April 24, 2012

We Are The Porn Generation

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What is the issue?

Even if you aren’t a teenage boy, I’ll bet that you were exposed to some pornography today. You can stop sweating; I’m not talking about erotic films (at least not necessarily). I mean the concept of pornography, at the simplest level. When broken down, what pornographic films do is take the most arousing parts of regular films (i.e. the sex scenes) and have those parts comprise the main content. In other words, it’s all meat and potatoes. We want the good stuff, and we don’t have time to eat the veggies. For example, a movie like Black Swan is a salad: lots of boring lettuce… with that Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis sex scene as the sprinkled bacon bits. The same concept applies to the actors: pornographic filmmakers understand their main demographic, and use actresses that will appeal most to that group. That’s why certain features in these women are either selected for in casting or exaggerated with surgery.

Now, think about where else the concept applies: where else do they isolate the meat and potatoes? Quite literally, it’s done at McDonald’s. Fast food is food porn. A trip to your local burger chain is masturbation for your taste buds. We love certain tastes; salt, sugar, protein – and that’s all you get in your greasy, brown paper bag. It starts with the burger: if a Big Mac were a movie, it would be rated ‘R.’ It’s also clear who the big star is: the patty. The lettuce is just an extra; it shares a trailer, stays out of the spotlight, and just makes the whole thing look pretty. When you’ve gotten your beef fix, you move on to the fries; the deep-fried, salt-covered potato sticks. Taste one and tell me there’s something in there that isn’t pushing your sodium meter off the charts. Wash the whole thing down with a jumbo fountain soda, sweetened with enough high-fructose corn syrup to make a 10-year-old pixie stick addict wince.

Now that we have the mouth covered, what about your brain? What turns on your cerebral cortex? Being an organ designed for cognitive processing, it must be information. Observation of the publishing industry’s history reveals how information distribution has evolved over time. Just like food providers selecting for the foods that are most stimulating, information pushers are cutting down their servings to only the good stuff. Non-fiction books were the initial attempt to spread information to a mass audience; they had all the benefits of word-of-mouth conversation, without the personal embellishment that resulted in a “broken telephone” effect. But books are long. Who has time to read? We don’t want the vegetables in our stir-fry, just give us the damn beef already! So what did our impatient, gluttonous society come up with to speed up the transaction of information? I know what you’re thinking: it’s magazines. Please, that’s soft-core; it still involves reading! If you want the real, quality book porn – there’s a website called TED.com. Not only has all reading been eliminated, but authors will present you the gist of their book in a condensed video of 20 minutes or less. The next logical step will have to be USB ports installed on our heads for transfers at 12 megabytes per second.

As for aural pleasure: if you’ve turned on a hit radio station in the past 15 years, you know exactly what music porn is (I don’t mean Barry White). Record company executives use focus groups to find what song elements give a tune mass appeal, and set up what has become an assembly line that begins with a good-looking teenage singer and ends with a song you can’t get out of your head for a month. They also take advantage of a concept familiar to psychologists: the more exposure we have to a certain song, the more we will like it – regardless of its quality. It’s a natural human tendency to confuse catchiness with fondness. The songs are composed so that they are tolerable enough for most people to keep their radios on the station, and catchy enough that the listeners will repeat them afterwards. The result is a flood of manufactured music – void of emotion and authenticity – that spreads like a contagion.

Unfortunately, the porn concept has even infiltrated the world of journalism. I’m not even talking about Fox News looking for the seductive, yet useless, piece about Barack Obama’s personal life to occupy an hour on their airwaves. I mean the trend in many online articles towards “Top 10s” and brief paragraphs surrounded by flashy pictures. I’m not upset that these ‘articles’ exist, I’m just pleading that we call it what it is; and that is not an ‘online newspaper.’ Simply put, it’s journalism porn. Follow a news conglomerate on Twitter to see the hardcore stuff; they keep stories to a skimpy 140 characters.

Just like actual pornography, there’s something out there for everyone. If sex scenes don’t stimulate you as much as violence does, there are plenty of action-packed movies being released every week full of fiery explosions for your pleasure. If you prefer fiction books to non-fiction, just wait a month after a book is released for the film adaptation. If you’re a vegetarian… Well, you’re shit out of luck.

Don’t get the wrong idea; it would be completely hypocritical of me to say that this movement is entirely bad. I love TED talks; they have the noble intention of spreading revolutionary ideas to a wide audience. I’m also a TV junkie, and I don’t read as much as I should. It’s the scary, negative consequences that worry me: Facebook as friendship porn, the commercialization of the music industry, and increasing use of stupid acronyms in conversation.

The good news is that the full, unadulterated means of conveyance are still out there if you look for them. Although their “pornographic” counterparts often overshadow them, there are still plenty of full-length books and articles being published. It appears that the most effective way to bypass the strict corporate filtration process is to simply do it yourself. With the help of the Internet, it’s never been easier to go about publishing your own article, e-book, or music for everyone to see. If you think there’s more to food than meat and potatoes, you can cook for yourself or find a local hipster restaurant with more diverse options. Corporations are not looking out for your best interests; they’re looking to make as much money as possible. They know exactly what to put out to get you that quick dopamine fix, and will readily sacrifice the product’s quality to do so.

Life appears to be a continuous quest to get the most possible pleasure out of every situation, but it’s really more complicated than that. You can go straight to the bedroom if you so choose, but I want some romance first. TC mark

image – Dr. Case

Richard Starr

The guy you want to be stuck inside a shopping mall with during a zombie apocalypse.

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