DISAPPEARANCE OF SHERE HITE, THE
(director/writer: Nicole Newnham; cinematographers: Rose Bush, Naomi Amarger; editor: Eileen Meyer; music: Lisbeth Scott; cast: Dakota Johnson (Shere Hite-voice-narrator), Shere Hite (self); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producers: R.J Cutler; Elise Pearlstein, Molly O’Brien, Nicole Newnham, Trevor Smith, Kimerley Ferdinando; IFC Films: 2023)
“It refreshingly brings back memories of the forgotten bisexual feminist icon Sherry Hite.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The well-researched, gripping and fascinating biopic documentary by director-writer Nicole Newnham (“Crip Camp”/”The Rape of Europa”) on the women’s lib advocate Shere Hite, that’s narrated by Dakota Johnson and makes good use of archival footage. It refreshingly brings back memories of the forgotten bisexual feminist icon Sherry Hite–a pioneering sex educator who was a prominent feminist figure during the 1970s and through much of the 1990s. She died in Europe in 2020, and after her death is rarely ever mentioned today even though she has done as much for feminism as possibly anyone.
The film opens with the 1976 TV interview of Shere Hite, as she answers questions about her ground-breaking “The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality.” But that clip is only playing on a monitor during a TV show from 1994.
Hite, a former Playboy model, was known for her radical sexual 1976 book The Hite Report, which sold 20 million copies. She spoke out for further research on women’s sexuality and their need for sexual pleasure found through masturbation, as a follow-up to the release of the influential Kinsey Report and the Masters & Johnson study.
Hite began her feminist venture at Columbia University while studying for a Ph.D. in Social History in the late 1960s. Pissed off by the patriarchal scene at Columbia, she dropped out of the school and joined NOW (National Organization for Women), a NYC based feminist action group fighting sexism.
She lived in poverty as she worked on her celebrated book, interviewing scores of women to prove her point that most men don’t know how to sexually satisfy their female partners. Her best-selling book led to her appearance on many combative talk shows, where usually the male host would challenge her findings and she would ably fight back holding her ground. She even had an appearance in 1987 on the Oprah show that turned ugly, as the all-male audience ignorantly attacked her and Oprah never came to her defense.
By the mid-1980s Hite wrote a few more books and was wealthy. She bought a luxury apartment in Manhattan, and had celebrity neighbors like Gene Simmons of KISS (who makes a cameo). She married a German concert pianist, nineteen years younger in 1985. When tiring of her hostile treatment in America, she moved to Europe in the 1990’s and kept out of the limelight.
It played at the Sundance Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 12/28/2023 GRADE: B+