Open Forum Friday: Is Porno a Bad Word?

After all the trouble that Kevin Smith has had with MPAA ratings so far, it seems that he is still encountering resistance to his new movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno at every turn. Last month, the slightly suggestive poster for the film was outlawed in the U.S., so they got around it by designing a sarcastically reworked version using only stick figures instead. Now this month it seems that several media outlets are refusing to run ads and posters for the movie even with the reworked stick figures.

The big problem here seems to be the word “porno”. A lot of people feel that the word itself is not appropriate for public consumption, even in a comedic context. One example given in the news article on Yahoo! is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who dropped the commercials after parents complained their kids were asking them what a porno is. Education professor Diane Levin is quoted as saying that the ads are “drawing attention to a movie which is mainstreaming and normalizing pornography”, and that the posters are even more problematic because “stick figures are something for children”. To be honest… I can kind of see her point. What do you think? Should Kevin Smith have chosen a more “family-friendly” title for his movie, even though the movie is not? Should all awareness of pornography be erased from the public sphere, or is this simply a case of people overreacting? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.



  • MalD

    I think the general public is overeacting.. pornograpghy is mainstreamed somewhat already. It is easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection so I don’t see how a feature film could be currupting the consciousness of the general public. there has been many comedic films made about the same subject matter before ie I want candy etc

    Although I do agree the commercials shouldn’t be seen by children but then again commercials like that should only be shown after the “watershed hour” meaning minors shouldn’t be able to see them anyway.

  • People are dumb. If this was “The massacre of Zack and Mira” or “Zack and Mira Kill Terrorists” it would be fine, because violence is totally cool in our culture. Sex? Oh, think of the children!

  • Derek

    The general public are bein more immature than the kids, asking,what a porno is. It’s an X rated world; we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. What about the movie, “SEX and the City” That title sounds pretty much like an adult film, involving sex; which is exactly what a damn porno is; just without cameras. There’s another comedy that’s comin out called,”Whore”, which sounds like half of a porn title. And I also agree with Paul on number 2.

    General Public… Grow the fuck up.

  • Bob The Slob

    i agree with paul…if it was called ZACK AND MIRI FILET A DRUG USER AND EAT HIS ENTRAILS WITH A SPORK FOR 2 FULL HOURS…it would be fine…but any mention of consenting adults having sex…that is a problem?

    I hate fundamentalists.

  • Henrik

    I think the only reason there is a ‘controversy’ about this, is because it’s directed by Kevin Smith and they want to push image that he is edgy and fighting against the man. If any other director had made something with ‘porno’ in the title, I doubt any ‘mews stories’ about the controversy would have hit the web. How does SEX slip by and not PORNO? It didn’t, but because it’s Kevin Smith, its the artist vs. the man and that’s what they’re marketing.

    Weak. It’s just a tame comedy for teenagers. I guess the Weinsteins could do “Fanboys… MAKE A PORNO” and push it this way, and people would gobble it up as the right-wing fundamentalists trying to hold the artists down.

  • I may be wrong but this is not a fundamental issue, its one of respect! While you don’t have a problem with it, some people do! As a society we should respect that! We need to respect that! How can you and me have our opinions respected if we don’t respect others. Remember this is not about content its about the title. Some people find it offensive if they see it in a print ad! You or me may not care but they do. I know this might be trivial but the issue is a slippert slope. The same as all the profanity used when people comment on blogs. I happen to be pretty liberal but personally I hate it. I find it classless. Its like coming into someone’s house and writing grafity on the walls! What’s the point. It lowers are standards, at least in my opinion! I guess many will disagee with that, as anything goes is becoming the trend, but even on a great show like The Sopronos those characters had a code of ethics. If we want to be respected then we need to respect others, even if we don’t always agree. Again the issue is the title, not the content!

  • Ian

    No. Smith is not an idiot. He choose to make this movie and he knew the subject matter would be go-to for controversy. Sex, Religion, and Wars hell that’s the best stuff around for most people and that’s why you can’t beat saving a damsel in distress via a gunfight in a church.

  • I sympathize with entertainmenttodayandbeyond’s point of view, but I just can’t agree with it. People need to grow up. “Again the issue is the title” sums it up. We are talking about a word, not an incitement to violence or public orgies. ‘Porno’ is an epithet; it stands for something (obscenity) that is legally controlled (in the US). The word itself isn’t obscenity, like the words ‘fuck’ or ‘pricksucker’.

    Derek and Paul are correct in comparing it to using a word like ‘massacre’ or ‘drugs’ or ‘holocaust’. In the end, it is the decision of whoever is in control of the property on what the film is titled, so presumably the artist (Smith) in this case doesn’t have the last say. But if the studios/producers/whoever change the name because they are afraid of public distaste, then they’re making the wrong decision. Anyone who’s offended by the word ‘porno’ or is afraid it will corrupt or disrespect someone else needs to join the rest of mature, rational humanity in the 21st century.

  • As a 27 year old man, the word porno is something I am so accustomed to hearing, and it doesn’t faze me. Is that a good thing? Probably not. My issue comes from the idea that if I had a kid, say 7 years old, and they saw the commercial, it is believable that the kid would ask what a porno is. And that is not something that should come about in that way.

    Is it okay that massacre an nightmare and other words like that are acceptable– probably not. But the issue, to me, is whether or not it’s appropriate for these words to be on channels and in publications that my kids will see.

    For any adults that say the word offends them, I would agree that they need to relax a bit.

  • Lumpy

    The general argument here seems to be “Everyone has sex, porn is all around us, grow up and accept it.” My response is that respect for the sexual act has been degraded to the point that blowjob jokes are commonplace in after-school time TV commercials. This is not a healthy society. (A brief auto-bio: I am a 27 year old teacher/psych major. I am not religious, I just want to live in an America that has some values) Our society has been increasingly inundated with sexual images and language over the past 40 years, to the point that radio lyrics and magazine covers are enough to make my grandparents (and me) feel physically disgusted. I am aware that you will use the same tired arguments against me (I’m a prude, I’m sexually frustrated/retarded, I’m a free-speech hating Nazi, etc) I am just an adult about to start a family who is actually afraid that my kids will abolutely HATE me because I will not allow MTV or aby other sex-worshiping media in my house. We have to see the forest for the trees, people. Show me a society dominated by sex and I will show you a society on the verge of total collapse or domination by a more disciplined society. I fear for the future of America.

    Flame away.

  • Mike

    Other possible titles

    Zack and Miri make an Adult Film

    Zack and Miri Film Erotica

    The Sexploitation of Zack and Miri

    Zack and Miri Shoot Skin Flicks

    Zack and Miri’s Smut

    and xXx 3

  • Phil Morin

    I agree, you gotta draw the line somewhere. Next thing you know pornography is going to be so mainstream the performers will be covered by People magazine and they’ll appear on Jay Leno.

    I mean, isn’t pornography just prostitution, with a camera on?

    how can this double standard exist?

  • That’s a good point, Phil. It’s not necessarily about actually getting rid of porno(in this case), but rather relegating it to where only adults are going to see it.

    If you want to see sexually explicit movies, websites or magazines, I’m all for that. I just don’t want it pervading the same space as typically mainstream entertainment.

  • You’ll have to denounce capitalism and regulate the free market if you don’t want people to use sex to sell their product. It is the most basic of needs, and obviously it will be predominant in a society where the more you sell, the higher your status.

    Sex never killed anybody. How about you stop supporting wars that kill people before you worry about your children knowing what a cock is, and how to take it in the mouth.

  • One thing I find strange is how many parents scold their children for using swear words. We all know that children grow up to be adults who all use swear words. Why don’t we just let everyone swear?

    Or is the issue that there are only certain appropriate times to swear? Why don’t parents teach kids when it’s appropriate? Or is it just easier to tell kids not to swear at all, and eventually when they’re adults, they’ll know when not to swear?

    As for the word “porno,” parents should just make up a meaning if they feel uncomfortable about porno.

    BTW, is there a law against putting aborted fetus images on bus waiting booths now?

    BTW 2, with the Internet, I thought all kids knew about porno now. :-)

  • Henrik– I didn’t say not to use sex, or even refer to it. It’s the outright vulgarity of it in the mainstream (in America, that is) that I think is uncalled for.

  • “Sex never killed anybody.”

    Henrik, ever hear of AIDS? Haha. (Don’t know why I’m laughing.)

    Also, people always use the argument that violence is worse than sex, yet we’re more uptight about sex than violence. I think most people would agree that violence has gotten out of control and that’s unfortunate. But many people would prefer to keep sex in the bedroom still.

    I don’t think anyone’s mind is going to be changed by reading the comments for this post. I don’t even know why I’m stating the obvious. I guess I like to think I’m the voice of reason. But we all know how perverted prudes really are. :-)

  • cronenfly

    people are the issue here. not words. people like. people dislike. people love. people hate. back and fourth. back and fourth. endless…endless…endless….

  • They are now advertising this on TV as Zack and Miri. I was fucked up as a younger kid by the Budd Dwyer Suicide Tape, still am in ways. I’ve never been disturbed by the word porno or anything related to it, i’ve only been… well i won’t go there. lol :)

  • “It’s the outright vulgarity of it in the mainstream (in America, that is) that I think is uncalled for.”

    Obviously in an uneducated society, things will increasingly need to be said outright to get the point across.

    If a 7 year old asks what a porno is, how is it a problem to say it’s video of two people making love? Or even, just say it’s something to do with girls/boys depending on your child and they’ll probably go eww and go back to thinking about Barney.

  • Lumpy

    Henrik,
    You don’t have to denounce capitalism to set standards for what is acceptable in advertising. I believe that in some European countries, bare-breasted women are used in alcohol advertisements. This is not the case in America. I am not saying this is good or bad in either case, but it shows that there are cultural standards that dictate acceptable content in advertising. The FCC has its famous “7 words” that can not be said over the airwaves (and I’m sure that list has been ammended and expanded).
    I understand, people think porn is funny. I think porn is funny (at least the wood paneling, mustachioed pizza delivery guy, 70s caricature of porn). But I think with “Zack and Miri make a Porno” we have an extreme dumbing down of a title in an attempt at humor. It’s in the same vein as “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” (a movie I enjoyed). It’s a joke to name the movie with a simple sentence describing what the movie is about. Like Homer Simpson forgetting the name of “Speed” and calling it “The Bus that couldn’t Slow Down”. But the bottom line is that I don’t think the word “porno” should be part of the common vernacular used by children and pre-teens. Would they find out about porn without this movie? Obviously. But that’s not an acceptable reason to continue adding to the overt, explicit nature of sex in American society.

  • Ian

    Just tell the kids what my parents told me when they watched Rated R movies with me in the room as a child: “You’ll understand when you’re older.” That and the tennative promise that I might be able to inherit a Rambo: First Blood knife gave me great incentive to “grow up”.

    That said I find it odd that this sort of thing is advertised while Barney or whatnot is on the air. I mean if they are running ads for what is ostensibly an adult film they should aim for their target demographic.

  • swarez

    “I believe that in some European countries, bare-breasted women are used in alcohol advertisements.”

    No. We have standards as well.

    I think Entertainmentandbeyond’s argument is full of bull crap personally. So it’s all about respect? Who’s to say what offends who? Are we really going to try and find out what offends certain groups of people when we publish or advertise everything so we can avoid a couple of angry letters? If that was the case we’d live in a very dull world, where advertising and media would be so inept because it couldn’t say or do anything on the off chance that somebody out there might be offended. Fuck that. Personally I find that idea offensive, should I ask you to remove your post?

    “PORNO” is not a filthy word, never has been. It’s just over protective and overly religious nut jobs that won’t take the time of day to educate their children about the world they live in, that spend more time whining about this shit than to actually talking to their kids.

    It’s just amazing that people are still riled up by nudity in this day and age especially since it’s been man’s fascination since the dawn of time.

    Oh and Henrik, classic last line in your first post.

  • Actually here in Danmark, there was a poster of a naked big chested plastic looking woman up everywhere in København promoting the energy drink Cult. Or maybe it was the alcohol version, Cult Shaker. So apparently our society is on the verge of total collapse or domination by a more disciplined society.

    There was a cool beer commercial years ago where a big-chested (clothed though) opened up a bottle on her cleavage.

    Everybody does the nasty – your kids will do the nasty before you think they’re ready. And they will watch pornography even before that. Like I said, I think you should be more worried with stopping war, than stopping pornography. Here’s a novel fact: War has destroyed far more societies.

  • swarez-To answer your question: How do you know if something offends someone- Well, in most cases they usually tell you! If that wasn’t the case here why would they run trailers last night on SNL calling the film Zach and Miri. Leaving out porno.Clearly someone didn’t like it and it was changed. Personally Im not offended, and wouldn’t lose a minutes sleep over the issue. Im just trying to make a point of understanding both sides of the issue. Nothing wrong with that. You say you don’t understand why people are so riled up over nudity. That has nothing to do with this subject. Again this is about a word in the films title, not anything about the movies content. It’s not about nudity or storyline. Just a simple word! Also respect is important, at least to me and I would hope to everybody! NOT looking to get into a pissing match with anyone, just giving an opinion. Nothing more!

  • Lumpy

    Everyone seems so eager to surrender any kind of authoritative role in society. The question of the day is “Who are we to tell anyone what they can and can’t say?” Well, “we” are members of a society in which everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs, whether they be traditional or not. And if I don’t want my child to see the word porno, I should be able to steer them away from certain TV channels, movies, or stores in which they might come across an actual porno. However, when we live in a world in which my child might be watching a typically mainstream channel at a reasonable hour of the day, and commercials for sex-romp comedies, blowjob jokes and all, are playing continuously, then my rights as a parent are being infringed up.
    And I don’t understand this argument that one day these same children will be having sex, so don’t fight it, just get it out of the way. Can’t we agree that there should be a regular gradient of sexual material that a child should be exposed to at an appropriate age? Five year olds should not be seeing hardcore penetration porno, even though they are gonna have sex one day.

  • swarez

    But the whole brouhaha is over a word that isn’t even offensive in any sense of the word. It’s a short version of the technical term of a product. If the word was the N word, C word or the F word then I would understand cause those are obscenities.

    Maybe they are just upset over poor vocabulary skills. Maybe the whole thing wouldn’t have happened if the film was called Zak and Miri make a Pornographic film.

  • Lumpy

    Swarez, porno is a technical term the same way that fellatio is a technical term for oral sex. There shouldn’t be a movie called “Miri Performs Fellatio on Zak” either. They are both sexually explicit, albeit technical, terms that shouldn’t be part of the common vocabulary used to advertise to a mixed audience of children and adults.

    I would be fine if this movie were only advertised after 10 PM or during the trailers for other R rated films. It’s simply the presence of this type of material in mainstream media that I find inappropriate.

  • I don’t think you guys should be having this discussion on Film Junk which is part of mainstream media. :-)

    Some child might inadvertently read these comments while doing a search for the Original Series Star Trek episode, “Miri.” Or more realistically, they might do a search for Zac Ephron and spell Zac wrong.

  • swarez

    “There shouldn’t be a movie called “Miri Performs Fellatio on Zak” either.”
    Are you fucking serious? Who are you to tell people what to call their films? You are afraid that your kid might ask you an uncomfortable question so you demand that a filmmaker changes the title of the movie? Your kid isn’t going to be turned in to a drug addict, rapist or other sexual deviant by hearing a word, although many people would like you to believe so.

    The problem here isn’t the word, it’s the how the studio manages it’s commercial time.
    Steer your complaints to the studio or the TV station who airs the commercials at inappropriate times instead of telling people what they can or can not have in their movie titles.

  • Lumpy

    Allow me to rephrase: A movie called “Miri Performs Fellatio on Zak” should not be advertised in the mainstream media. (And no, filmjunk is NOT mainstream media. As a a parent I could easily stop my child from going to any website I don’t approve. Not that I don’t approve of this site, I’m just pointing out that it isn’t mainstream.) You can call a movie any horrible thing you want. Just don’t throw it in the face of decent people and their children. Keep it where it belongs.

  • suerveadutt

    There was this guy see.
    He wasn’t very bright and he reached his adult life without ever having learned “the facts”.
    Somehow, it gets to be his wedding day.
    While he is walking down the isle, his father tugs his sleeve and says,

    “Son, when you get to the hotel room…Call me”

    Hours later he gets to the hotel room with his beautiful blushing bride and he calls his father,

    “Dad, we are the hotel, what do I do?”

    “O.K. Son, listen up, take off your clothes and get in the bed, then she should take off her clothes and get in the bed, if not help her. Then either way, ah, call me”

    A few moments later…

    “Dad we took off our clothes and we are in the bed, what do I do?”

    O.K. Son, listen up. Move real close to her and she should move real close to you, and then… Ah, call me.”

    A few moments later…

    “DAD! WE TOOK OFF OUR CLOTHES, GOT IN THE BED AND MOVED REAL CLOSE, WHAT DO I DO???”

    “O.K. Son, Listen up, this is the most important part. Stick the long part of your body into the place where she goes to the bathroom.”

    A few moments later…

    “Dad, I’ve got my foot in the toilet, what do I do?”

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