Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Web 2.0 Killed the Porno Star?

image:: John Currin, Anniversary Nude {NSFW content warning}, the Old Masters meet Boogie Nights.

I saw on Wired a link to a LA Times article by Ben Fritz that the adult film industry is facing competition from the "free."  One veteran actor of 4 years lamented not getting work::

"At least five girls I haven't seen in a while came up to me and said, 'Savannah, are you working?...I had to say, 'No, not really,' and they all said, 'Yeah, I'm not either.'...The opportunities in this industry really are disappearing...It's extremely stressful...I wish I would have never gotten into it.  When you get used to a certain lifestyle, it's really hard to cut back and realize this may not be forever."
Women in the industry once could command $1,000, but now get paid at a 30% discount.  Why?  Revenues for producers are down between 30-50%, with 5 of the top 100 sites in the US being portals for free porn, often attracting more users than TMZ or the Huffington Post.  The business model of these portals is freemium.  They garner huge levels of traffic and upsell, so, users upload free content that attract viewers, while the site offers premium content behind a paywall.  Nevertheless, these portals don't make that much money, but are cutting revenues sharply into...ahem, legitimate producers' revenues.

The adult entertainment industry is one of those murky areas that tends to get swept under the rug, despite being estimated at $13B US industry in 2006.  Putting this into persspective, the US domestic box office were $9.68B for 2008.  The video game industry is still king in the US with $21.3B in revenues in 2008.  Last year, on 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan had visions of merging video games & porn {click on image for video on Boinkology}::

Laura Kipnis once said in a Frontline essay that the adult entertainment industry thrives as the "sexuality of a consumer society," one that is relevant in that people care about it...they have a fascination with it.  While I agree with her that it taps into our essence as a culture and as individuals, it relatedly speaks to identity, experience, and the body.

When I was at UC-Irvine, film theorist Linda Williams was still making a splash with her book, Hard Core {1989}.  This was at a time when the Internet was exploding and adult content was carving out its place on it.  Her book was from the late 1980s, so it needs to be contextualized in the era of the VHS tape, and she talks about how the genre was scopophilic {a visual fascination often being clinical in nature, while obliterating privacy} and had elements analogous to musical comedy.  I think there were often aspects of Sontagean "camp" in adult entertainment.  Taking, or perhaps dragging, the familiar into the realm of the carnal with "knockoffs" with spoofy titles.  I'll always remember Al Bundy in "Married with Children" referring to the fictitious Forrest Hump.  I've always been skeptical of her sweeping observations, but I can see how she came to her conclusions.  The genre, in my opinion, is all about representations of ego ideal {aspirational} and ideal ego {view of self from that ideal} fantasy experiences within a sexualized context.

The boundaries of fantasy are continually pushed.  In a 2008 Aqua Teens Hunger Force episode {Sirens , S05E02 feat. Neko Case} neighbour Carl finds out that his porno consumption has desensitized him so that his fantasy experiences are more and more fringe.















Carl:: Ah yeah. Yes, you are a cheerleader aren't you? An enormous 300 pound cheerleader. Yeah...not too many cheerleaders with missing teeth, but okay, I'll go with the fantasy. Yeah, yeah, get the mascot involved. The one in the bear outfit. Man, I am so desensitized it's just gotta be completely bananas to get me off.

So, as more and more becomes free and adult content becomes more ubiquitous and everyday, what will consumers be willing to pay for and what will producers produce?  Brace yourselves.

Twitterversion:: Is Web 2.0 killing porn industry? Talent not getting work&pd. less. Producers grapple with freemium content eroding sales.  @Prof_K
http://twitter.com/Prof_K

Song:: "Sour Times"-Portishead

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