The Way of the Word

6. January 2010

Everything is Porn

Filed under: Commentary,general,movies,review,Uncategorized — jensaltmann @ 11:25
Tags: , , , ,

I like translating porn movies. Not because I like porn, I honestly have no use for it. But because it’s easy work. We get paid by the film minute, and porn has little dialog. What there is of it is simple. So it’s easy work.

One thing to avoid misunderstanding: when I say I have no use for porn, that’s a personal preference. I am not advocating that it should be banned, or claiming that it’s bad for you, or anything like that. If you enjoy porn, go ahead, enjoy. All I’m saying is that it simply isn’t my thing.

The thing with porn is that it takes the flimsiest excuse for a story that it can get away with in order to string together a series of sex scenes. Which is, of course, what the audience wants: the sex scenes. Who cares what happens in-between them, right? Hands up, those of you who fast-forward through the story scenes.

The problem with the porn approach is that it doesn’t get the audience involved with the characters. Now, in porn, that may be fine. The audience doesn’t care about the characters beyond what they look like, so there’s no point in getting involved any further. However, the porn approach is detrimental if it’s used in other genres. And it is being used in other genres.

A couple of years ago… Okay, many years ago, I was still in my teens, I watched a martial arts movie. Don’t ask me which one, I’ve forgotten everything except for two things: one, that I hated it and two, that it applied the Porn Approach. You see, the people behind that movie had decided that what the audiences want is the martial arts fights. Consequently, they had reduced everything in between to the flimsiest of storylines. (If there even was a storyline beyond the main character wandering from one fight to the next.) The fights were as well choreographed as most of them, but I found the movie boring. I couldn’t make myself care about the main character winning the fight because he wasn’t really fighting for anything more than “My kung-fu is bigger than yours.” The fights meant nothing, the only thing that depended on the outcome was the main character’s vanity.

It seems that the movie Ninja Assassin, about which I was excited because ofย  J. Michael Straczynski having written the screenplay, did exactly the same thing. It applied the Porn Approach to a martial arts movie. Who cares about the story, people just want to see the fights.

Now, using the Porn Approach to other genres is nothing new. If you want to claim that the Godzilla franchise has applied it successfully since 1954, I wouldn’t give you an argument. Tons of blockbusters have applied the Porn Approach, and made a mint. 2012 used the Porn Approach to string together scenes of major desaster. (Remember how the critics called it desaster porn?) After all, it wasn’t that the people went to see it for the story. They went to see it to cheer over the destructions of famous global landmarks.

Then there’s torture porn, but I’m afraid I’m not qualified to comment on that. I don’t watch that kind of horror. (I prefer suspense to splatter.) (I hear some of them are quite intelligent, though.) Anyway, the term implies that these movies use a flimsy story as an excuse to string together scenes of people being violently killed.

The Porn Approach has found inceasing use in the action genre. Crank, Crank 2, Shoot ‘Em Up, Charlies Angels. Transformers and Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Do any of these examples actually have a story? Instead, each of these movies has a premise they use to string together a series of more or less outrageous action scenes. (Which, IMO, the Crank movies do better than Shoot ‘Em Up.) It’d be fair to call these movies Action Porn.

Or how about Avatar? Supposedly, James Cameron wrote the story and had to wait for technology to catch up with his vision. But since the story is essentially Dances With Wolves in Space, would it be fair to say that Avatar is really Special Effects Porn? Since, you know, it seems that the audiences are supposed to (and do) get more excited about the new technologies used in the making of the film rather than the movie’s story.

However, without a story, do we really care? Do we care what happens to the characters when there is no real point to what’s going on? Or has the movie experience deteriorated to the point where those who still go do it because they want to turn off their brains and just consume the visuals on the screen? Am I, as someone who wants some story with his action, forced into Arthouse movies (and I don’t even like Arthouse) to get my story fix?

Not necessarily. The Dark Knight proved that it’s possible to make an intelligent action movie. I expect very much the same of Inception.

A few days ago, someone commented on the trailer to the upcoming movie Legion that this really looks cool. I pointed out to him that the trailer looks as if the story has been cobbled together from various other movies, such as Demon Knight, Maximum Overdrive and Terminator. His reply was, “Can’t we have some dumb fun once in a while?”

What I’m trying to say here is that yes, once in a while is okay. But the way it has become a permanent diet we’re being fed from those who make the movies is very very wrong. When everything we’re offered is “dumb fun,” it is time to cry, “Can’t we have some smart fun for a change?”

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2 Comments »

  1. Looking at it from this lens, the porn genre’s use of roman a clef versions of other entertainment media or real-life celebrities serves a useful purpose that I hadn’t even considered until now – it capitalizes upon the work already done by others to create emotional investment in those characters, whether they’re real or fictional, in order to make people care about the porn versions of them on a level deeper than just seeing them fuck. It’s fascinating to me, on that note, that the latest spate of faux celebrity porn (the Sarah Palin send-ups) and pop culture porn parodies (the latest generation of Star Trek spoofs) actually devote as much as half of their running times to dialogue intended to make the viewers see the porn performers as the characters that they’re playing. In this sense, we might actually be looking at an ironic reversal of what you’re talking about here, because the aforementioned porn produced by Larry Flynt arguably relies less upon the “porn approach” than many modern mainstream films. Thus, porn is becoming less porny than non-porn. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by K-Box — 6. January 2010 @ 12:49

  2. “Thus, porn is becoming less porny than non-porn.”

    You’re the expert, I’ll have to take your word for it. ๐Ÿ™‚ But then, as far as I know, Larry Flynt has always been something of a crusader (who just happens to peddle smut), so I’m not really surprised.

    Comment by jensaltmann — 6. January 2010 @ 15:29


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