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American Experience: Kinsey

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Alfred Kinsey was a little-known biologist when, in the 1940s, he began compiling data from thousands of interviews about the sexual practices of men and women. The results of that research were the explosive "Kinsey Reports." Through interviews with his research assistants, his children, his biographers, and historians, this documentary assesses Kinsey's achievements, while examining how his personal life shaped his career.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Campbell Scott, Kenneth Anger, John Bancroft, Bob Bayer, Alice Binkley
  • Directors: Barak Goodman, John Maggio
  • Writers: Barak Goodman
  • Producers: Barak Goodman, Caroline Harting, Catherine Allan, Glenn Fukushima, Gregory Shea
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2005
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007Y08MO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,695 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American Experience: Kinsey" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John P Bernat on July 25, 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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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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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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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 (he comes off that way to liberal-scientific me anyway). 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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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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