From: firstname.lastname@example.org (IRA)|
Subject: IRA reviews "Coming Attractions"
Date: Sat, 09 Aug 97 15:35:50
Organization: EarthLink Network, Inc.
Coming Attractions: The Making of an X-rated Video
Review by Ira GaneshviliAuthors: Robert J. Stoller [deceased] and I[ra]. S. Levine
Publishing Data: New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1993; ix, 246, index.
Synopsis: This book deals with the making of Stairway to Paradise as revealed by transcripts of preliminary interviews with Bill Margold and Ira Levine, the shooting script and more transcripts of interviews with the director (Sharon Kane), producer and writer (Jim Holliday), assistant director (Ira Levine), cameraman (Jane Waters), editor (Falco) and stars (Nina Hartley and Randy Spears). It concludes with more transcripts of interviews about porn with Porsche Lynn and Ira Levine. Stoller died during the project and Levine finished it for him so the conclusions and much of the content are his alone.
Rating: Essential reading for those who want a better understanding of the sex industry and its products from a psycho-sociological viewpoint.
Pornography, say Stoller and Levine, is one's published erotic daydream and one can't quarrel with that. Hostility, they say, is an essential element of perversion and one can quarrel with this. It is obviously true of S-M and many fetishes, but much less so of other perversions such as homosexuality. [Note: Stoller, Levine and I use the term "perversion" in a technical, non-perjorative sense.] Yet, this is a key idea in Coming Attractions for the authors' aim was to see whether hostility is also an essential feature of straight pornography. In trying to answer this point, Stoller and Levine ask the right questions of the people they interview, but they also seem to think they already know the answers and are just helping the reader to the same conclusions.
The problem with their thesis is that there is no such animal as straight pornography. The cloud of illegality under which pornography of all kinds exists forces straight and perverted, i.e. S-M, fetish, and homosexual pornography to co-mingle, to share the same or neighboring niches on the margins of the economy. Perverted porn tends to squeeze out straight porn because it is more shocking, "hotter." It's often hard to tell which video is straight and which is perverted. Anabolic's World Sex Tour is straight on its face, but has very strong group, anal, and oral elements and even some S-M tendencies. The Max Hardcore series, for another example, is definitely not straight, but can anyone say it is S-M, anal fetish or oral fetish and that alone?
Even some straight pornographers offer support for Levine's thesis. Bill Margold told him, "I'd like to really show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. . . . The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face . . ." That interview must have taken place before Max Steiner's rise to prominence. Even Margold has heard of Steiner. Porn in the 90s has gotten considerably more violent. Not consumers, understand, but the product. [Stoller and Levine, 22]
Most consumers typically rent or buy such videos once, satisfy their curiosity and never rent or buy another. Why? Straight porn consumers are always searching for the "ultimate" photo set or video, but never quite find a material product that precisely matches their erotic daydream. They check out Hardcore because the box cover looks hot, but it is the S-M crowd who provide has the bucks for Max Hardcore, fisting, A2M cumshots and the like. They do it because it matches their erotic daydream fairly closely. Their bucks tell the producers and distributors that that's what the market wants. That's what gets produced. Straight porn consumers cannot find what they want on the video store shelves which are swamped in a sea of perversion which is--or used to be--on the margins of pornography.
Bill Margold is not the only evidence that Levine finds to support his notion that hostility is an essential element of straight pornography, but virtually all of it seems strained. The fact that Levine is S-M colors his thinking and makes him see hostility everywhere in porn. He admits that few if any peformers are coerced into entering the sex industry, that most are simply rebels and non-conformists seeking an "easy" way to make money, and that most only make one or two videos before leaving for other opportunities. Do they leave because they found everything hostile or because there are easier ways of making money?
Everyone that Stoller and Levine interviewed had multiple years of service in the sex industry. Their insights--valuable as they seem to be--are insider insights. One wishes they had interviewed new talent, for example, the 18 year-old actress who worked one boy/girl/boy scene in Stairway to Paradise and caused major problems on the set since she didn't want to follow the cameraman's directions for group sex. Her views might have been quite interesting and given different insights into the whole question of hostility and coercion in the sex industry. Alas, we have to be happy with Bill Margold, Jim Holliday, Sharon Kane, Porsche Lynn, Nina Hartley, Randy Spears and Ira Levine. The only newcomer, relatively speaking, was the editor, Falco, but that interview was curiously uninteresting. He says nothing. As Jim Holliday said of him, "Falco sits there and selects. He previews all the material with the script in front of him and decides which cut, which angle, which take is best for a piece of dialogue."
So Stoller and Levine fall back on the old hands--for abundant evidence showing that hostility is indeed an essential feature of straight pornography. [Stoller and Levine, 84] If that was all there was to this book, it wouldn't be worth reading. It is the shooting script and interviews covering a broad range of topics and questions which make it worth reading. As Stephen Prince, another reviewer, said, "While the interviews sometimes seem unstructured and rambling, they provide much information about the experiences, motives, and aspirations of workers in the adult-film business. Herein lies the book's chief value--the performers and film- makers speak for themselves." [ "Book Review of .Coming Attractions: The Making of an X-rated Video,'" Film Quarterly, 47 (Spring '94) 62] It is not just what they say about their experience, motivations and dreams that is important. What they say also provides abundant material for reflections on the past, present and future of the adult-film business.