Use of the word ‘porn’

Having just cleared the spam from my comments box, I have to admit that what counts for porn these days is pretty broad. Spamming blog comment boxes with links to porn sites is one thing. Links to insurance sites also makes sense. But I’ve just waded through 32 spam comments for “Gay Insurance Broker” porn. That’s a first!

People have started use the word porn in a new way. People talk of ‘torture porn’ to describe movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’; ‘food porn’ for books by Andrea Camilieri; ‘lifestyle porn’ for movies like ‘A Good Year’. The implication is that the movie or book in question is otherwise devoid of artistic merit other than furnishing the viewer with a specific, targetted emotion.

Movies like ‘Atonement’ are harder to pin down. I sort of liked the movie. By the end of the movie, the theatre was filled with women bursting into tears. I kept asking myself: Does this movie serve any purpose other than to let people have a good cry? Is this catharsis porn? They even played ‘Au clair de la lune’. What does that say about our attitudes to veterans? That we can rehash their horrific experiences to unblock ourselves emotionally?

What elevates a movie or what-have-you above the level of porn? I would say humour. ‘Atonement’ did have some genuinely and excruciatingly funny parts. The episode with the letter was masterful. It was the only part of the movie that wasn’t shallow and manipulative of our emotions. Perhaps something can never be said to be ‘humour porn’ because humour is the one emotion that is always true. An artist can make you trick you into feeling fear, lust, hunger, jealousy or sadness. Something cannot be humourour and untruthful.

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