by Rich Moreland, July 2014
Written and directed by Jacky St. James and filmed by Eddie Powell, Our Father is part of Digital Sin’s Tabu Tales series . This is the first of a two part review of the DVD.
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Our Father, a series of four vignettes about stepfather/daughter relationships, plays with the incest theme, a taboo familiar to commercial pornography but not frequently filmed.
Jacky St. James and Eddie Power offer up titillating sexual encounters that are a mix of seasoned performers and new entrants into the business. The older man role features four outstanding veteran actors: Steven St. Croix, Alex Knight, Ryan McLane, and John Strong; the younger woman is played by Penny Pax, recent arrivals Dakota Skye and Carter Cruise, and newcomer Ava Taylor.
Of course, a taboo that hints of incest survives on a secret. Because daughter and dad are willing co-conspirators, so to speak, the stepfather must not allow his sexual escapade to bring down his marriage. And, neither sex mate wants to upset an attractive arrangement beneficial to both. The result is a “don’t tell mom” collusion that flavors the forbidden intimacy.
But why does a porn film about pseudo incest work when the idea is “gross,” as Penny admits in her BTS (Behind the Scenes) segment? The explanation lies in a literary mechanism that convinces the imagination to allow a story, in print or film, to come alive: the willful suspension of disbelief.
Coined by British writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, suspension of disbelief is the reader’s (or viewer’s) desire to go along with the improbable for the sake of the story at hand. Logic and the limitations of realism are ditched (sacrificed?) in the name of entertainment. In other words, we can go down the rabbit hole with Alice and delight in the ride.
In Our Father, when the brief plot line of each vignette is established, the viewer engages the story as just that, a story. Disbelief suspension excuses any feelings that the episode is disgusting because it isn’t realistic or likely, at least in an ordered society as we know it. To think about it another way, the burden of disbelief lies with the audience, the filmmaker is merely the persuader who constructs the narrative to finesse the viewer’s imagination, recognizing that what works for some may not work for all.
The idea is simple enough, but porn offers an interesting twist, something St. James and Powell skillfully employ. At the “transition moment,” the viewer reverses his or her expectation and, consequently, the reason for watching the film. The spectator now settles in for a porn movie in which the sex moves center stage and the larger reality of the performers as step relatives, established in the suspension stage, is set aside. For the duration of the film, a deliberate suspension of disbelief is no longer needed. Now it’s people having sex and they could be anybody. The scene survives on the performer’s skills and their attractiveness, the heart and soul of a porn shoot.
In fact, despite a brief wrap-up following the pop shot, the viewer is finished with this encounter and disposes of the characters’ final comments that are necessary to package the episode. The segment’s actual conclusion is an old porn standby dating to the stag film, the camera moves to fade out.
Notice that mom is mentioned in passing but never appears. As a result, she doesn’t mess up the arrangement and does not have to be dealt with as a real figure. Guilt is assuaged all around because the wife/mother character remains ethereal; in fact, she is non-existent. The viewer can relish the sex and once it’s finished who cares if anyone—family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers—really finds out.
Incidentally, an old stag component—the third party—can be added without skipping a beat. Perhaps an aunt, a cousin, or a neighbor happens onto the scene. No worries because a suspension of disbelief reappears to adjust the storyline, then it’s onto the sex especially if the third person jumps right in.
The transition moment is a clever artistic device St. James understands. Without its placement in the script and animated in the directing, an uncomfortable viewer may feel “grossed out” and set the movie aside.
On another level, there is the Daddy theme that requires no willful suspension of disbelief, but can involve suspension of another kind that is not the subject of this review. Sexually submissive filmmaker Madison Young’s recent book by the same name discusses the many levels of “Daddy” that operate in the sexual arena, particularly BDSM. It involves the need to please and yield control in a loving relationship that fills a void and stimulates desire within both parties.
St. James’ script hints at the Daddy idea, actual relationships some younger women seek with older men that, incidentally, are not unusual within the porn community. For example, twenty-one-year-old Jessa Rhodes admits in the BTS for The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee that the Daddy complex is her “thing,” though at one point she thought is was “so wrong.” Porn superstar and BDSM devotee Casey Calvert has always preferred older men, her personal long-term relationship is well into his forties.
In other words, age differences do not always require a disbelief suspension but may beg for sociological, cultural, or psychological exploration. Are Madison, Jessa, and Casey playing out a Freudian scenario, a father fixation within a their sexual make-up, or do they simply have a natural attraction for an older man? Or, are they flaunting a society that insists sexual relationships have a narrow age acceptance, unlike generations past? Hard to say, perhaps their real life lovers simply indicate that sexually one size does not fit all.
If porn performers are widely accepting of age difference, then a twenty-something girl having on-screen sex with a man twice her age comes with no qualms or sense of impropriety.
Possibly then, willful suspension of disbelief in incest themes may be easier than at first it seems.
It Feels so Good!
There is an added component. The Daddy/Babygirl or Brat paradigm is not uncommon in the BDSM community where Madison and Casey flourish and Penny Pax often resides. In Our Father, Dakota says to Ryan as the foreplay heats up, “Please fuck me, Daddy.” In her spanking scene with Steven, Carter recalls this dynamic when she responds to his pronouncement that she’s a “manipulative little brat” with “I want my daddy to spank me.” This is language that is the lifeblood of BDSM age play.
The fetish community’s Daddy/Babygirl dynamic carries over to non-BDSM porn with the power exchange. In the first episode of Our Father, dad’s pride in his daughter and her sexual performance is part of that energy. Penny says to Alex at one point, “It feels so good,” and wants to know if he’s enjoying himself in a hoped for verification that they are sharing the moment. Sitting on the younger side of the age dynamic, Penny wants to please, complimenting Alex with “Daddy, you fuck me so good.” In the case of Carter and Steven, the daughter plays the power card in the beginning to get what she wants, the dominating father figure who’ll pay her bills, then allows the power interchange to reverse course to reside in his command over her.
In truth, power exchange is found in all sexual relationships. The playing field is never level and Eddie Powell’s brilliant cinematography captures this imbalance by focusing on faces and expressions. In traditional porn, pleasure is individualized, just as it is for the viewer who uses the film to “get off.” Unfortunately, that can disconnect performers from each other in gonzo type shoots that mute their abilities as actors. Eddie Powell never lets that happen. His close-ups move the eroticism along with a sensuality that complements the hardcore penetration.
Unlike porn romances, parodies, or BDSM fetishes, the art of making an incest-oriented movie is to assure the viewer that he or she can become a voyeur for voyeur’s sake once the story line is established then silenced via a transition. In other words, to appreciate the sex show for what it is, the sexual situation along with the characters’ attitudes and desires must be muted. The taboo may lurk in the back of the mind, but the viewer knows that the director and the performers are in on the game.
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In the part two of this review, each vignette will be examined with their respective transition moments noted.