For those unaware, the porn industry has gone in a humorous direction in recent years and parodies have become a popular sub-genre. Porn versions of The Avengers, Batman and Cheers have all made their way into the market. It’s a sign of an industry still diversifying in an attempt to survive in the Internet Age and an industry that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Amazingly all of these parodies, which are strikingly similar to the original subject matter, have not met with any real resistance from mainstream Hollywood…until now. From The MarySue:
Universal Studios and Fifty Shades Ltd., which own the movie and book rights, respectively, to EL James‘ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, is suing Smash Pictures over porn parody Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation.
The plaintiffs are calling the film a “willful attempt to capitalize on the reputation of the book,” which seems pretty clear given how it uses the same title. “By lifting exact dialogue, characters, events, story, and style from the Fifty Shades trilogy,” continues the lawsuit, “Smash Pictures ensured that the first XXX adaptation was, in fact, as close as possible to the original works.”
The key point of the lawsuit seems to be the dialogue, which is too close to the original. That is a real oversight, but it also appears to be a bit of misdirection. What seems obvious is that this is the one parody that didn’t pass the copyright test because Hollywood believes Fifty Shades of Grey will be a very lucrative film property and sex will be an important part of the equation. A porn parody directly undercuts those goals. This brings me to a topic that has bothered me for quite some time and that is the way that Hollywood skirts the line between art and pornography. We’ve all heard the complaints about how movies like Monsters Ball are essentially softcore pornography and yet the end result is an Oscar for Halle Berry. It goes much further though.
I have a game I play when I see a movie with an actress I am unfamiliar with. I check to see if they have done a nude scene. Lately it seems there is an almost 100% certainty they have. The last movie I saw in theaters was the latest James Bond flick, Skyfall. The two ‘Bond Girls’ this time around were Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe. While writing this post I checked and, surprise, surprise, nude scenes for both. It seems a right-of-passage for just about every actress these days. The problem as I see it is not the pressure to do nude scenes, free will being what it is, but rather the way that we as Americans draw an arbitrary line between art and pornography with the latter being subject to few of the cultural and legal protections the former enjoys.
In November 56% of votes in Los Angeles County passed County Ordinance B which makes condoms mandatory in the making of pornography within that county. This move will force the entire porn industry out of its traditional home in the valley and into another locale. The performers themselves fought hard against this move and in a very libertarian fashion argued that their safety is their own business. The industry has self-regulated with very few health scares for the last 15 years and the government has failed to recognize this as grounds for non-intervention.
A porn version of Fifty Shades of Grey would no doubt be much closer to the original subject material than a Hollywood piece that waters things down just enough for an R-rating yet most people would never consider viewing the former and will line up for tickets for the latter. The games we play with sexuality and sexually explicit material in the U.S. are a quirk of our culture that is no doubt rooted in evangelical Christian traditions of pretending these things don’t exist while engaging in them behind closed doors. American women have never had more power and yet their husbands are watching more porn than ever before. The contradiction strikes me as laughable but in the context of U.S. history it is completely understandable. We are a nation that is very good at pretending to be something different from what we are at times.