No Respect: The Outcry Over Dark Alley’s Gaytanamo
Rodney Dangerfield should have worked in pornography. The lack of respect accorded to the world’s favorite film genre is profound, and as a pornographer you’re less likely to find accolades outside the industry than a hooker (even one with a heart of gold) is to find love. People talk a good game, sure, but only into their tissues. But careful: show more than an intonation of violence (because there’s none in other forms of popular culture) and you’ll have parents protesting quicker than if it were Itchy and Scratchy or Beavis and Butthead. Make a porn set on a farm or frathouse and it’s derided as filler fluff; make a porn set in a military prison and you’re suddenly a baby killer.
Take the recent uproar about Dark Alley Media’s recent release, Gaytanamo. When Matthias von Fistenberg and Owen Hawk first sent us the script, we thought it was clever enough to reprint (at least in part). They even got a little angry that we disclosed that it was not, in fact, filmed at a CIA black site. First, the Washington Blade picked up on the story, calling it “a new low in bad taste” then Queerty picked up the story. Suddenly there was a full backlash from porn fans across the globe who find it “inappropriate” “offensive” and “designed to capitalize on suffering.” But that was only the beginning …Owen Hawk wrote back in protest, in brief discussing the borderland status of porn, politics of fetish (with a nod to Foucault) and the ability for things that disgust us to turn us on (and in doing so illuminate some of the reasons why the conflict exists in the first place). To which the mass of people responded (I’m summarizing) “Gimme a break — it’s just porn!”
I’ll resist making the porn is art argument (primarily because I don’t believe most of it is, any more than I believe television is art. This isn’t to say, however, that I don’t hold both in high regard or feel passionately about them because I do. But art is primarily for it’s own sake and most pop culture — including porn — is commercial.) Porn is fun and disturbing and weird and hot — it can elicit reactions that make you uncomfortable, it draws on the aesthetics and mood of a culture without being wholly defined by them. That’s part of its beauty.
The real fascists are not the perverts in the uniforms in Gaytanamo — they are the members of the left and right who claim that media has more power over people than people have over it. Of course, as Gaytanamo only comes out today, the deskchair quarterbacks protesting certainly haven’t seen the movie but they’ve more than certainly decided that what it contains is either insensitive authoritarian filth or insubstantial sex fluff. Chances are that, as entertainment, it’s both and neither and a whole lot more than a few zinger-friendly reductive definitions. It’s insulting to the industry to claim otherwise — and requires black-and-white standards for porn that few require of 24, All In the Family or The Sopranos.
I dunno: am I crazy for taking porn seriously or crazy for not taking it seriously enough? Or both?