Friday, March 19, 2010

And Porn Shall Lead the Way: Is the XXX Film Parody of The Cosby Show "Racist" Because It Features White Actresses?



To paraphrase noted sex expert Alfred Kinsey, we can learn a great deal about a given society from its taste in pornography.

Gordon (who is coming back in ways more fabulous than before he has assured me...we shall see) and I have had a long running conversation about "respectable" negroes and their interests. He claims that the sort of folk who would come to our website would not have any interest in matters related to pornography. It is not because respectable negroes are prudes, but because of a need to maintain a certain distance from such matters that some may find prurient. I have heeded his suggestion until now.

Now, I don't know too much about porn or anything--I would like that qualifier to be known. I never watched Heather Hunter as a young boy and humped the bed into submission afterwards. No, not me. I never received a gift box full of porn from a friend who found such tidings in the closet of his new apartment. No, not me. I never met Ron Jeremy in person and found myself the beneficiary of his intangible powers. No, not me. And I certainly never wandered the adult DVD section of the Virgin Megastore in Chicago wondering why the "P.O.V." movies never featured a member that matched my medium brown complexion (if one notices those flicks always feature male genitalia that is either charcoal black or pasty white...hmmm what does that say about our collective racial id?). I have heard that some folk have sworn off interracial porn titles that feature white men and black women because of the disturbing undertones about race, power, and exploitation that those films inevitably play upon. I would know nothing of those matters. Finally, I never did have a chance to be in the World's Biggest Black Gangbang movie back in the 1990s and turned it down for reasons both obvious and hygienic.

What I do know about the recent popularity in classic sitcoms reimagined as pornography I have learned from around these Internets. Apparently, The Brady Bunch, Three's Company, and Seinfeld have all been remade into popular adult titles. Inevitably, sitcoms featuring black casts are the next to have their (re)debut in the form of adult titles. Enter: The Cosby Show now has 2 XXX treatments. While some of us are still pondering the Cosby's as trailblazers in American popular culture that helped prepare White America for the possibility of a Barack Obama--yikes, black folk that aren't pathological and where both parents are upwardly mobile professionals! What an anomaly! The adult industry is one step ahead and has already blazed a path forward where Cliff, Claire, Theo and the gang are having hot interracial sex.

Question: Given that The Cosby Show is a standard bearer for black television--and featured an almost exclusively African American cast--should non-white actresses be featured in the Cosby XXX title? What does the need to insert non-white actors into a "black" film say about how race is imagined in the Age of Obama?

In short, can't black folk have anything to ourselves?

First random factoid: did you know that white actresses will often refuse to appear in adult films with black actors? Why? It will lower the amount of money they can ask for in future movies because many (presumably) white men do not want to see their darlings have sex with a person of color.

Second random factoid: I have a post that I believe is easily as good as my White in America special where I cast a range of African American oriented sitcoms reimagined as adult titles. I never released it because Gordon and others said it would disgust our readers. Are folks interested or do respectable negroes in fact loathe such humor?

In total, these questions of race, inclusion, and the marketing of black adult movies to white audiences in the Age of Obama has created quite a dust-up among those who follow the adult industry.

What follows is an exchange on the popular adult website Fleshbot on just this issue--a worthy read (also check out the director of the Cosby's XXX film's response here) for respectable negroes interested in race and popular culture:

This is What is Wrong With "Not the Cosby's XXX" (And by Extension Porn)


As a general rule, I'm pretty difficult to offend (when you work adjacent to the porn industry, you sorta have to be). But this morning I received a press release that pushed me over the edge.

What was the offending press release? Why, the plainly titled "Do White Girls Make Not the Cosbys XXX 2 Sequel Better?"

To be honest, I shouldn't have been that surprised by the press release. The adult industry makes no secret of the fact that white women are seen as the default sexual fantasy: with rare exception, black porn actresses are relegated to niche titles that fetishize the color of their skin. (Not that this makes the adult industry any different from, say, the fashion industry, but that's a topic for another article entirely.)

But still: to take "The Cosby Show"—a sacred cow of blacks in mainstream entertainment—and to suggest that it could be "improved" with the addition of a few more white faces (and bodies)? Well, that was a bit too far for me.

Let us not forget that the original "Cosbys XXX" was not exactly a, ahem, black movie. Despite the smiling black faces adorning the box cover, there was more than enough white flesh to make this a bonafide "interracial" feature. Of the five (non-masturbation) sex scenes, only one featured two black performers; what's more, due to the—predominantly white—six person orgy scene that clocked in as the first major sex scene, there were actually more white women than black women getting naked and sexed up in this ostensibly black movie. Not that that's how director Will Ryder recalls things:

"What many don't realize is that we had white girls in the first movie and even a cute Asian but most still think of it as a black movie and not even an interracial movie but that is not true," Ryder remarked.

The obvious problem here is the insinuation that being a black movie is somehow the lesser option, that there is somehow a problem with people not recognizing the movie as interracial, with not recognizing that there are white girls in it, too. Apparently, Ryder's hoping to avoid making the same mistake with the sequel: while the box cover for the original feature showed the (not) Cosby family together, with not a single white face in the picture, the box cover for the sequel (shown here) has Cliff along with three white women and a Latina—and not a single one of the black women who are the ostensible stars of the feature.

Not that Will Ryder is racist or anything:

"Black is beautiful baby but we love women of all colors so we tossed in some more white ladies and a cute girl from Miami into this sequel and as you can see by the box cover Cliff is loving it," Ryder joked.

While the sentiment that "we love women of all colors" is a nice one, Ryder's never been compelled to demonstrate his love of diversity by adding some extra flavor to a predominantly white movie. "Not The Bradys" doesn't provide us with a scene of the boys going to work on a team of black women, no dark skinned beauties pop up unannounced in "Not Three's Company." Granted, one could argue that scenes like those wouldn't be true to the original sitcom—but then again, a six person, predominantly white orgy involving none of the show's characters isn't exactly true to "The Cosby Show," either.

What it feels like, ultimately, is that Ryder—and Porn Valley at large—feels the need to apologize for featuring black performers, for giving them time in the (mainstream) sun. Because black movies are seen as niche movies, any film that wants to be perceived as mainstream plays up its "interracial" angle, or its white performers—without any concern for what kind of message this sends about the film's black talent (hint: it doesn't make them look awesome).

And the longer we keep doing this, the longer we refuse to promote a predominantly black movie as mainstream in its own right, the more we relegate black porn performers as second class citizens. "Not the Cosbys" had the opportunity to shatter this glass ceiling, to make a black movie that was also mainstream because of its "Cosby Show" connection. And yet Will Ryder gleefully squandered the opportunity—and, with this press release, shat on any hope that he might, one day, come forth with a semi-enlightened perspective on race in the adult industry.

6 comments:

The New Black Woman said...

I think this is an interesting commentary. I must say as a "respectable negro," I have never heard of the porn industry's take on popular sitcoms. I would have to agree that the porn industry does tend to consider its black "actors" as less worthy and as second-class citizens when it comes to promoting the movies. Maybe that's a reflection on our society. Maybe seeing darker-skinned people and bodies instantly lowers the value of something in our minds.

As someone who is in an interracial relationship, I can't stand seeing the titles of porn movies. I hate the fact that black women in these movies are constantly reminded of how big (and black) our asses are and how much they love white c***.

I wonder how much of an impact this type of fetishization of blacks in porn has on interracial relationships between blacks and whites.

MilesEllison said...

All that's missing is the blackface, and extra large prosthetic strap on penises.

Taking the adult film industry to task about its 19th century attitudes about black sexuality is like criticizing the local madam for not hiring enough black whores.

kid video said...

As a fellow respectable negro with an interest in porn, this is a topic you should comment on...your readers know you'll cover it in good taste.

I've heard/read about racism in the industry but i think you'll have a difficult time getting Al/Jesse to shakedown the porn biz.

There was a brother who wrote a book about black porn performers...forgot his name but it should'nt be hard to find. (oh yeah...pun on this whole comment)

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

@kid video. I don't know if the people are ready given the silence (or was it titillation) at thinking of the Cosby's doing their thing. I do remember that book I believe it was by Lexington Steele or Mr. Marcus--he has a law degree and worked corporate but decided to make use of his gifts instead.

cd

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