The Sex Files, starring Kimberly Kane and Anthony Rosano as Special Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, was released last week to huge acclaim in the adult film press. What made it so good? According to a fleshbot.com interview (NSFW) with the film’s director Sam Hain, it was “geekery.”
“I wanted it to fit into a plot hole in ‘The X Files’ that lots of fans were talking about,” he said. “We see Scully…leaving a room as she’s adjusting her clothes, and inside we see Mulder…on the bed. (I) tried to make it organic to the original show(.)“
Unlike the originators of the porn parody trend, The Sex Files began with the intention of creating continuity with the source material, not through a scrupulous application of out-of-work set designers, but through narrative and characterization. That is, through fan fiction. This strategy is a little odd for the super-commercial world of pornography, as the performers would have to be as committed to the ideology of the project as the fanboy director. Oddly, that seems to be the case. Kane, as Scully, squints into the sun like Gillian Anderson, crouches over corpses at crime scenes like Gillian Anderson, smirks with annoyed condescension like Gillian Anderson, as though she were doing the work of a real actress, which she is. If Kane’s twitter feed can be believed, she is a total sci-fi geek who was as excited about getting to play Dana Scully as she was about getting Galaxy Quest on DVD.
Here we get to the real question: when this “fan fiction” mentality meets the disruptive force of near-Hollywood-level production values, is that détournement? Or is it just the autonomous image reasserting its dominance over the viewer? When we watch Kimberly Kane play Dana Scully, is she playing Gillian Anderson playing Dana Scully, or is Kane simply another actress taking on the role? If Kane is playing Gillian Anderson, the movie becomes an attack on the illusion of narrative continuity, prying a wedge between our subconscious minds and the commodity of The X Files. Levels of representation separate from each other, revealing the complicated relationships between the “subculture” of genre television as another model for marketing trench coats and flashlights. On the other hand, if Kane is playing Dana Scully (which she appears to be), the movie neuters one of the tools of critical appropriation: the abjection of a narrative through explicit synthesis with the indescribable reality of the human body. It’s like taking the piss out of Piss Christ (pun!). By making it possible to have both the continuous illusionary space of sustained narrative (without it being undermined by non-realist acting) and the bodily sexual interaction of the constituting characters, the psychosexual crisis at the heart of puritan American television starts to disappear.
It’s unlikely that the porn parodies ever had much power as anti-spectacular propaganda. The “porn ghetto,” much like the animation ghetto, insulates the referenced work from direct critical interaction with the parody. For me, the most interesting take-away from The Sex Files is that one of the goals of the Situationists (a disruption of the separation between the individual and the physical experience of the reality of the human body) seems to have been achieved at some point in the recent past. Abjection, as great as it is as a tool for the political artist, is one psychosexual crisis I wouldn’t miss.
[Have porn parodies of mainstream pop culture transcended actual parody? Will The Sex Files have as many unresolved plot threads as the series that inspired it? Sound off in the comments!]