So I was getting ready to write all about The Quiet Family and The Happiness of the Katakuris, but then along came Shortbus.
What is Shortbus, you ask? Well, if watched closely you kinda get the feeling that it’s meant to be a comedy. It’s about five minutes of genuine smiles, one or two moments that are actually pretty funny, one or two moments that are absolutely cringeworthy in their stupidity, and a whole lot of sitting there waiting for it to be over. C-. Done.
But of course that can’t be the full story since I’m taking the time to give it a mention. Shortbus, you see, is an adult film that is not pornographic.
I’d like to think that half of you just yawned and the other half of you had your heads explode Scanners style.
Fellow visual novel enthusiasts, back me up here. If we were to define pornography as something that is meant to sexually titillate, then that would mean some media could contain graphic sexual content but also not be pornographic so long as said graphic content does not sexually excite.
This is something every eroge fan knows. I invite you to think for a moment about the sexually explicit content found in Katawa Shoujo.
Katawa Shoujo is a dating sim set in a school for students with special physical needs (in your case, you’ve a weak heart). The game is heavily focused on your interaction with your classmates and with your blossoming relationship with whatever lucky lady you have your eyes on.
This is considered one of the most heartfelt and character driven visual novels of all time for good reason, and the game takes its time exploring your relationship with your love interest. You spend the entire game getting to know a woman and when the time comes for the two of you to get a little less clothed, it is delivered as an important milestone rather than an exploitative break from all that story for a few minutes of tits and ass. The fact that there are naked people fucking is incidental; the real climax is in the consummation of a precious relationship.
This is not pornography. This is not there to sexually excite you. This is a critical part of the relationship and therefore the story, every bit as important as the first time you made eye contact or the first time you kissed.
Side note: Some people assert that sexually explicit content is obscene and that it need not be in games. To this I’d point out that we also don’t technically need to see any kissing nor the dirty, dirty holding of hands. Too much eye contact is also sickeningly indecent, and cover up those ankles, slut.
Contrast this with the utsuge Kara no Shoujo (I am aware that this is not how the English release is spelled, but the English release’s spelling is wrong). The sex is often out of nowhere and contributes exactly nothing to the story. And even for those scenes where you’re having sex with a person you actually care about, there are extended sequences where the entire dialogue is “ooh, ooh, ooh, oh! ah!” as you give your woman a seeing to. The scenes have multiple camera friendly positions, and oftentimes there’s an option as to whether you’d like to pull out or not before you cum. The game may as well tell you to get a tissue for these scenes.
Now that’s pornographic, God bless it.
Side note: I convinced my wife to play both Katawa Shoujo and Kara no Shoujo, and while I’ve never given a second thought to the scenes in Katawa Shoujo, I have sometimes wondered what my wife made of Kara no Shoujo‘s tendency to indulge in gratuity.
Let’s circle back to Shortbus. When’s the last time you pulled one off to someone singing the national anthem using a man’s penis as a microphone? Be honest, now.
If you’re like 99% of the population, then you’ve never done this, as while it’s sexually explicit, it is not pornographic.
To the one percenters, what the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t look at me like that. You have a right to do as you please and I have a right to be deeply confused by it.
But I see what the problem was. Boy on boy is not your style, is it? So how about this?
What am I looking at? What the fuck is this?
I think it’s meant to be funny. But despite its being explicity, it’s certainly not meant to be sexy.
So Shortbus isn’t pornography, so what?
Damn you people are hard to please. Is it not interesting that this world is so steeped in Victorian ethics that most people think of adult media and pornographic media as the same thing? As the current social climate is making it easier and easier for didacts to monitor the thoughts and beliefs of their fellow man, it’s important to highlight and celebrate anything that undermines a belief system rooted in prudery.
What we need is a culling of any illiterate commissar who is so convinced of what is right that he’s more than happy to interfere with the lives and choices of others. And by culling I mean, of course, effecting change through intelligent and reasoned debate, which is easier said than done.
Good luck finding an obscenity seeking censor who is susceptible to intelligent and reasoned debate.
And cover those ankles, slut! Decent people are trying to have a book burning here and you’re distracting all the menfolk.
Final thoughts on Shortbus
I wasn’t lying, Shortbus is not a good comedy. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is one point in the film where our leading lady has a vibrating egg in her vagina as she walks around at a party, and in a hilarious scene the remote control keeps getting pushed, causing the egg to vibrate, which causes her to…punch and headbutt people? It’s so fucking stupid I checked to see if Kevin Smith was listed as a contributor anywhere. This is not just stupid, this is Jar Jar stupid.
Here’s where I throw you a curve ball and tell you to it’s worth buying anyway.
Despite the utter miss that this was as a comedy, there was actual work put into this project. The actors are for the most part relatable and John Cameron Mitchell (writer/director) was clearly 100% committed to his project and to his actors. He really thought he was doing something special, the poor deluded bastard.
Alright, let me try that again.
You can tell when someone puts actual love and care into something and you just don’t like it vs. when you don’t like something because it is a cynical cash grab. I walked into this movie expecting hardcore sexploitation and what I found was a movie with a heart of gold. So if you can laugh at silly sexual positions and men using other men’s cocks as microphones, if you define the value of your life almost completely in terms of sex and the everlasting search for an orgasm, then maybe this movie is meant for you, because you clearly lack discernment, you fucking Philistine.
Alright, fuck this.
You probably won’t love it, but buy a copy. Buy a copy for yourself, for your parents, and for your grandparents. Buy a copy today, not because it’s a good movie, but to support those who braved public scrutiny to make speech a little freer and to drag sex a little bit more out of the dark corner it’s been relegated to by the the inquisitors, the commissars, the censors, and the bullies of the world. Buy a copy because we need more writers who are willing to take risks, and we will get them by showing that bravery and a commitment to one’s vision despite censure is rewarded. Per astra ad aspera.
Or, you know, take that money and go watch the new Transformers movie. Send a message that we need more Michael Bay films. Yay.