"The Freebie" and Its Bizarre Self-Help-for-Swingers Web Site

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Don't tell the pope, but today -- Friday, September 17 -- is (unofficially) National Freebie Day. The producers of the new film The Freebie -- about a long-married couple who decide to give each other a free pass so that they can each have a fling with someone else -- would like to give married folk everywhere permission to tuck a condom in their pocket and go hit the bars in search of whatever it is they don't have at home.

What we can glean from the film's trailer is that an otherwise happily married couple, played by Katie Aselton (who also wrote and directed the film) and Dax Shepard, dance shyly around the concept of sanctioned infidelity, kind of thinking that it's a stupid idea but also hoping that a couple of one-night stands will shake them out of their sexual doldrums and allow them be grateful for what they already have. The fear, of course, is that sleeping with other people will be the end of their friendship and their marriage. Tension!

The film opens in New York today (National Freebie Day), and in general release October 1; since I live in Southern California, I haven't seen the film, but what I have seen quite a lot of is cheerfully disturbing web site that's been launched in support of the film.

The goal of Untie-TheKnot.com seems to be to create some fun, kooky buzz around the concept of open marriage. If the site were actually finished, the "Who to Do?" and "Dos and Don'ts" pages might jauntily help you decide who to cheat with and how, though the "It's Time to Start Planning" link helpfully opens up to the Craigslist "Casual Encounters" listing for Manhattan. Fortunately, someone managed to post "five must-have items for your special night" (which include concocting a sexy backstory to impress your potential hook-up, and a decent lie to reassure your spouse afterward that "it wasn't all that great").

The Freebie
Image courtesy Phase 4 Films

The site also features some terrible Penthouse Forum-type one-night stand stories, and an advice column by two white-bread, can-do columnists named "Bill and Susie." Bill and Susie are about as subtle as a firehose, and seem blissfully assured that swinging, flinging, and serial polyamory are easy as pie if you drink enough tequila.

If you really want the security and comfort of a long-term relationship combined with the thrill of shagging that handsome stranger who only comes to town twice a year for business, you might be better off reading polyamory.org or unmarried.org, sites run by people who actually work to maintain healthy open relationships that may or may not include children, and who advise you to do the exact opposite of the Johnny-come-latelys over at Untie-TheKnot.

The REAL rules for so-called "freebies" read more like what the movie is trying to show: Tell the truth. Know yourself. Accept responsibility for your actions. Be strong, be loving, be open, etc.

Ironically, these turn out to be good rules for monogomous relationships as well. Hey! No wonder Bill and Susie couldn't hack it with each other -- they have the combined emotional equilibrium of an sleep-deprived toddler whose parents have a giant collection of porn in the basement.

What do you think of the campaign -- does this web site do anything to promote the movie?

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