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Picture the scene from upcoming Linda Lovelace biopic, Lovelace:
Amanda Seyfried is being photographed by a man with a Polaroid camera. Perched on a stool wearing a cute retro swimming costume and a brown ‘70s flicked wig, she says: “At first, I’m closed up, like a flower. And then gradually the petals start to open and then I finally learn about myself, and I learn how to enjoy sex. And I feel free.”
Hang on, you can get paid to feel like that? Maybe I should hand in my notice and become a porn sta…
Oh, wait, not so fast. First, lets check out what Linda Lovelace wrote in her autobiography, Ordeal, about her “sex” life:
“I literally became a prisoner, I was not allowed out of his [husband Chuck Traynor’s] sight, not even to use the bathroom, where he watched me through a hole in the door. He slept on top of me at night, he listened to my telephone calls with a .45 automatic eight shot pointed at me. I was beaten physically and suffered mental abuse each and every day thereafter… My initiation into prostitution was a gang rape by five men, arranged by Mr. Traynor. It was the turning point in my life. He threatened to shoot me with the pistol if I didn't go through with it.”
Confusingly, there's a second Lovelace biopic also in production, called Inferno. Lindsay Lohan was originally cast as Linda (although she was fired part-way through filming).
The picture above is from a scene where five men rape Lovelace. In her autobiography, Linda referrers to this as the first time she is made to be a prostitute by Chuck.
She describes how the men take it in turn to fuck her, anally rape her, then complain she isn’t enjoying it or asking for more. Conversely, the Inferno photo is of the woman taken at dude’s height, of her with legs coquettishly bent, finger to her mouth, passively waiting for the men lining up to screw her.
The re-imagining of Linda’s life in this photograph is utterly deranged. This photograph is The Worst. If Inferno ends up being anything like this picture suggests, we should all be very, very worried about what is seen as acceptable in movie land.
While the account of Linda’s life given in her autobiography has been widely disputed by a number of different people, it still stands to reason that as biographical films Inferno and Lovelace should respect the person’s own account of their life – even if they were accused of being a compulsive liar.
Lovelace is not around to defend herself, or to critique the film. She died in 2002, alone, with two marriages behind her. She hated everything she did as part of her “career”.
If even just a quarter of what she wrote is true, then she had a shit life. She wrote that after leaving her strict parents for the manipulative Chuck Traynor (who she was later forced to marry), she was beaten up, humiliated, neglected, threatened with a gun, psychologically abused, physically assaulted and – in one leg-crossingly squeamish scene – forced to have sex with a dog on video tape, which later became the film Dogarama.
If this is a mere exaggeration of true events, then it’s safe to say she suffered horribly. Even if it was fabrication that she was forced at gun-point to have sex with a dog (and I’m very weird with the word “sex” being used when “rape” seems so much more appropriate), she was still the victim of an industry that values you by what “freaky” stuff you’ll do, and to what extent you are prepared to degrade yourself.
When Ordeal was published in 1980, Linda joined Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem in the anti-pornography feminist movement. According to Naomi Wolf, who attended the screening of the film at Sundance earlier this year, any mention of feminism has been eradicated from Lovelace, even though it was clearly such an important part of her life.
Linda, abuse or no, obviously didn’t think her career made her open up like a “flower”. She obviously didn’t enjoy sex. She considered what happened to her to be rape.
Deep Throat, Linda’s best-known porno flick, was about a woman who can only orgasm by giving blow jobs, as her clitoris is in her throat. If you read that without rolling your eyes, you are a more tolerant woman than I am.
Deep Throat was made to be subversive – someone, somewhere knew it was wrong and shouldn’t be on big screens across the world. This wasn’t supposed to be family entertainment. That this is a mainstream film is just one of the things that makes the whole concept of Lovelace fucked up.
After getting off her stool, and seeing the photographs that have been taken of her, Linda starts crying: “You’ve made me beautiful”, she weeps. Surely I’m not the only one gagging here?