I keep seeing the word "porno" in huge letters on the side of buses. Am I justified in feeling that its normalisation is bad for cinema and bad for society?by Mark Cousins / January 17, 2009 / Leave a comment
For about a week, at the time of writing, double-decker buses around Britain have been emblazoned with adverts for the new American comedy film Zack and Miri Make a Porno (pictured, below right). The film’s title is written in bold, orange-yellow capital letters almost a metre high, like you’d see at a funfair. The word “PORNO” is particularly large. The typeface is similar to that used for Toy Story.
In the US, the film’s posters feature black and white stick drawings. The words “make a porno” are printed in a thin, serifed typeface, rather smaller than the words “Zack and Miri.” The producers, the Weinstein Company, who greenlit the movie on the basis of its title alone (according to Entertainment Weekly), originally submitted the “funfair” branding to the Motion Picture Association of America for approval, but were knocked back, so came up with the more discreet version. Never before in my lifetime has the word “porno” been so present in the space that I share with my fellow city dwellers. Never before has the word been presented in such a friendly way. Never before has it been so close to the graphics of childhood pleasure. As you can probably tell, I am angry. But have I the right to be?
By living close to people unlike myself, I inevitably expect to see messages of which I disapprove. A guy has just come into the café where I am writing this wearing a T-shirt that says “Nice Legs. When Do They Open?” which, for me, chills the air for a moment. Every few years, the Orange Order marches through a park near me banging its drums. I do not claim the right to be consulted about such things. Nor am I angry at what some call the growing sexualisation of western society. This is far too vague a phrase. I would not object if the buses carried images of naked people, though I reserve the right to do so if the poses of the bodies or the semantics of the image were degrading. No, it’s the word PORNO on buses that’s got my goat. Especially as it’s in the service of a medium—film—on which I dote.
Of course, prudish mainstream cinema has always been shadowed by pornography. A silent movie of hardcore French porn (involving nuns, priests and dogs) was shown…