By Juliette Tang. Read her indepth article about the ironic hipster-altporn connection here.
They may look like a slightly trashier, more dolled up version of the run-of-the-mill American Apparel clad hipster, but the girls above aren't really hipsters at all. They're porn stars dressed as hipsters, and they make movies for Vivid-Alt, a subsidiary of Vivid Entertainment dedicated solely to, quite frankly, heterosexual hipster porn. And no, I'm not talking about those Richard Kern photographs in Vice Magazine. I'm talking about hardcore sex -- in tube socks.
Alternative porn, or "altporn," is nothing new, at least not since the advent of the Internet. While magazines like Hustler and Playboy have formulated the aesthetic of mainstream print pornography, the Internet created a democratic space inside which divergent interpretations of sexuality could be easily presented. Altporn began in the late 1990s with Web sites like GothicSluts and EroticBPM and was initially just an Internet anomaly. But due to the popularity of early altporn sites, new Web sites began to appear, altporn gained a measure of popularity, and by the time SuicideGirls surfaced in 2001, altporn was a full-fledged genre of pornography in and of itself. Seeing as early altporn followed the popularity of subcultures like the goth, punk, and emo movements, it was only a matter of time before altporn 'turned all hipster' (as everything is, it seems, these days).
A clip of The Doll Underground, directed by Eon McKai
I got a chance to chat with director Eon McKai, who has made movies for Vivid-Alt like Girls Lie, Debbie Loves Dallas, and The Doll Underground, a movie that, as improbable as it seems, is actually inspired by the Weather Underground. Eon, who calls himself an "aging hipster," says that everyone at Vivid-Alt is "a part of the subcultures that we represent, so if you look at the people who are behind it, I think you'll find that they are pure to the street, and everything is authentic." And he is totally, completely serious about his mission.
SFBG: Unlike other kinds of altporn, Vivid Alt has a decidedly hipster aesthetic. Was this a conscious choice on the part of the directors, to appropriate hipster subculture and use it as the main aesthetic of the movies?
EM: Oh, I think appropriate is not an appropriate term because we are a part of the subcultures that we represent, so if you look at the people who are behind it, I think you'll find that they are pure to the street, and everything is authentic and this is who we are. We are just making porn about it, and this happens to be who we are.
SFBG: In your words, how would you describe the aesthetic of Vivid Alt?
EM: It is… it's really artist and filmmakers who make porn who are really expressing the aesthetic that they find in their life, that they live in their life. They are making work as anybody else would. We aren't tied to the certain kind of porn look, and we don't have to go with that, that's kind of the freedom we have. SuicideGirls are really the people who made that popular. Sometimes [director] Dave Naz is doing something very playful, with the 80s look, with clothes and music, and it's like, that's not really the style that he's living in every day, but it's really a part of him. I'd say at no time, especially at Vivid Alt, no one is told to make a certain type of movie that isn't coming from some place in side of them. It's completely informed by the maker and the people being involved in the project.
SFBG: What makes Vivid Alt different than other kinds of alternative pornography?
EM: The one thing that I see going on with the other people who are producing alt porn that for whatever reason its kind of getting stuck on a very particular look, a look that was… and I don't want to pigeonhole it too much, but there happens to be this kind of alternative look. There is a certain kind of settling into a look that is looking a little old. I think there are always new subcultures, and you use this term "hipster porn", and it's a term I use sometimes, as an aging hipster, there is always new stuff you are getting into and new styles you get into, and its kind of all happening at the same time. I try to make sure Vivid Alt and the stuff that we make as open and as free as that whole process. I'm just not interested in making porn that looks like it's stuck in 2001.
A commercial for Debbie Loves Dallas by Eon McKai
SFBG: Do you have a certain fan base? Who are the people who buy your movies?EM: It's varied. There are definitely a core group of people who really identify with a particular director or there are people who identify with Kimberly Kane and who she is, or people who are friends of my work, or Dave Naz, or people in the rockabilly and psychobilly scene who are into winkytiki's work, or people who are into porn in general and are a particular breed of porn fan. And there are people who find this stuff the way you find porn on the internet or in the video shop, and I think if somebody watches a lot of porn and they need variety, this can provide a variety.
Title sequence for Honey Bunny, a Vivid Alt movie directed by Vena Virago and produced by Eon McKai
SFBG: What do you consider some of your influences, what inspires you, when you create your work?
EM: I've always been influenced by the work of Jon Jost, that was early 70s and really open, almost like pre-mumblecore, like pre-slacker stuff. This is kind of what is going through my mind. The spirit in which it was made was really truly independent, and there was some kind of reality to it. You know, a really big movie for me has always been Richard Linklater's Slackers and what he did later with Waking Life. And independent filmmaking in general.
Vivid Alt movies are for rent or purchase at Good Vibrations, 603 Valencia Street at 17th.