[Please welcome frequent guest writer André Callot – now a formal contributor! With his own username and everything!]
Détournement is a stand-in for a noble revolutionary guerilla war. On one side, the forces of “the spectacle,” or capitalism: all of the power of constructed media language, the entire culture of representation and every image you’ve ever seen in your life. On the other side, the artist: a valiant resistance fighter, cursed with the knowledge that he alone must take the enemy’s ammunition and use it against them. By reshaping the palace of the commercial image into something ugly, something political, détournement takes the power away from the autonomous image and returns it to the people. All very romantic and sexy and French.
Speaking of pornography, there is a kind of combat at work in porn, too (and not just in the really good kind). The two sides of the conceptual battle in porn are similar to the ones I just mentioned: the performers/creators who do it for money or fame or what have you, and the “sex artists” who do it because it is their creative passion. As with “the spectacle,” pornography defaults to the system of power associated with capitalism, against which the few serious auteurs struggle.
A struggle between artists and capitalism? Yes, I guess I am talking about television. Specifically, the intersection of television, Situationist art and porn: the porn parody.
In September 2007, Not the Bradys XXX (a porn featuring the characters from The Brady Bunch) became a huge hit, drew mainstream media attention and started a porn trend that is entering its third year. When it became clear that major media companies would rather look the other way than draw attention to sexually explicit videos that exploit high-profile intellectual properties, porn versions of almost every successful show on television were produced. A Friends porn. A Scrubs porn. A Seinfeld porn. High production values (provided by near-guaranteed sales) allowed for the mimicking of the sets, the costumes and the casts of these shows, down to fine details like Elaine Benes’s big, curly hair. It was all really funny and novel and cute…for the first six months.
Now, years later, the novelty is gone. What isn’t gone is the business model. A Dexter porn? Well, all right. A Borat porn? That would have been a terrible idea when Sacha Baron Cohen still had a career. Today it’s just bizarre and unfortunate. At this point, porn parodies still sell a little better than “regular” porn, but not enough to justify the huge budgets and all-star casts of the past. Whether these parodies were ever détournement can be debated. The ones produced now, though, seem to have settled down to the level of harmless cash-in, bereft of the shock-of-recognition that made the first ones possibly disruptive to the power contained in the original television shows.
Maybe, maybe not.