Lovelace - An American Horror Story

It is 1972 and Linda Lovelace has become the first American porn star. The horror awaits.

The foundation of any good horror film is not about the theoretical appearances of evil monsters, demons, vampires, werewolves, zombies, or super-powered serial killers, but is centralized on the inner evil outwardly expressed by one human being towards another. 

Some of my favorite and scariest horror films use this method. “The Mist” focuses on a government experiment gone wrong, releasing thousands of extra-dimensional creatures to wreak havoc on a neighboring town. The true horror does not descend from the creatures themselves, but from the revolting humans locked inside of a supermarket. They battle for power, manipulate and kill each other, losing their humanity in the process. 

“Pans’ Labyrinth” is not necessarily scary because of the disfigured monsters that show up, but because of the murderous acts of the evil step-father towards his wife and child. 

“Shaun of the Dead” is a horror-comedy that is filled with blood curdling zombie scenes, but does not become a real horror film until Shaun is forced to kill his own mother.

Horror film victims are always succumbed by some force of evil that preys on the weak. “Lovelace” fits into the horror genre, revealing a plethora of emotional “gore” on a weak human being.

Horror films were a sensation in the 70’s. They brought a new image to repulsion, violence, and fear, often cutting in futile nudity and sex scenes. “Lovelace” opens with the feel a 70’s horror flick, harshly lit and washed with a light-orange tone. We see two girls in their twenties sunbathing, Linda (Amanda Seyfried) and Patsy (Juno Temple) while discussing their sexual endeavors. Patsy foreshadows the films focus point when she hints to Linda that “oral” sex is always an option when in a relationship. Linda dismisses it as being "gross".  We are introduced to Linda’s parents (Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick) who keep her on a strict curfew and short leash, due to her unplanned pregnancy, resulting in her being forced to give the baby up for adoption. Linda convinces her parents to let her go to a party where she meets Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) who sweeps her off her feet with his charm and wit. We discover Linda’s negative image of herself, as she curses her stretch marks. Chuck is there to lift her self-esteem and take her away from her “imprisoned” small town life. Then the film breaks into two perspectives.  

Perspective #1 – Glamour

Linda and Chuck fall in love and get married. After a night in jail, Chuck convinces Linda to audition for a porn film when hard financial times befall them. Acquiescing, Linda is cast in the film “Deep Throat”, playing her newly given on screen identity, Linda Lovelace, who thrills the audience with her “orally” sexual talents. The film is a huge success, becoming the highest grossing X-rated film of all time. Linda finds herself on the red carpet, giving radio interviews, partying with Hugh Hefner, and appearing to be on top of the world. We see pieces of her body-conscious character break away. She is highly praised by the photographers, directors, actors, crew, and the viewers, boosting her confidence. She says, “I feel free” during a topless photo shoot. We see the glamorous side of being a porn star. Then the film takes a turn, by rewinding itself all the way back to Linda and Chuck’s wedding night.

Perspective #2 – Horror

Linda thought she was free, but was actually another prisoner. Each glamour scene that was shown before is now revealed in its true light. We watch Chuck rape his new bride, threaten her at gun point, beat her profusely, and prostitute her off to a gang bang. Chuck is the villain, the monster, the demon, the horror of Linda’s life. He is a sex addictive, drug abusing, psychopath who preys on Linda’s weakness to fulfill his own estranged feelings of manhood.

Repression and Marital Obedience

Serial killer, Ed Gein, is credited for the influence of sensational film villains, such as Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs), and Norman Bates (Psycho). It is known that Ed Gein’s mother used religious preaching to instill a fear of women in him. She fed him a great big bowl of Repression for breakfast every morning, ultimately resulting in his obsessive desire to flay women and literally wear their skin (no joke...he wore a body suit).

Repression is a powerful force. Imagine internalizing every feeling of joy, anger or frustration, every sensation of excitement and pleasure. This too is a horror presented in “Lovelace”, but brought about through Linda’s mother. When Linda breaks curfew, she throws her out of the house without hesitation. This damages Linda because she moves from an emotional prison to a physically violent one, in the arms of Chuck Traynor. Linda’s weakness comes from her repressed upbringing and the lack of communication within her family. At first, she feels free from their tight grip, but finds that a noose has been tied around her neck during her relationship with Chuck. She flees back to her mother, begging to take her in and reveals Chuck’s abusive nature. Rather than acting with love, Linda’s mother condemns her for misbehaving and disobeying her husband. She knowingly sends her back into the arms of the devil.

Repression was common in the 70’s as it was a transitory generation from the feminist movement and gender equality. American women were taught to “obey their husbands” as the bible said, but was never explained that it was not meant to be taken literally in circumstances of domestic violence and sexual degradation. It seems that husbands were not made aware of the next verse in the scripture passage from Ephesians 4, which told men to “love their wives as Christ loves the church.” This holds husbands to a higher responsibility over their wives, where they must die to their own selfish desires and live for their spouse. Linda could have been spared from the abuse, if only she had a mother equipped to listen. There is a redeeming moment for her that comes at the end of the film; however, in that moment when she forces Linda to go back to her abusive marriage, you see her as a purely evil figure.

Hugh Hefner

The genius of “Lovelace” comes from its manipulation over the viewer, creating a sense of excitement for Linda’s success and buying in to a false perception. It is only when the film backtracks that we are able to see the unpleasant cost of working in pornography. The films trailer deceives the viewer from thinking it’s going to be another “Boogie Night’s”, but cleverly uses sex to reveal that “the truth goes deeper than you think” (the films tagline). It is a comment on the adult film indus
try and its destruction of the human person, male and female. The kind of people involved in the business, who are glorified, are portrayed in their proper light. The film does not go into much detail about “Deep Throats” real life ties with the mafia, but hints at it through the character of Anthony Romano, who ends up whipping Chuck with his belt in a Mafia-esque scene. We also see stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Hugh Hefner (James Franco) who obsess over Linda. Hefner was, and still is, seen as one of the fathers of the sexual revolution. He launched PlayBoy magazine to a sexually curious generation, resulting in an explosion of pornographic media. In the film, during Linda’s premiere, Hefner coerces her to perform oral sex on him in his private screening room. The film presents a side of Hefner that is often ignored, his objectification of women.

The Porn Industry is far from Glamorous.

Out of the Darkness

The film is very hard to watch at times because of the intensity of the actors and the horrific circumstances it presents, but is still filled with hope. Through her nightmare, Linda faces her fear, transforms herself into a strong character and vanquishes the demon. She is praised throughout the film for her courage in entering the porn industry, but becomes a true heroine when she musters up the courage to leave it.  She writes a book, on which the film is based, called “Ordeal” and tells the world the real story of Linda Lovelace. Despite her honesty, the book was not praised as it should have been. She spent 17 days in the porn industry and would spend a lifetime healing from its wounds. It was a sign that in 1980, the culture was still not ready to embrace true feminism.
Linda’s story resembles that of Shelly Lubben’s, a former porn actress turned author and motivational speaker, who left the industry in the 90’s. Her film “Out of the Darkness” premiered at the 2011 Most of the people who join the porn industry come from broken homes. Many of the girls are sexually abused. So the porn industry actually lures in these kind of people to exploit them.” If that  isn't real horror, then I don’t know what is.
John Paul II International Film Festival here in Miami and talked about her time spent in porn. She shared similar experiences as Linda, where the film directors would call her a star, motivate her, and feed her a false perception. She says, "

I recommend watching this film for the Oscar worthy performance of Amanda Seyfried and the haunting performance of Peter Sarsgaard. It will be difficult to watch at times, but pays off at the end.

Here are the Trailers to “LoveLace” and “Out of the Darkness” including some links to Shelly Lubben's sites.

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