Hollywood and Porn: What are the REAL Differences?

I cam across a startling statement in a recent Christian magazine piece. It was a random, minor comment buried deep in the article, but it still struck me with its apparent blitheness:

Everyone can tell the difference between a Hollywood love scene and hardcore porn…

My first thought was, “Really? Everyone can tell the difference? Is it that obvious?”

Now, it may be that the author was coming at the topic from a secular, culturally based perspective. Considering the title of the article (“Why are PG-13 Films More Violent than their R-Rated Counterparts?”), it’s likely that was the case. Nevertheless, the statement revealed what I believe to be a false dichotomy.

If you’ve been hanging out here lately, you know I question why the church has opposed sexually stimulating material in pornography while often embracing the use of sexually stimulating material in major motion pictures. I see this approach as a dangerous compromise in Christian ethics.

I don’t want to be needlessly controversial with this topic, though. That is why we’re going to more closely compare Hollywood’s use of sexuality with the porn industry’s use of sexuality. While there are similarities (which I have, on a surface level, already pointed out), there are also some differences as well. It won’t help my cause to ignore those differences.

In fact, examining the differences will actually strengthen my argument. If you don’t believe me, I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for taking the time to examine this issue from an alternate perspective. I’m humbled that you would give me your time and attention.

So, what are the obvious differences between Hollywood and porn? I can think of at least four. (There are doubtless additional subtle differences, but these four are the most pronounced.)

First, there is often a difference in production values. The porn industry doesn’t spend a great deal of time on script writing, story, character development, cinematography, music, and other aspects of film production. Titillation is the name of the game, and because it doesn’t take great art to titillate, why bother with great art? Motion pictures, on the other hand, are considered a genuine art form. They involve the telling of a comprehensive story. Mainstream films can, and often do, utilize sexual material, but as a component of a larger whole.

Second, there is often a difference in intent behind the production of porn and motion pictures. Those in the porn industry don’t have their sights set on Oscar awards or artistic accolades. No, their goal is sexual stimulation. The intent of porn is to feed the monster of lust. In contrast, the intent behind most movies is to tell some sort of story, to engage audience members with the power of narrative. Stories move us unlike practically anything else. Whereas porn’s goals are strictly erotic, motion pictures have aesthetic and emotional designs as well.

Third, there is often—or, practically always—a difference in explicitness. With hardcore porn especially, nothing is left to the imagination; you see everything that goes on. Hollywood can also be quite explicit, but it uses a fair amount of sleight of hand; certain body parts and/or camera angles must be avoided in order to make it appear that the characters are consummating their relationship without actually doing so.

Fourth, and closely related to the above point, there is often a difference (of sorts) in the sex acts themselves. Porn involves actual intercourse; the participants are really having sex. With Hollywood, everything is real up until the point of intercourse. Sexual penetration doesn’t actually take place, though. (On rare occasions, it’s rumored that Hollywood actors may actually go all the way in order to give a greater sense of authenticity.)

The question now becomes, Do these differences exonerate Hollywood? Is there enough of a contrast between motion pictures and porn to make one commendable and the other condemnable? The answer should be obvious. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the differences between Hollywood and porn further incriminate Hollywood’s use of sexuality. How so?

We’ll explore my answer in next week’s post. Stay tuned.

photo credit: The City Project via photopin cc

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