Naturally, writer-director Kevin Smith, never one to back away from courting or exploiting an opportunity to thrust his movies into the spotlight by any means necessary, is enjoying publicly scratching his head over the supposed gaffe on Saturday Night Live this past week which resulted in a truncated version of the title of his upcoming comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which went “porno-less” on an advertisement that aired during the show.
Smith explained to the Chicago Tribune’s Marc Caro that “a Make a Porno-less ad was prepared for Monday Night Football-- they wouldn't take the Make a Porno version, as football is a "family-friendly entertainment"... which is why you can see all manner of erectile dysfunction ads during the game.” Apparently the porno-free ad was mistakenly shipped to SNL, which, Smith notes, is “arguably” one of the only network shows that wouldn’t have any problem running the ad with the movie’s full title.
Actually, it seems to me that most network TV shows have lately been so swept up in the competitive art of envelope-pushing and striving, in the shadows of feature films and the non-restrictive cable networks, to keep up with the Corleones and the Sopranos, that mere mention of the word “porno” hardly ranks as much more than a tempest in a teapot (or a teapot in a tempest). What would have been too “shocking” for anything but Saturday Night Live 10 years ago is, let’s face it, run-of-the-mill sophisticated for shows as varied as 30 Rock, CSI, Big Brother and even something as innocuous as Two and a Half Men. (Hasn’t the star of that show even had a well-documented history with porn stars and other well-known luminaries of the sex industry? I thought so.)
I’ve seen ads for Zack and Mri Make a Porno during the recent baseball playoffs, and I can’t imagine that they haven’t run unexpurgated on other “family oriented” shows, all without much of a fuss, apparently. Which is what makes the noise from the Monday Night Football folks so humorous. Sport fans and sports talk radio hosts are perhaps the nation’s most porn-obsessed demographic. You can’t listen to any sports talk show at any hour of the day or night without getting an earful about Jenna Jameson or Hooters or some other “just guys” kind of buzzing around what the MNF brain trust would like you to believe they’re protecting their audience from by running ads which feature Traci Lords popping bubbles (off-screen) in a very unusual way but otherwise avoid the word “porno,” as if context meant nothing. Of course, someone will undoubtedly point out that the excision of the word was intended to protect the young kids watching the football game, which is just another variation of that old horse about bleeping swear words on cable from movies kids have already seen in theaters, words they’ve heard and used thousands of times at school and with friends. It’s all about appearances and not allowing any explicit acknowledgment of what Monday Night Football knows is common subject matter for 21-st century sports fans young and old.
But don’t think Kevin Smith minds. A whole new audience is now even more curious about his seemingly mysterious comedy’s subject matter and plotting to circumvent the movie’s hardly restrictive “R” rating come opening weekend. Which is in itself lots of fun to talk and blog and be outraged about, but it is also, as Smith’s last few movies have proven, no guarantor of the movie’s ultimate success, either artistically or at the box office.
That said, I have high hopes that Zack and Miri Make a Porno will turn out to be as much fun as those ads have promised. I’m willing to forgive Seth Rogen for Pineapple Express based solely on those four seconds I’ve seen of him acting in the titular (Heh-heh! He said “titular”) motion picture dressed as a UPS delivery man. And I will follow Elizabeth Banks anywhere. (She was terrific as Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s entertaining but relatively toothless W.) So when I recently received an unsolicited promo in an e-mail, I felt an irrational urge to share it. Of course, the e-mail is primarily a shameless advert for a magazine called Mean which, being the all-seeing, all-knowing pop culture maven that I am, I never even heard of until this communique. But attached to the missive was a keen short film directed by Tony Kaye (Lake of Fire, American History X) entitled “This is Not Sex,” featuring Banks and Rogen in a just-this-side-of-salacious serving of misperceived and quite suggestive Hollywood star behavior. (At any rate, it’s far funnier than Banks and Rogen’s other recent collaboration, the sluggishly performed Sarah Silverman knockoff "I’m Fucking Seth Rogen.”)
Seth Rogen & Elizabeth Banks In "This Is Not Sex" Directed By Tony Kaye from Mean Magazine on Vimeo.
Press play with me and enjoy. And maybe if we’re lucky Zack and Miri Make a Porno will find Smith inspired by the freshness of his two stars (and the experience of working outside the boundaries of the refried Quik-E-Mart world of Clerks 2) to serve up a comedy worth talking about a week after its release, instead of just in the week before.