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Lovelace: Girls On Film

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In anticipation of Lovelace LWLies looks at the depiction of the adult film industry in cinema.

The publication of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', followed a decade later by the production of one of the first known pornographic films, Albert Kirchner’s Le Coucher de la Mariee, is a co-incidence of convenience.

From its humble beginnings the cinematic art form joined art and literature in its depiction of sexuality, and Stevenson’s novella is a neat metaphor for cinema's own duality. As the adult film industry has flourished, Hollywood has continually sought to explore its younger sibling.

In the last two decades alone, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Boogie Nights, Rated X, Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, Wonderland and Inside Deep Throat have contributed to this on-screen image; casting a spotlight on the male stars, the men running the industry and the various adult entertainment ventures. But Hollywood has also taken a lighter approach to the subject of pornography with a string of comedies, namely The Girl Next Door and The Moguls. From fictional to real life figures, from comedy to drama; Hollywood remains fixated by porn.

The battle lines forged between cinema and feminism are not the exclusive consequence of pornography. Cinema, in particular the horror genre, is heavily criticised for being dominated by the male gaze. The introduction of the killer’s point of view is the catalyst for accusations of the audience’s identification with the masked killer, escalating the controversy of the female victim's subjection to and objectification through violence. Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs remains one of cinema’s most notorious examples of the objectification of women, and the controversial insinuation of rape as being sexually gratifying.

The aforementioned films, each contributing something to the adult film industry's on-screen character, have pre-dominantly focused on the role of men in porn. Which is ironic considering women are the objectified subjects and centre of attention. Lovelace grants Linda Susan Boreman (aka Linda Lovelace) the opportunity to be one of the adult film industry's most profiled women, having previously featured in TV documentary The Real Linda Lovelace and Deeper than Deep.

Linda Lovelace is a metaphor for the divide within the feminist movement, between the 'anti-pornography feminists' and the 'sex-positive feminists'. The origins of the sex-positive feminist movement can be traced back to the 1980s, which was a response from those feminists who believed in the importance of embracing sexual freedom and therein women's rights to sexual expression. This was in direct opposition to the anti-pornography feminist views that the oppression and objectification of women derived from pornography.

Like two sides of the same coin, Linda Lovelace has sustained and opposed the adult film industry. In a discussion of dual personalities, she is that very personality: the sex-positive feminist and the anti-pornography feminist in the shell of one individual. It is within this context that we can best understand Lovelace, mirroring a conflict between the desires or rights of the individual versus the feminist cause and ideology.

In his Collected Works, CG Jung posits the value of the individual embracing 'individual responsibility', which affords the evolution of the authentically moral self through independent and free choice. It is essential for the individual to make their own choices in order to achieve a fully developed persona by learning about oneself. To remove the freedom of personal expression, the right to choose is counterproductive for women as individuals.

Linda Lovelace personifies the complexity of the female role in the porn industry. Despite being coerced into the industry by an abusive partner, in 1974 she authored two pro-pornography books: 'Inside Linda Lovelace' and 'The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace'. Then, in 1980 'Ordeal' was published in which she recounts how she was raped while working in the industry. 'Out of Bondage' and 'The Complete Linda Lovelace', her anti-pornography books followed. While serving as a spokeswoman for the 'anti-pornography movement', Linda Lovelace acted both as a proponent and adversary of the industry, and while she was not afforded the freedom to choose but rather coerced into pornography, her proceeding choices support the ideologies of the sex-positive feminists.

Freedom of choice and sexual expression are cornerstones of contemporary Western culture. Without pro-choice a free society is irrevocably injured. The performances of pornographic actresses could be better understood and less damaging to society with adequate gender politics programmes; to therein teach an understanding of the nature of sexual images and performance in society and to distinguish fantasy from actuality.

If gender representations are inherently shaped by society, then the radical non-constructive approach of anti-pornography feminists would fail to preserve sexual liberation and its freedoms, for men and women, and the hope of creating a sexually liberated society void of the male patriarchy.

Linda Lovelace is a compelling character, affording Amanda Seyfried, the latest actress to play the conflicted star, an emotional and ideological challenge. Seyfried is charged with tackling a character who herself is a metaphor, offering a window through which we can look into the industry, as well as the broad and conflicted nature of feminism and freedom of expression.

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