The Controversial Legacy of Shere Hite: A Documentary That Shakes the Foundations

The Controversial Legacy of Shere Hite: A Documentary That Shakes the Foundations

In the realm of Oscar-contending documentaries, one film has emerged to shed light on the fascinating life and work of Shere Hite. “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” is set to grace the big screens in the U.K. and Ireland, courtesy of Dogwoof, a prominent London-based documentary film company. The film, directed by Nicole Newnham, delves into the life of the famed American sex researcher who skyrocketed to fame in the 1970s but ultimately faced a tremendous backlash that forced her into exile.

Challenging the Establishment: Hite’s Findings

At its core, “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” aims to remember and commemorate the feminist sex researcher whose groundbreaking findings shook society’s very core. Hite’s influential work presaged the current conversations surrounding gender and sexuality while making her a target of patriarchal forces. In 1976, her renowned publication, “The Hite Report,” sought to liberate women from societal constraints and demystify female pleasure and the orgasm by exposing the private experiences of thousands of anonymous survey respondents.

Digging deep into exclusive archives, Hite’s personal journals, and the original survey responses, filmmaker Nicole Newnham takes viewers on a journey back in time to an era of immense societal transformation regarding sexuality. The film invites the audience to reflect on Hite’s impact and the enduring relevance of her work.

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” is narrated by the talented actress Dakota Johnson, who also serves as an executive producer. Through Johnson’s captivating narration, the audience is immersed in Hite’s world and experiences firsthand the profound effect she had on understanding female sexuality. The collaboration between Johnson and Newnham brings a fresh perspective and creates a synergy that enhances the film’s impact.

With a “100% Fresh” critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” has garnered significant recognition and praise. The documentary was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and secured a place in DOC NYC’s shortlist of the year’s best documentary films. Additionally, it earned a prestigious spot in IDFA’s Best of Fests lineup, reserved for the most outstanding nonfiction films of the year.

Reflecting on these accolades, Nicole Newnham expressed her gratification, emphasizing the film’s ability to bridge the historical context of the ’70s and ’80s with the urgent cultural issues of today. By crafting the documentary intelligently, Newnham ensures it remains relevant and evocative, prompting viewers to engage in vital discussions about female pleasure, gender equality, and the biases that have plagued society for far too long.

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” delves into the multifaceted life of Shere Hite, revealing her unconventional path to becoming a renowned sex researcher. Prior to her academic pursuits, Hite worked as a model and even appeared in television commercials to support her graduate education. This unapologetic embrace of her beauty showcased her refusal to hide behind an academic facade.

Nicole Newnham underlines the intriguing dichotomy Hite faced during that period, as her unconventional approach to embodying her femininity attracted a brutal double standard. Society questioned her credibility as a scientist and researcher, asserting that her appearance and behavior undermined her professional legitimacy. Yet, in today’s generation, there is a greater acceptance of unapologetic self-expression, an embrace of individuality, and a rejection of stifling gender norms.

Directed by Nicole Newnham, who garnered an Oscar nomination for her work on “Crip Camp,” and produced by an accomplished team consisting of Molly O’Brien, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein, Kimberley Ferdinando, Trevor Smith, and Nicole Newnham, “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” showcases a collective effort that brings the narrative to life. The film is a production of NBC News Studios, This Machine, Sony Pictures Television Nonfiction, and Teatime Pictures.

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” emerges as a thought-provoking documentary that transcends time and space. Through the lens of Nicole Newnham’s direction and Dakota Johnson’s narration, viewers are invited to reflect on the controversial legacy of Shere Hite and grapple with the issues of female pleasure, gender equality, and societal biases. This powerful film opens up crucial discussions that resonate in today’s post-#metoo era, reminding us of the importance of embracing diversity, challenging norms, and advocating for positive change.


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