by Rich Moreland, October 2016
Ever since I began writing in adult film, I’ve learned that creativity is broadly defined. Many directors and performers like the all-sex, or gonzo approach to filmmaking where innovation revolves around positions, penetrations, and hot bodies.
On the other hand, my preference is the feature where plot, dialogue, and acting complement the sex. In my mind, telling a story sets the stage for the film’s carnal adventures by giving them meaning.
Along the way, I’ve talked with movie makers who feel the same way. One of them is Angie Rowntree of Sssh.com, a female-friendly adult website.
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I first sat down with Angie at the 2016 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. At the time, I had reviewed her groundbreaking film, Gone, which in my opinion is the best adult film ever made. You can read the review here.
Recently we had the good fortune to talk about an emerging phenomenon in adult known as “crossing over.” Simply put, it means entering legitimate Hollywood while maintaining a porn identity.
Here is a sampling of our conversation.
A Legitimate Expressive Form
Is crossing over on rise?
Angie believes that “porn has become far more accepted, or at least tolerated, by the general public than it used to be,” a change she credits to the internet. Understandable, she says, since “porn’s prominence” has dominated “the commercial internet” since its earliest days.
“References to porn are now commonplace in pop culture and it’s a daily subject in mainstream news reporting and broadcast television,” Angie explains, citing “edgier” shows like “Game of Thrones, American Horror, Sons of Anarchy, and now HBO’s West World” as examples.
The feminist filmmaker maintains that most viewers see a “bright line” between HBO/Fox type entertainment that pushes boundaries and porn. Nevertheless, “the embrace of sexually explicit depictions by undeniably mainstream shows has certainly helped to legitimize sexualized content,” she adds.
The result is a huge step toward the acceptance of adult-like performances embedded within Hollywood narratives.
Agreed, but is there a generational influence at work here?
Youth does make a difference, Angie insists.
“To a lot of young people these days,” porn is “just another form of entertainment . . . to watch if you feel so inclined, like TV dramas, sports, or sticoms.”
Perhaps it is Millennials who are leveling the entertainment playing field and here’s why.
According to Angie, “the sense of shame long associated with watching porn is starting of dissipate,” which means porn is going through a “circular evolution.”
“As more of porn is made which bucks the traditional, typical male-dominated perspective, more people will accept it as a legitimate expressive form, leading to even more creative and innovative people coming into the industry.”
The result? “A more diverse and variegated industry” will lead to improved content benefiting everyone from performer and filmmaker to the consumer.
That leads us to the key question. Will porn ever be accepted as mainstream entertainment?
Angie hesitates to predict anything definite about that.
“I think porn will always be viewed differently from mainstream entertainment if for no other reason than people are going to continue to be conflicted in how they feel about sex. For something so central to our lives, humans sure seem to be uncomfortable with the subject of sex, let alone its depiction.”
As an afterthought, however, she hints that “always” and “forever” are not words to use when talking about porn.
“Back in the early nineties I never though I’d see porn become as accepted and tolerated as it has already become, so who knows what the future holds?”
I’m not letting Angie get away without one more question.
Will the public accept hardcore sex if it’s integral to the story being told?
“I think there’s real merit to that notion, yes . . to a certain extent, at least,” she says, and mentions the 1979 film, Caligula.
“It was seen as one step more ‘legitimate’ than the hardcore porn movies being made around the same time.”
This legitimacy, she insists, emerged because the film “was perceived as a movie with hardcore sex in it as opposed to a porno with an unusual amount of dialogue.”
By the way, Caligula was made in the fading pre-video days of Porno Chic when adult films appeared in neighborhood theaters and emphasized a narrative with a semblance of acting.
The producer/director reminds us of an important change established in the 1970s concerning obscenity.
“Hardcore sex is more legally acceptable when it comes in the context of a story.”
That’s important because the court has to prove that the content and context of a film “lacks literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” she adds.
Of course, producers and directors can argue for a film’s merit, Angie insists, “if there is more going on within the story than just people having sex in several different positions.”
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Our conversation with Angie Rowntree continues in the next post.
She talks about Gone, her Mindbrowse podcasts, and we’ll learn a little about acting and a female director’s approach to shooting.