The truth, like porn, can be seen from many angles

by Giovanni Fazio

Special To The Japan Times

“Lovelace” is a biopic on the 1970s porn superstar Linda Lovelace (real name: Linda Boreman), who rose to fame in “Deep Throat,” the low-budget hardcore sex comedy that went on to gross something like $600 million. Its story is based almost entirely on “Ordeal,” Boreman’s 1980 account of her career in which she claims to have been forced by her abusive, pimp-like husband Chuck Traynor to do the film. Yet dig a little deeper into Boreman’s life and it becomes clear the only proper way to film this story would be like Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” from several different angles: The truth is hazy and the story changes depending on who’s telling it.

This much is known: Boreman’s husband did introduce her to porn, and was controlling, most likely violent as well. But get past that and everything becomes murky. To take one example: In the film we see Amanda Seyfried as the older, anti-porn Boreman saying, “I spent exactly 17 days in the pornography industry,” and she blames that entirely on Traynor. “Deep Throat,” she says, was her being raped on screen.

But in real life she appeared in “Deep Throat Part II” and “Lovelace for President,” both of which capitalized on her fame as a porn star, after she divorced Traynor. Also, she is quoted as saying in 1974, again after leaving Traynor, “I’m not going to sit around and say I’ll never do another hardcore film because I was forced into ‘Deep Throat.’ I did it because I loved it. It was something I believed in, it was me, I was just playing myself.” Indeed, Boreman had been cast for a softcore movie in 1976 but — in the midst of a period of heavy drug use — she suddenly “found God” and refused to do nude scenes.

A few years back, Gerard Damiano, the former hairdresser turned adult-movie director who made “Deep Throat,” was in Tokyo to promote the documentary “Inside Deep Throat,” and I asked him about the charges Boreman made that she was forced to do the film. “She did change her attitude,” said Damiano. “But that’s the way Linda was. Her viewpoint depended on who she was connected with at a particular time. At the time, she just totally enjoyed making the film.”

Indeed, it was only after marrying a second time, to Larry Marchiano, and becoming a born-again Christian that Boreman started speaking out against “Deep Throat” and became the poster girl for feminist academics such as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, with their one-size-fits-all ideology that all pornography was violence against women. As the freewheeling ’70s gave way to the conservative ’80s, many wondered whether Boreman’s working the lecture circuit as anti-porn crusader wasn’t just a savvy move to remain in the limelight.

And what of her allegedly nutcase husband Traynor? Well, “Lovelace” has a postscript that casually notes he went on to marry Marilyn Chambers, perhaps the second best-known porn star of the ’70s. The film doesn’t mention that they were married for a decade and that Chambers never reported, as Boreman did, incidents like being beaten or having an assault rifle pointed at her head. Even after divorce, the couple remained on good terms, and Chambers would sometimes ask Traynor to be present on set because it made her more comfortable.

On the other hand, for every person who worked with Boreman and describes her as exaggerating her story, of blaming porn for every bad decision in her life, there’s another who will say that Traynor was a piece of work, and that Boreman had visible bruises on set. Boreman, for her part, passed a polygraph test when “Ordeal” was released.

Given all of this, I asked “Lovelace” co-director Jeffrey Friedman why he stuck solely with Boreman’s viewpoint for the film, despite the fact that she was an unreliable narrator who changed her story repeatedly. He explained how “seeing Linda on ‘The Donahue Show’ (a mainstream TV talk show in the ’80s) was what made us realize that the way she expressed herself was so real. It’s really hard to doubt what she’s saying. And I don’t think it’s because she’s a great actress; I think it’s just because she’s speaking from her heart.”

On the other hand, her “Deep Throat” co-star Harry Reems has pointed to the film itself, and said that it doesn’t look much like acting either, but someone rather enjoying herself.

Boreman went on to divorce Marchiano in 1996, and late in life again embraced her Lovelace persona, doing a photo shoot in lingerie and working the autograph circuit, signing memorabilia for fans. She died in 2002, aged 53, after a car accident. The film ends well before then, however.

“It was important for us to end the movie at the point where Linda — after years of feeling like she was subject to forces outside of her control — finally finds her own voice and her own power,” says Friedman. “We felt there is a strong feminist message.”

That there is, but it’s worth noting that when Boreman was in need of surgery due to complications from hepatitis C later in life, Reems sent her a donation, while erstwhile supporters such as MacKinnon and Dworkin did nothing, and Boreman came to resent them. That’s the kind of complexity “Lovelace” ignores, although the fact that MacKinnon cooperated with the production speaks volumes.

  • Chandrakant Kulkarni

    After all, any porn is just an arithmetical / algebraic expression of different ‘permutations & combinations’ between male / female sensual assets.
    Well, is there any porn in which a man possessing golden horns is shown to caress a feminine silvery tail with his pair of horns?
    -or a porn in which the man is flying in air, and his woman who is deep under water gets her orgasms…?
    Imagine a ‘porn’ for amoeba / amoebae…