In thinking of the demise of the oldest gay-porn mags, I had a conversation with one of their former editors. It seemed almost too obvious for each of us to point out that print porn has been effed for a while, screwed over first by VHS videos, then rode hard by DVDs and finally put away wet by the Internet.
But what killed those gay porn mags and what will soon kill off all the rest of them was not only the means of delivery, it was also what was being delivered. Print became antiquated, yes, but the content of what consumers demanded switched from pro to amateur. The most popular kind of porn now is homegrown. Formerly a niche, amateur porn is now ubiquitous on the Internet, which just so happens to be the perfect mode of delivery, allowing for instant receipt, no chance for cold feet, a Wild West outlook toward the law and other rules and—best of all?—the shit is often performed and available for free.
Gay porn is a niche within all porn, but I think the same end is coming for all porn. (For example, Mavety Media, the company that shuttered the gay mags in question, still produces straight porn—but has cut the pay and hours of all their staff.)
I was thinking about all this because I think print porn is the canary in the coalmine for all print media. And much more.
The death of all print media has been predicted before and often. But what's more interesting to me is applying the lessons to other forms and to other types of content.
For example, I think if you look at the popularity of amateur porn, there is a direct parallel between that and the surge in reality stars that we've seen on TV in recent years. This leads me to think there seems to be a drive—in all pop culture—toward amateurs. In the past, while it was fun for the public to know that the Lana Turners of the world had begun life as the Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turners who'd grown up next door, it was even more satisfying or comforting to look up to those stars, to feel intimidated by their fantastic glamour. Nowadays, I think we have passed the point of no return on stardom—it seems like the public is more excited to do away with the middle men who used to create stars, instead preferring amateurs who haven't been taught how to speak and how to give interviews by a select group of people whose own tastes may be influencing the variety of stars we have to choose from.
In short, reality TV is amateur porn with more clothes.
For now, we're still watching TV networks (porn mags), but I would guess that within 20 years the networks will be shells of their former selves and may not exist as modes of entertainment delivery at all. Perhaps we will be watching more and more "real" entertainment that has been less and less refined. Will it even take 20 years for no-budget Webisodes of something to become as popular as a garden-variety network TV show?
As with porn, I believe we are working our way through a breakdown of the modes of delivery and of the conventional structure of who and what we have traditionally considered to be entertaining.
One step further occurred to me since I deal with uploading new "Guydar" features nearly daily. When I first started taking the pictures (for the record, I snap them surreptitiously but only if the person is in my path, and from there it's up to the powers of the iPhone), I thought of it as a sort of balance for the creepy guys who take upskirt pictures of women. It didn't feel like I was being creepy because for one thing I wasn't attempting to shoot up anyone's clothing (which is illegal) and for another, I think there is a very real difference in the vibe when one gender shoots its own in this manner. Also, it's legal and I would argue acceptable to shoot anything and everything that is seen in a public space.
And that last bit is what applies to the points I'm making here about entertainment at large—when I shoot "Guydar" subjects, I am limited only by my own geography and by the vagaries of on-the-fly photography. The pool from which I'm selecting is exactly what I just typed—"anything and everything that is seen in a public space."
This has led me to envision a point in the near future where this kind of instant, highly individual recognition will be much more widespread and will cross genders. As with porn, as with television, I think immediate, only slightly extraordinary stars are the wave of the future. "Overnight" stardom versus instant stardom (or let's call it i-stardom with a hyphen so as not to offend Apple) will seem about as impressive as the efficiency of a fax machine versus that of an e-mailed scan.
Is it so hard to imagine a future where we feel comfortable asking each other to pose for photos based on how intriguing we find each other's looks? Or where complete strangers, both on their lunch hours from deskjobs, might be united for a moment when one asks the other for a quick picture together like we might do now with a movie star we encounter by chance? We might even ask an i-star for an autograph. By extension, if these things happen and are posted on the Internet, others will likely take note of each new i-star, and the reaction could propel some of them to incredible levels of worldwide fame if their looks and (later, if more is learned via interviews or self-made profiles on social networking sites) their personae are the exact right combination required.
With people like Jon & Kate, Speidi (and the rest of the human arachnids from MTV's endless reality series) and so many others already on the cusp of challenging traditional stars for attention, I think what I'm suggesting is not so radical.
With sites like Cam4 (NSFW) and GuysWithiPhones (NSFW) the hot and bothered elephants in the room, what I'm about to suggest also seems quite reasonable. As sexual mores disappear, we are not only likely to be our own stars, but our own pornstars, taking the example I'm using to illustrate the concept of i-stardom full circle. It's not inconceivable to me that more people will have uploaded pornographic images of themselves than will have not at some point in the very, very near future.
The i-stardom movement—if it happens as I see it—would bankrupt a lot of the old guard, and revenue streams to support it would not be as obvious. But it will be hard to put the genie back in the bottle now that we have already started to create our own stars devoid of middle men and free of charge.