Broadcaster Louis Theroux Painting Dark Picture of Porn for BBC TV

Jun 7, 2012 9:00 AM PST

LONDON — British journalist and filmmaker Louis Theroux who 15 years ago explored the wild world of porn for his “Weird Weekend” TV series is at it again with a new BBC2 TV series “Twilight of the Porn Stars” — but this time he’s painting a much darker picture.

Theroux has tuned his cameras toward Porn Valley for his new show interviewing producers and performers including Rob Black, Kagney Linn Karter, Tommy Gunn and J.J. Michaels.

But the new show that airs on June 10 looks to be a far cry from his former work that celebrated the progressive world of porn.

In an editorial he penned for The Guardian titled, “How the Internet Killed Porn,” Theroux talks about how he’s now discovered an industry in crisis that’s scrambling to make a profit in order to compete with free Internet porn and a number of porn stars forced into prostitution to make ends meet.

The one time avant garde journalist who posed nude himself for one of his shows, has even publicly backed a push by conservative British members of parliament for a mandatory porn opt-in filtering program claiming that since he’s become a father he’s “quite a puritanical person.”

And his new outlook has apparently influenced his report on the state of the current adult industry.

Theroux noted that as the Internet gained popularity, films had to become more extreme virtually pushing producers and performers’ physical and psychological limits.

“But some time around 2007, the ‘business of X’ started going into a commercial tailspin. The arrival of free YouTube-style porn sites meant that consumers could download pirated scenes from the vast backlog of old content for free. The phenomenon of DIY amateur sex — part-timers uploading their videos on sites such as clips4sale – also put a dent in the professionals' pay checks,” he said.

Now, Theorux said, companies like Wicked Pictures are shifting their focus to movies like “Love Story” that are “less porno” and have more mainstream appeal in an effort to carve out a niche in an industry “desperately trying to adapt.”

Theroux also pointed to the flood of parodies as potential safe havens for struggling studios.

Director Rob Black was cited in Theroux’s article as a former provocateur who’s since changed his stripes. “He specialized in tastelessness; his films were more like grotesque exercises in taboo-breaking than anything anyone might conceivably watch for sexual pleasure,” Theroux said of Black in his old days.

“Where the business is going now is it's acceptable to sit down with your wife and girlfriend and introduce her to pornography," Black told Theroux. "But the stuff you're going to introduce them to is the stuff I'm making."

“Black is adept at putting a positive spin on the retrenchment that porn had undergone. But he appears somewhat ravaged and looks older than his 38 years. He has the air of someone who has been through something that hasn't killed him, but which hasn't made him stronger either,” Theroux said.

The journalist also referenced talent agency LA Direct’s lament about the lack of work for performers due to the “devastating” impact of piracy. "There's less work, and there's an abundance — because of the economy — of performers. There aren't enough people shooting to give everybody a day's work,” the agency’s Francine Amidor told Theroux.

The lack of work has forced talent to strip at clubs, do live cam shows and  do “privates” (hooking) despite the dangers involved, Theroux reported.

And male talent has it even worse, according to the broadcaster. “For a tiny subsection of top talent, there is still a regular pay check, albeit a shrinking one. But work has dried up for many of the journeyman-performers in the lower ranks and there is a great deal of anxiety across the board,” Theorux said.

Theroux’s gloomy report is underlined by the glut of free porn but is buoyed some by his observation that there’s still a cable TV market for softcore from companies like Penthouse and Hustler.

“The parodies may continue for a while, too. But it is difficult to see how a business selling hardcore movies and even Internet clips is sustainable when most people simply don't want to pay if they don't have to. To many people, when it comes to porn, not paying for content seems the more moral thing to do,” Theroux maintained.

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