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on Porn Parodies and Fanfiction…

AvX porn parody

Hmm, now here’s something that I really kinda want feedback on but I wonder how many people are going to be willing to comment given the subject matter. Ah well… lets see. Let’s talk about geek porn!

A few weeks back, I tweeted that I was watching porn or academic research but that it was totally 100% legit really, I swear. Obviously, I did that for humor value, even though it was true, I really was looking things up for academic research. I never really went into many details at the time. I was reading Jeffrey A. Brown’s Dangerous Curves, where he talks about the construction of the female action hero in film (and comics) and he makes a comparative argument to the way female characters are constructed in pornography, particularly genre-heavy softcore porno. He made some really good points, that I didn’t really get that far into at the time. I just thought it was a funny observation so I tweeted it and moved on with my life, reading other stuff about geek culture and comics (a lot of which I have talked about here).

Now I’m reading another book, Playing Fans: Negotiating Fandom and Media in the Digital Age by Paul Booth and I’ve returned to another discussion about porn. Booth has a whole chapter devoted to porn parodies wherein he makes an argument connecting them to fan fiction created by the geek community. This is an extension of the argument that I talked about a couple days ago. In fact, he argues that porn parodies basically are fanfic that is just highly produced:

Porn parodies depict that sexuality within novel and (often) humorous mockeries of mainstream movies and television shows. Previous research has examined soft-core pornographic parodies as ready-made cult products, paratexts, and intertexts capitalizing on the popularity of mainstream films and television. Discourse from the porn industry itself characterizes porn parodies as a type of fan film; as Tessa Stuart writes, they “are called parodies for legal purposes, but they’re really closer to erotic fanfiction.” Arguing that porn parodies are more about the costumes, sets, and characters than they are about the sex, Stuart quotes parody director Axel Braun: “‘ I’m basically making fan films with boobs,’ he says. ‘I’m making them primarily for people who don’t like porn, for people who are fans of the source material.’”(126-127)

His reasoning behind this is that porn (and fanfic), in their attempt to play to the base sexual fantasies of their audience (and honestly, probably their creators as well), “positions sexuality as the most relevant cultural aspect of the media, running counter to what traditional mainstream media texts depict. What mainstream media texts elide, porn makes obvious. By depicting sexuality and sexual acts pervading mainstream media, pornography comments on the nature of sex in popular culture” (126). because “pornography depicts some of the most basic human acts but in the most ideologically constructed way possible. It is fake reality, hard-core hegemony. The sex becomes, as David Andrews discusses, a spectacle on a par with Hollywood-style musical numbers” (127-128). He points out that porn parodies come in three basic subgenres: reappropriated footage spliced into to extant media (we can ignore this one for this conversation), comedic parody (which mocks the original text for humor value) and “serious parody (which tends to treat the parodied text as sacrosanct)” (125-126).

It’s the “serious parody” that Booth is focusing on and which is intriguing me right now as I think it probably has the strongest relationship to the fandom text. Again, I’m not really a big fan fiction guy. but my experience with it is that a great deal (I don’t know if it’s most… but most that I’ve seen) isn’t really trying to “make fun” of the canon text, but instead insert into it. Technical writing skill of the fan-author aside, it has been my experience that whether the text is an attempt to depict a further adventure of the characters that the canon text doesn’t cover (What was Neville doing at Hogwarts all that time during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows?) or it is a view into the imagined sexual encounters that cannot fit into the canon-proper (the erotic coupling of Draco and Snape!), fanfic seems to WANT to be taken seriously, even if it is comedic. That is, it wants to be “good.”

Anyway, this got me thinking about the comments I made in my review of the Killing Joke film yesterday. I talked about how, in the original book, the raping of Barbara Gordon is omitted. This is probably likely for reasons of taste. The book was already by FAR pushing the boundaries of what was sexually acceptable for a comic book in 1988 and showing the rape in any detail would have been read as incredibly gratuitous and even more sexually disparaging to the character and agency of Barbara than the book already was. Since it isn’t her story, this sort of works in context. In the film version, since Batgirl has been expanded to ostensibly be the main character (at least for part of it) it seems a little weirder. And I understand the reluctance to show a rape in a DC cartoon, even an R-rated one, but It especially seems weird that they they pan away from her consensual sexual encounter with Batman earlier in the film, especially given how hard the film seems to be working to say “hey look at me. I’m Rated R! We’re dark and gritty! That’s why Batgirl and Batman are fucking in the first place!”

Joker rapes BatgirlBUT it turns out that there is Batman porn parody called The Dark Knight XXX (by the aforementioned Axel Braun), because… of course there is. Before you go checking it out, understand that it is totally NSFW (duh!). So, you know… totally in the name of research… I just watched it. It’s kind of an odd film because it doesn’t really parody a specific Batman story…. not the Dark Knight movie and not the graphic novel. It’s sort of an amalgamation of Batman stories. They’re not “original.” They’re moments of “you know, I bet there was really some sex in this classic Batman moment and if I had to guess it went sort of like this.” And so, it turns out that among other things, the film adapts the rape of Barbara Gordon from the Killing Joke. There are some liberties taken. The Joker is clearly modeled after Heath Ledger’s interpretation rather than Brian Bolland’s drawings and Barbara appears in costume as Batgirl  rather than as a civilian as she (rather than Batman) is rescuing her kidnapped father. This becomes odd, because in a sense, she almost has more agency than she has in the actual Killing Joke movie (and certainly more than she does in the graphic novel). Granted, it is quickly stripped away as the Joker humiliatingly rapes her in front of her father, in a scene clearly played for the male gaze. But, care has been taken to make the sex in this scene feel traumatic. It is clearly a rape and not just sex. Sure, there’s probably porn fans that will not distinguish, but Braun is clearly TRYING to present his own faithful interpretation of the characters here. It’s disturbing… and it’s clearly supposed to be.

Jean Grey & Emma Frost by Garrett Blair

Jean Grey & Emma Frost by Garrett Blair

Obviously, not all parodies (professionally or amateur) are taken that seriously. Some clearly are intended to be ridiculous and probably most of the sexual ones are clearly just intended to be hot. A look at deviantArt shows me that a great deal of the drawings of superheroes and super heroines having sex are just that… some guy thought “hey, people have always wanted to jack off to Jean Grey and Emma Frost dry humping, so I’m drawing it! Awesome huh?” And I’m actually fine with those. There’s a sense of artistry in there and a cultural statement as well. It is a view into that persons view of sexuality intermixed with geek media. Hell, I’ve even done it with my cosplay photography before. My picture of Hermoine Granger hints at a theoretical story, but certainly plays off of the hypersexualized fake-reality that Booth talks about.

HermoineSo, what I guess I’m wondering is, what are people’s views on porn parody. I’m wondering about video as well as fanfic and even just random drawings. Is there a purpose beyond “oh my god, I want to see Batgirl and the Joker fuck because SO HOT!!!!”? Is there something to be said critically for the literary interpretations of a scene like that. Is there an actual statement that you are invested in when you read about the sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock in slash fiction? Is it just nice to get lost in an alternate take on a story with characters that you love? Or is it all simply “look, I’m a geek and I like masturbating so give me what I need?”

 

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