The Boring End of Sex and Capitalism

Originally, the term “money shot” was a reference to the scene that cost the most money to produce; later it came to mean the shot that will make money. Typically it is a provocative, sensational, or memorable sequence in a film, that the maker’s of the film would hope catches the attention of the viewers and fuel a grassroots promotion of the movie. I never watched it, but the trailer for Entrapment, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones’s derrière, is chiastically structured around the “money shot.” More recently “money shot” refers to the male orgasm in pornography.

The new book from Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Rae Armantrout is titled “Money Shot” and she is aware of both ends of the meaning, melding sex and money together. Take her poem Soft Money : “They’re sexy/ because they’re needy,/ which degrades them.” As a term, soft money is a political donation that avoids federal regulations, but in the context of the poem politics and strippers are conflated and the money is the supplicant’s singles. Politicians are no stranger to sex-worker comparisons. E.E. Cummings defined a politician as “an ass on which everyone has sat except a man.”

an ass on which everyone has sat except a man

Armantrout continues:

They’re sexy because
they don’t need you.

They’re sexy because they pretend
not to need you,

but they’re lying,
which degrades them.

Here Armantrout pushes us into degradation and exploitation, adding:  “They’re beneath you/ and it’s hot.”

But who is exploiting whom? The stripper/politician or the paying public?

*     *     *

Connecting pornography/prostitution and capitalism isn’t new, neither is it new to art. Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience injects a little auteur irony in juxtaposing a high dollar call girl with her designer shopping lifestyle.

The Art Aesthetic of a Confession Booth

The movie poster is one of the most flawlessly designed objects in the history of movie posters. The oversized glasses serving as both a mask and an implication of the male gaze. Sasha Grey’s lurid mouth is a cheap come on as well as a gasp, being -as she is- behind a perforated screen, saran-wrapped, pre-packaged. The red band hints at both the red light district and blood, raw meat.

The tagline “See it with someone you ****” is left open for the customer, who is always right, to fill in.

*     *     *

It’s immanently boring to say that sex sells and there’s even a fatigue on the advertisers part:

This girl is hot. Drink this beer. She will like you.

The Dos Equis commercials are built around cool sophisticated malaise toward the beer commercial tropes. Delivered amongst the bevy of babes and sophistication: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” It’s funny and on the surface it seems to be undermining the cliches, but really it is subtly affirming them. It’s all of the lame lies capitalism foists with the sheeple tag hidden. (Kind of like watching a movie with a pornstar doing pornstar things in a serious movie directed by a serious director).

But there’s a boredom in this. Look at the most interesting man in the world, he can’t even manage that ten cent smile plastered across Hugh Hefner’s face. He’s too cool to like things, he just prefers them.

People will read anything with SEX in this post for instance.

Exposing the capitalistic lie in commercials isn’t new. There have always been commercials that undercut the ad hoc lifestyle presented, like Nike’s commercials from the 80s: You can buy the shoes but you still can’t dunk. The difference now is the sadness, the boredom of it. Say what you want, but the lethargic cool of The Most Interesting Man isn’t exciting. I’ve never seen someone punch a shark with such lack of vigor.

There is an economical motivation for companies to arouse dissatisfaction. Planned obsolescence isn’t nearly as sinister as planned malcontentment. This has some serious cultural consequences.

Rick Moody: “there is a sociological basis for thinking that one should not be sad. This surely comes from the notion that capitalism can quench our thirst with the application of product. It is un-American to be sad, therefore, or at best, sadness is simply something to be treated with antidepressant meds and otherwise need not be spoken of.”

*     *     *

They want to be
the thing-in-itself

and the thing-for-you-

Miss Thing – but can’t.

They want to be you,
but can’t,

which is so hot.


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