You should be afraid if one of the most innovative of industries is straining and unable to right itself. Be very afraid.

January 9, 2009

LARRY Flynt and Joe Francis are asking the Federal Government for a $5 billion bailout for the adult industry because they are suffering from the economic downturn. Mr. Flynt has always been one of the few pornographers with wit and the ability to create biting satire and so I interpret his press conference as just that: a critique of the current rush toward Government bailouts. Most of the media is taking it at face value, but would you expect anything less from the empty headed suits? They lack the ability to see more deeply into serious issues so why should I expect more when confronted with a joke?

DETROIT‘S problems have been painfully obvious for years: from a too complex management organization to bland products that lack any real soul. They got bonuses for maintaining the status quo, clearly a problem of the multinational nature of these corporations and lack of shareholder oversight. They were generously rewarded for the mediocre: subtle variations of the same product over and over, models and makes that were differentiated by a front clip and trim level. This reblanding systematically destroying those qualities that made a brand unique and endearing to consumers. They lost all love and any connection to the masses.

The United Auto Workers complicity in this cannot be overlooked either. They have failed to embrace innovation and insisted set up a system to keep unneeded employees to ensure that they had dues paying members. Look no further than the Job Bank which pays union workers up to 85% of their salary to do crossword puzzles. I actually had a Postal Employee (full disclosure, a union member) tell me at a Christmas party, “They don’t have health insurance while they’re in the Job Bank you know…” But they do get way more money than what unemployment is pushing out, jugglenuts! As an IT sh!tworker who rode the crest of the dotcom boom and bust, I know a thing or two about unemployment and I sure would have loved to get that much of a percentage of salary as opposed to the half that I received monthly. It would have made living without insurance a lot more bearable I suppose.

Joe Francis strikes me as a dummy. With all of the court cases, flying around Snoop Dogg and Bubba Sparxx in his private jet, and jail time for contempt, he’s proven to be as vapid as his product. I don’t think he gets the joke.  I’m believe he thinks he deserves a bailout and thinks that the sham press conference might get people thinking, “What the hell, throw ’em a bone…” I’ll give him props on the initial concept of Girls Gone Wild. But that was ten years ago. He struck a chord and made a boatload of money providing young, drunk, stripping colligate chicks at spring break parties who had no qualms about showing ‘the goods’ for no money with a smattering of pro whorse to act out girl on girl action. This kept the keg stand/date rape set very intrigued for awhile. It was progress at the time, rendering Playboys yearly college issue obsolete.

But like the short sighted Detroit auto industry (and the music industry before), he kept putting out the same product, the frequency and volume dulled with multiple versions of the same thing; Wikipedia lists 100 GGW titles which means he was cranking out roughly ten vhs/dvds a year. Diluted and irrelevant to the point that I remember catching late night commercials a few years back where he was offering three dvds for $9.95 plus shipping and handling, oblivious to the fact that technology and the failure to explore new genres had rendered him merely a footnote for the popular culture of the 90’s.

WHO pays for porn with all of the stuff floating around on peer-to-peer networks and free sites? Free videos of natural girls, shaved girls, pierced girls, tattooed girls, blond thin girls, brunette thick chicks; housewives going wild, Asian chicks, black chicks…you get the point. Anything for free in unlimited amounts and variations will always trump $9.95 plus. Mr. Francis should have plowed some of that profit into utilizing technology to deliver a more diverse product in ways that compete, with innovative revenue streams. He was stagnant and comfortable and this meant that upstarts passed him up.

INSTEAD of a bailout, real or satirical, the Porn industry should turn toward innovation and diversification and serve as a beacon to others who need to make the same corrections. They have done it before. The porn industry was the first entity to embrace and innovate on the infantile world wide web. If you like the current media rich environment, thank the Porn industry. That’s who developed it.

For a small period of time in the late 90’s and into the early part of this decade, adult stars were becoming  household names, in part due to their flirtation with mainstream outlets like the still terrestrial Howard Stern and newly emerging cable networks like Spike. They also had a profile on the maturing cable stalwarts like Viacom’s MTV and VH-1. All of this attention was squandered by individuals for short sighted profit without consideration to future revenue streams for themselves or the industry that made them. They signed their own death warrants.

Remember Jenna Jameson? She used her notoriety as a vehicle to push silicone molds of her vagina, a failed clothing line and tired videos. Her feeble attempts at branching out into B-Movie stardom was too little, to late. She didn’t seem to get the joke of her staring in it; instead fancying herself as a real actress and nobody cared.

Ron Jeremy had the right idea when he hooked up to the cult hit the Surreal Life. His participation contributed to that show blowing up into the public consciousness and in the process ushered in VH-1’s Celebreality programming that has reinvented and invigorated the network. But what good did it do for his industry? I’m sure he could get high booking fees for awhile after his Surreal Life season ended. But how much is he getting now?

LIKE the music industry before it, the adult industry can take a lot of the blame. Where is the diversity of product? Adult industry magnets: start taking notes. Reality is cheap and easy. What is more natural than sex; how much technique and skill does it take to make it seem so on film? Porn insiders are masters of the reality angle; they invented it. Who is going to see a high budget porn movie? Nobody. Ask Hollywood, nobody cares about their movies so why would yours be any different. Why not exploit and define the medium that you know? I’d love to see behind the scenes of a porn shoot as well as the real life of an adult entertainer: the ups, downs and strip club tours; the periods of over indulgence and alienation. The sex doesn’t have to be the only component. How about making a band of Porn Stars and follow the trials and tribulations of working as an adult entertainer to maintain a certain lifestyle while trying to get a band off the ground and eventually touring? This could be pushed on myspace and tv: synergy! How about creating a show that is everything Survivor is not; Lord of The Flies without the giant, plastic boulders that teams roll for immunity and assorted stupid challenges. Actual survival with medics close by to treat people as they begin to starve or get a beatdown for attempting to take over leadership of the ‘tribe’. No immunity and no one gets voted off. A month or two of actual survival. Rethink what Adult means. I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to consider The Running Man a concept for Adult entertainment or actual Gladiatorial combat to be adult in nature.

I’VE read responses on various sites related to this story as well as having heard people comment on tv and radio. They all same the same thing: “God riddance!” But they need to realize that this publicity, whether parody or fact, points to real, systematic failures occurring everyday in corporate America. The strains of globalism, lack of innovation; the failure to recognize that long term stability and responsibility to local markets ensures consumers in the future. The motivation of profit now over future milestones and realistic growth are beginning to seriously impact our very survival as a nation. You should be afraid if one of the most innovative of industries is straining and unable to right itself. Be very afraid.

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