It’s often said that there is a fine line between art and pornography, and this is true, but few people take the time to seriously contemplate where that line is. As a fan of both art and pornography, not to mention sociology, I have probably spent too much time on the subject. Most people view the dividing line between these two mediums to be the actions of its subjects, to put it bluntly, people fucking. But some of my favorite art films include graphic scenes of passionate and unsimulated coitus. And some of my favorite genres of pornography involve acts that many wouldn’t even consider to be sexual. No, the line between art and pornography is not defined by its subject matter but rather by its intent. The intent of art is to provoke and engage the audience intellectually. The intent of pornography is to indulge and engage the audience reactively.
Unlike far too many other feminists, I have no problem with pornography in and of itself, particularly if it involves Asian lesbians with small feet and plenty of rope, but there are forms of pornography that have nothing to do with natural human sexuality in all its perverted diversity. Propaganda would probably be my least favorite genre of pornography and this hardcore smut plays on cable news 24/7 when any child could be flipping through the channels. Propaganda is the ultimate form of malignant pornography. It is the complete antithesis of art, designed for the express purpose of keeping people reacting by making sure they have no time to think. The audience is blitzed with an explosive barrage of suggestions, largely parroted from the satanic conglomeration of big government and big business commonly referred to by woke freaks like me as the Establishment. “Fear! Fear! Be afraid! Be afraid! Vote! Buy! Vote! Attack Iran! Squirrels on jet skies! Lupus fun run! Drone strike! MONEY SHOT! Have you attacked Iran yet?” Some pretty sick shit. Ted Turner makes Bob Guccione look like Captain Kangaroo.
But while cable news may make the sickest porn in the biz, they don’t sling the most. That foul distinction belongs to Hollywood, a bottomless tar pit of brain-dead smut. I love cinema, I have since watching Bonnie & Clyde on Turner Classic Movies as a curious genderless tyke, but it is because I love cinema that I have grown to despise those perverts in Tinsel Town. Hollywood is the mortal enemy of any true cinephile because it reduces the art form into an intellectually masturbatory industry. And Summer is their jiz streaked Bacchanalia of mass banality, when big studio vampires lure wayward rubes to the cool shadows of the theater where they suck their wallets dry.
People in this country hate to talk about movies with me because I hate all their beloved stupid fucking movies with a furious passion that idiots tend to find off-putting. I hate the pandering nostalgia porn of Pixar, where computer generated mascots assault peoples clitoral-sensitive funny-bones with an endless stream of random pointless references like Robin Williams on a crystal methamphetamine bender. I hate the goopy inspiration porn of high-handed historical hagiographies, designed to glorify the state as a bastion of multicultural perseverance in order to sell the American Dream like a snuff film to the jaded foreigners on the festival circuit.”You see, Frenchy, America ain’t so bad. We got saucy colored gals making our Nazi rockets!”
I hate the endless assembly line of instantly forgettable remakes, cheesier than any Skinemax parody and twice as stupid, often advertised as progress just because they replaced all the main characters with this weeks favorite token minority. “Stay tuned for Paul Feig’s gutless remake of The Breakfast Club with all the leads… Played by… Hermaphrodites with Marfan Syndrome?! Be there!!!” And I absolutely fucking despise with every cell in my chronically misgendered corpse that never ending assembly line of moronic blockbuster schlock that every errant asshole and their cousin adores called Marvel Studios. The one dimensional superheroes. The black and white moralism. The empty social justice pandering. The gratuitous abuse of green screen special effects. The thinly veiled appeal to hyper-jingoistic do-gooder interventionism. I fucking hate it all. Superheroes have long been the bane of good comic books, now they threaten to take Hollywood to new depths of pornographic sleaze as they turn the once moribund industry into a cultural juggernaut defacing the globe with American “values”. The basic premise of nearly every one of these cinematic abortions is identically simplistic; Here’s your fucking shit, now eat it. And eat it they do, by the boatload. I only wish Stan Lee was still alive so he could die twice.
This has long been the problem with American Cinema. People in this country view films as being roller coaster rides. They hand some toothless carny a sweaty wad of cash and get their cheap thrills for about 90 minutes then forget what the saw on the way home. And sometimes that’s OK, but to reduce an entire medium to mental masturbation sinfully underestimates the revolutionary power of cinema. Not to sound like a snob, but Europe still seems like the one place that really gets this on an above marginal level. People in Italy and France go to theaters to think and be challenged, to be provoked, and in a society so desensitized by constant war, plague and pestilence, it takes a lot of cinematic dynamite to provoke even basic empathy. That’s why a new wave of European directors have taken to resurrecting Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, a philosophy that preaches that the only way to drain the collective abscesses of a crumbling society is to assault audiences dulled senses with provocative imagery and tap into the subconscious root of their misery.
In this context, the director must not simply be an artist. They must be a terrorist, awakening the privileged to the suffering that will be returned to them by the people that their wealth oppresses if they fail to wake from their stupor. These auteurs of Europe’s so called new wave of extremity have turned the propaganda of modern cinema into a new form of what the old anarchists referred to as propaganda of the deed, using their Kalashnikov cameras to blitz the cinema with the power of uncensored imagination, raw, naked, dripping with blood. They use the once exploitative tropes of horror and eroticism to provoke philosophical debates on things even most Europeans would prefer to ignore.
As I alluded to above, the English speaking world has derisively called this new wave ‘Extreme Cinema’. They even find the gal to accuse it’s directors, terrifying visual Blanquists like Lars Von Trier, Gaspar Noe and Micheal Haneke, of being the real pornographers for the simple fact that they aren’t afraid to use the weapon of untethered sexuality to get their point across. We have witnessed similar knee-jerk reactions to nearly every significant avante-garde movement of the last century, from the Dadaists to the Vienna Actionists. The western press doesn’t want you to expose yourself to the masochistic lessons that only radicals dare to teach. They fear, as they always have, that you might run the risk of being awakened from your shackled slumber in this suburban purgatory capitalism has erected around us. But I implore you to ignore their breathless warnings, save your time, save your money or what’s left of it, skip the latest Avengers monstrosity, stay home and download something to challenge yourself, like Gaspar Noe’s latest intoxicating mirage, Climax, or the critic-eviscerating menace that is Mr. Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built. Prepare to be offended but resist the temptation to simply react. This is not Hollywood pornography. This is art. This is cinema. It’s supposed to hurt a little, but trust me, dearest motherfuckers, it’s worth the price of admission.