This Ain’t Jaws XXX (2012) and Porn Parody

by I.Q. Hunter, De Montfort University, UK.

On the face of it, Jaws (1975) seems an unlikely candidate for the porn treatment. Spielberg’s film is entirely male-centred – so I guess a gay version with three-way romps on the Orca might make sense – but the characters’ motivations have no obvious erotic component or indeed reference, aside from Quint calling out ‘Stop playing with yourself, Hooper’ to the lounging ichthyologist. Sex as a theme is not there to be exploited as with, say, A Clockwork Orgy (1995), the porn version of A Clockwork Orange (1971), which feeds off the obsession with sex, power and breasts that drives the narrative of the original. And the piscine motif of Jaws doesn’t immediately suggest the erotic, unless one considers the ‘eels for pleasure’ section of the Animal Farm (1981) bestiality compilation video that did the rounds in Britain in the 1980s, or urban myths involving Led Zeppelin, a groupie and a shark. That said, it is doubtless true that any film can be ‘pornified’ insofar as narrative gaps in the original can be filled with sex scenes, and the characters’ motivations refocused on seeking opportunities for them.

This Ain’t Jaws XXX (2012) scarcely draws upon its source’s sexual subtexts, though admittedly it is possible that offscreen in Jaws, Brody (Roy Scheider) had hot sex with his wife, the Mayor (Murray Hamilton) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) made out in his office, and Quint (Robert Shaw) seduced Hooper on the Orca. There are a few minor interesting alterations and emphases. Quint (Evan Stone) is here more obviously raucous working class, perhaps to align him with the conventional blue collar Hustler reader. Changing the sex of Hooper (Alexis Ford) underlines that this could have been a gay film (homosexuality is only allowed as lesbianism in commercial porn), and so mildly queers the text as well as drawing attention to the theme of feminised masculinity in the original. But otherwise – and it would be naïve to expect anything else – This Ain’t Jaws XXX eliminates all deviations from its sole purpose, which is to not closely imitate or subvert Jaws but to incite viewers to masturbate and, in intervening periods, to amuse themselves with echoes of a revered film otherwise sexually uninspiring except via strenuous symptomatic interpretation. 

Comparing Gums (1976) with This Ain’t Jaws XXX highlights differences between two versions of porn parody indicative of contrasting periods of porn production. Gums, which exists in two versions, a softcore print (66 minutes) and a hardcore one (79 minutes), belongs to the wave of porn parodies from porn’s so-called ‘Golden Age’, when hardcore scenes were embedded in developed narratives. Unlike This Ain’t Jaws XXX, Gums transforms the material. Goofy humour, songs, and film references give it a tone similar to cult films of the period such as Piranha (1978) and, a more obvious comparison, Flesh Gordon (1974). In fact it is rather like Deep Throat (1972) in being a counterculture relic, more like an underground film than a mainstream porn movie or a compilation of sex scenes. Gums is designed for watching in a cinema pretty much as a cult film, with a transgressive and even generous enthusiasm about sex and a willingness to break the boundaries of porn in deference to humour and entertainment. 

This leaves us with a larger question about how to make sense of pornography, at any rate in terms of the usual things we look for in movies, such as narrative, style and meaning. [1] Gums is, for all its amateurism and haplessness, a movie and no less comprehensible and interpretable than other proto-cult films for similar audiences such as Pink Flamingos. This Ain’t Jaws XXX seems, well, different. Is it a film at all, in the usual sense?  Or is it simply a sexual aid? ‘Reading’ pornography as a genre of cinema remains problematic for several overlapping and sometimes contradictory reasons. It is true that porn can be compared, tenuously, with the new ‘cinema of attractions’ of post-classical blockbusters – all that exciting and empty spectacle well in excess of narrative coherence. Equally sensible comparisons are with music or dance documentaries and sports footage, which seek to capture bodies in strenuous unmediated physical performance. 

The symptomatic interest of porn films may lie chiefly not in their aesthetic or expressive dimensions as much as in their inadvertent monitoring of haphazard generic and historical change; the digital sharpness of This Ain’t Jaws XXX as well as the actors’ tattoos and shaved genitals announce that the film is a product of contemporary porn production, much as tight shorts and comedy perms date football footage to the 1970s. For example, how on earth does one judge normatively the erotic – and indeed other – qualities of a porn film? Judging a scene from This Ain’t Jaws XXX by the standards of mainstream cinema – or indeed as an adaptation or parody of Jaws – arguably detracts from its pornographic aspects, which is to say its utility for arousal. As Clarissa Smith points out, in most discussions of porn, 

‘The possibility that the use of actual sexual interactions might signal an alternative logic of filmic production centred on the body is side-lined and questions of acting, performance and presentation of “real” sex are occluded’. [2] 

In other words, reading porn parodies as films, let alone as parasitic adaptations, is to miss the point comprehensively. Moreover, pornography can be removed from the sphere of film entirely. Anti-pornography activists think of it as having little to do with film and more to do with sex work and exploitation of the grossest and cruellest kind. It is an unfolding text that says nothing except reiterate porn’s single ideological project. From this point of view, This Ain’t Jaws XXX is just one more stylised performance of patriarchal oppression, CCTV from a crime scene, and reading it as an adaptation is an act of collusion rather than interpretation. 

Pornography remains an outlier in the study of film and adaptation. While a film like This Ain’t Jaws XXX is easy enough to describe, knowing how to interpret, analyse and judge it objectively remain curiously mysterious and even fraught. One is reminded just how different pornography really is from the methods, aims and effects of conventional cinema, even when it is ‘adapted’ from one of the most famous movies ever made. 

An extended version of this article titled ‘Tolkien Dirty’ is available in I.Q. Hunter’s Cult Film as a Guide to Life published by Bloomsbury, 2016.

Notes

[1] For an attempt to interpret British hardcore pornography in terms of theme, style and authorship, see I.Q. Hunter. 2014. ‘Naughty Realism: The Britishness of British Hardcore R18s’. Journal of British Cinema and Television 11/2-3, 152–71.

[2] Clarissa Smith. 2012. ‘Reel Intercourse: Doing Sex on Camera’. In Claire Hines and Darren Kerr, eds. Hard to Swallow: Hard-core Pornography on Screen. London: Wallflower, 197–8.

Contributor

I.Q. Hunter is Professor of Film Studies at De Montfort University, UK, and the author of Cult Film as a Guide to Life (2016) and British Trash Cinema (2013), editor of British Science Fiction Cinema (1999) and co-editor of British Comedy Cinema (2012) and The Routledge Companion to British Cinema History (2016).

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