ByKen Anderson, writer at Creators.co
Ken Anderson

Everyone that watches ‘Deep Throat’ is watching me being raped.” ― Linda Lovelace, from her book, "Ordeal"

"Yes, there’s a lot of nudity, but it’s a message movie about respecting women." ― , Producer of Lovelace, speaking about his film

America loves its porn, but it’s never quite sure how it feels about it. Looking at the theatrical trailer for Lovelace, the forthcoming biopic of 70s Deep Throat porn sensation, Linda Lovelace; I was struck by how much it reminded me, both in subject and approach, of Star 80, ’s 1983 film about Playboy Playmate), Dorothy Stratten.

Both films tell the story of unsophisticated small-town girls who come under the influential wing of sleazy, disarmingly charming - ultimately controlling, abusive and exploitative - lovers/managers who pimp the women out in the sex industries. Hardcore porn in one case; the sanitized, mainstream-porn limbo of “men’s magazine” nude photography in the other.

The trailers for both of these films are available for viewing on YouTube, and along with leaving vague each particular film’s attitude about any presumed passivity and unwitting complicity on the part of these women in their fates, other similarities shared in the trailers include: near-identical prototypical sleazeball boyfriends assayed by in Lovelace and Erich Roberts in Star 80 (he also happens to be in the cast of Lovelace); scenes of a woman dominated and seated forcibly in a chair by an aggressive male; and, most intriguingly, a “inheritance of exploitation” element introduced in the casting of aggressively deglamorized former sex-symbols ( in Star 80, Sharon Stone in Lovelace) as the mothers of these victimized women.

[[yt:wEXOAULm-Xk]] [[yt:HPJY-g-WoQo]]

Given our culture’s ambiguous relationship with industries that traffic in the commodification of sex, it’s perhaps not surprising that whenever we choose to train a cinematic spotlight on pornography, it’s not by way of celebration, but through the dramatic prism of a moral cautionary tale. (Although one might think, in an industry raking in upwards of $1.8-billion annually, there must be somebody celebrating somewhere.)

Lovelace and Star 80 tell tragic true-life tales of women suffering physical abuse at the hands of a professional Svengali, (Stratten is murdered by hers, Lovelace ultimately breaks free from hers, yet the resultant psychological scars are an intractable part of her sad, liberated countenance until her death at age 53). The message is clear: pornography is dehumanizing. The analogy unassailable: the porn industry and mainstream show business are not dissimilar in their treatment and exploitation of women.

But what about the films themselves? Is it possible to make a film about sexual exploitation without inadvertently resorting to (and in effect, participating in and sanctioning) the very kind of behavior it seeks to indict?

Bob Fosse’s Star 80 garnered a lot of press back in 1983 when it was revealed that actress had undergone breast enhancement surgery before filming began. And while the actress took great pains in assuring the press (unconvincingly) that she had the operation for herself and that it had nothing to do with the role, one could not ignore the irony of a woman altering her body in order to portray a woman whose body the men in her life (husband Bob Snyder, employer , boyfriend ) treated as if it were their personal property. Sadly, as it turns out, Hemingway eventually had to have the implants removed when the silicone began leaking into her bloodstream. This turn of events casts a pall over an already dark film, making it a compound story of the show business exploitation of two women: Stratten and Hemingway.

In Lovelace, actress portrays a woman some see as a symbol of sex and a pioneer in the sexual revolution of the 70s. Yet others see Linda Lovelace as the face of rape-culture and sexual violence towards women (in later life, Lovelace made the transition from porn star to anti-porn advocate).

This dichotomy poses a unique marketing problem for Lovelace. One not at all helped by still-in-production comments from Lovelace’s producer, Patrick Muldoon made to E! Online back in January, in which he hoped to drum up interest in his project by using words like “risqué” and downplaying the importance of nudity to the film by mentioning it several times.

Although a worthwhile film, I don’t believe the unrelentingly grim Star 80 was wholly successful in protecting its star, Muriel Hemingway, from a similar brand of exploitation suffered by the film’s subject, the late Dorothy Stratten.

In telling a story about pornography that involves allegations of domestic abuse, I hope Lovelace somehow manages to find a way to avoid eroticizing victimization and glamorizing sexual violence.

Lovelace opens in limited release August 9, 2013 and stars Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, James Franco, Hank Azaria, Chris Noth, Chloe Sevigny

Latest from our Creators