This is not about porn. Not directly, anyway. This is about the difference between media that is disposable and media that is consumable. Sometimes these two overlap, but not always. Media (books, movies, TV, songs) are, to me, consumable. I can only read a book for the first time once; hence, consumable. But a book I only want to read once is disposable.
Disposable media, to me, has one particular purpose. That’s why I used the term “money shot.” The money shot is a term used in porn to denote the literal climax of a scene. The goal of the porn is to have lots of money shots because really no one is watching (or reading) the porn for the story. So everything in the story (such as it is) is really just a contrivance to get the characters from one steamy scene to the next steamy scene. And that’s perfectly fine. It’s not necessarily well written though. I could also call this entry “writing backwards” but I didn’t think that would be the same kind of attention grabber.
Sometimes media does have a particular purpose but isn’t disposable. Murder mysteries seem like a genre that should be disposable. And yet Agatha Christie is one of the world’s bestselling authors, if not the bestselling author. If murder mysteries are disposable, then how can her books sell so well? Because they are well-written and enjoyable to read even once the reader knows the identity of the killer. Sometimes it’s nice to go back and see the clues that were missed in the first read. A good story may be consumable, but it is not disposable.
However, I’d like to point out that I am perfectly capable of enjoying disposable media. Disposable media isn’t even necessarily bad; it’s just something that doesn’t stand up to a second reading/viewing. As long as the creative team behind the disposable media cares (at least somewhat) about what they produce, it’ll probably be watchable/readable. Will disposable media ever be good? Probably not. Probably the best that can be hoped for is the mindless fun of a summer blockbuster, which is awesome action sequences bound by the loosest and most clichéd contrivance of a story. A good example of this is the movie Pacific Rim. The point and purpose and goal of the “story” is so the audience can watch giant monsters right giant robots. I watched it with friends and at the necessary “small child’s family is killed but s/he survives” scene, one friend remarked, “It’s like they developed the action sequences first and then worked out the rest of the movie backwards from that point.” And she was right. The plot made no sense, the relationships were by the numbers clichéd (including the “the dog likes him so he must be good”), there were tons of plotholes, and it didn’t matter. You know why? Because Crimson Typhoon had three arms! Three!! Awesome!!!
Sorry, my inner nine year-old got the better of me there.
What I object to is purveyors of certain media not knowing the difference between disposable media and consumable media, or worse, treating all media as disposable and therefore something not worth caring about. This is related to a problem in comic books I called it the, “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” syndrome. The idea is really the same – the writer/film-maker/whatever has an idea for a particular scene or possibly series of scenes but no real idea how to connect those scenes in a coherent story or perhaps no desire to even try. Producing media with one awesome idea is the non-porn equivalent of the money shot. Trying to write a story around one scene (or a movie, or TV show, etc), isn’t likely to go very well. The end result is a contrived mess of a story with awesome action sequences or the Avengers and X-men fighting each other or giant robots fighting each other with a camera too shaky to actually see the damn action. I knew exactly what I was getting into with Pacific Rim. I wasn’t disappointed in the story, such as it was, because I didn’t expect any better.
I do understand the urge to try to work from something awesome. However, a good artist should realize when the awesome scene just isn’t going to work in whatever world they want to work in. Then again, such media are not about the art, but the profit margin. That still doesn’t mean media is necessarily disposable, and I think treating it so can lead to issues with the profit margin. And again, I do understand the purpose of disposable media and I don’t object to it as such. Just don’t pretend there’s a story if the sole purpose of the medium is some kind of money shot.