal sexual behaviors were abstinence, celibacy, and delayed marriage.

The neo-Puritans of today who wax nostalgic for a past that never really was clearly have no idea just what it was really like back then. Back when Dr. Kinsey and his associates were conducting their interviews and doing their research for the reports, the only form of sex that was considered normal and moral was between a man and a woman within marriage (and then only intercourse, not any other varieties of sex). Things such as oral sex, masturbation, and homosexuality were criminalised and considered deranged instead of perfectly normal natural sexual expressions. A lot of people (particularly women) who were brought up sheltered from any knowledge of sex or told that it was dirty and sinful had no idea what to do once they were married and finally allowed to do it, as though they were suddenly supposed to turn into skilled receptive partners who knew exactly what they were doing and what they liked. Dr. Kinsey himself couldn't even consummate his own marriage for several months, not until his wife had a corrective surgery. People viewed sexuality in terms of morality and immorality instead of science or one's own personal convictions, and placed so many strict limits on what was and wasn't considered to be acceptable, basically dictating to everyone how to behave in the privacy of their own homes based on an arbitrary sense of morality. And when the report on the human male came out in 1947, the public for the first time discovered that a lot of men visited prostitutes, had had affairs, regularly masturbated, dreamt about sex, had had gay experiences, and had had premarital sex. The 1953 report on the human female caused a huge backlash, however, because people didn't want to be confronted with the proof that women were actually sexual beings instead of angelic wives and mothers who had no sexual desires and didn't even like sex. Unfortunately, Dr. Kinsey didn't live long enough to see all of the liberation movements of the Sixties and Seventies, when his work would be fully validated and society would finally snap out of its Puritanical repression.

The film also explores some of the controversies in his work, such as some of his rather unorthodox methods (like taping his associates having sex with one another), how he used data from the journal of a pedophile as standard information about sexual responses and behavior of young boys, and how he tended to interview people who were white, outside of the mainstream, and college students, instead of getting a more broad sampling of the entire population, even if some of those people would have given less earth-shattering responses to the survey. It also explores how he viewed human sexuality and his research as a science, a part of nature, and for that reason didn't feel the need to impose any moral limitations on it, such as saying that pedophilia is wrong or that sex is about love, not just biological urges, and that having affairs with one's associates just to further the research might not be the best idea.

Overall, it's a fascinating look into one of the people who had the most impact on the 20th century, helping to bring America out of the Victorian era and into modernity, into an era where morality is a matter of one's conscience, not something arbitrarily dictated to one by a bunch of self-appointed authorities with a very black and white view of the world.
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on March 31, 2013
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Excellent DVD on Kinsey. I show in Human Sexuality class each semester.....It is the best of the documentaries available. in 20-13
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2008
"Kinsey" is a fascinating documentary; I haven't seen the film with Liam Neeson, but it's hard to see how it would be more interesting. It explores the work of Alfred Kinsey, who with his two reports, Sexual Behavior of the Human Male and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female, changed the way Americans think about sex, and ignited a controversy that continues to this day.

Viewers follow Alfred Kinsey from his childhood to his death. His father was a Methodist preacher, and very domineering. Kinsey never saw his parents express affection for each other, either. He became fascinated with insects, and wanted to go into biology. His father would not have it, however, wanting him to become a preacher. Eventually, the young Alfred was kicked out of the house with only a suitcase full of clothes. Six years later, he would be a professor at Zoology at the University of Indiana. It was there that he began his sex research, which at the time was virtually non-existent. What sparked Kinsey's interest in the subject was his collection of wasps; each was unique, so he reasoned that sexual experiences were equally unique. He began questioning students and faculty about their sex lives. He decided to then assemble a team of researchers to get a national survey of American sexual behavior. The rest, as they say, is history.

The film does not shrink away from the controversies surrounding the Kinsey Reports and Kinsey himself. For example, in his first report, Kinsey included interview data from one pedophile, Rex King. That caused a huge controversy, and led to rumors, still in circulation, that Kinsey himself was a pedophile and that he conducted sexual experiments on children. That is false, but one need not be a member of the Family Research Council to see that including data from a confirmed pedophile is a bit problematic. The highly contentious issue of whether Kinsey's data was truly representative is explored as well. Kinsey thought that the best way to get an accurate survey of the public was through "100% groups"- he would find groups, such as bowling clubs or sewing circles, and interview all of the members of that group. The criticism of Kinsey's method was that, with the new science of probability sampling, it couldn't represent the whole American population. Kinsey countered that if people were simply selected at random, then they would refuse to participate. Though this isn't shown in the film, in 1953 a team of statisticians analyzed Kinsey's data and concluded that the problems in sex research precluded the possibility of a real random sample. Finally, the film explores the behavior in Kinsey's "inner circle"- he would encourage partner swapping, and would record people having sex with each other for the purposes of research. Eventually, the Rockefeller Foundation, who had funded Kinsey's original research, cut funding. Kinsey became depressed and died a few years later.

"Kinsey" is a worthwhile film that explores the life and work of one man whose dangerous idea, that sexuality is normal as long as it is not coercive, continues to generate controversy today.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2011
Verified Purchase
The video that was sent to me was not the one advertised through Amazon. This is a =-( situation because I purchased the video to supplement materials for a paper and so the Hollywood version was of no use to me. Epic fail seller. Epic fail.
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