A few years back I caught about half of a documentary on...The Sundance Channel? I think it was the Sundance Channel, so this was of course back when I had so many channels they could afford to be named after Western characters. At any rate, the film in question was Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy (which, by the way, came out a full three years before the similarly-titled Anchorman and is also, like I said, a documentary.) The last half of the film more or less devotes itself to Jeremy's attempts to break in to mainstream cinema with meager success. The man was (and is) a household name, but in trying to get parts in Hollywood pictures he wound up playing himself or some Ron Jeremy-type (or, in the case of The Boondock Saints, a cameo where he gets quickly murdered). Eventually he went back to the thing he does best, though taking time to pop up occasionally at three in the morning for bizarre infomercials about MALE. ENHANCEMENT.
He wouldn't be the last to try and make the ascent. Traci Lords (okay, so I have a hard time telling who among these are household names and who I just know) had a brief stab at a Legitimate Television Career when she starred in the (reputedly quite fucking lame) SciFi Channel series 'First Wave' back in the 90's and has been slumming it (well, that's relative...and gee, there are a lot of parentheses, aren't there?) in B-Movies and occasional TV bit parts.
And so now there's Sasha Grey. Grey's coming along at a time when porn and porn culture is at an all-time high in terms of visibility, when niche cable outlets like G4 devote segments of their shows to the industry and send news teams to the Adult Entertainment Expo. Premiere Magazine sent David Foster Wallace, of all people, to the Adult Video Awards. Grey's starring in a film by Steven Soderbergh, who is nothing to sneeze at. So is she a bellwether? Or just a canary?
I'm thinking this over because I saw the movie this evening. It was good. Sasha Grey, while by no means Meryl Streep or anything, avoids the cliche of the Porn Actress Who Really, Really Can't Act to Save Her Life or the Lives of Others. She plays Chelsea as a guarded, vulnerable person trying to navigate a world where everyone wants a piece of her, and the one time she lets her barriers down, well...wouldn't you know it.
But as Soderbergh pictures go, this isn't Oceans 25 or something, this is one of his smaller pictures, and Grey, let's face it, is playing it pretty close to type in the role as a professional escort. If she was starring opposite some giant robots, for instance, then maybe she'd have a chance, but this has all the potential to be a mere flash in the pan, a historical footnote in America's long dark back-of-the-cupboard relationship with its sexuality and depictions thereof.
Though to quote porn-industry blog fleshbot (link NSFW)
"If anything, we suspect that Sasha is attempting to remake the notion of what a mainstream star is, and does-much the way she's remade any notions of what an 18-year-old pornstar looks and sounds like .... it's also possible that Sasha could rise to fame in the mainstream cinema while continuing to work as an adult star-perhaps completely remaking our notions of what it means to have crossover appeal."
Time will tell. But giant robots surely would have helped.