Sunday, May 19, 2013

[noun]-porn

In today's NYTimes Frank Bruni used the phrase "hardship porn" to describe "fetishized misfortune," or the cheap use of sob stories to lend seeming-emotional-substance to what are clearly callously manipulative, calculated narratives: American Idol performer stories, politician's tales about their ancestors or past difficulties, and the like.

For years I've been using the phrase "horror porn" to express my inability to watch genre horror films -- or more to the point, what I see and feel when I watch them. The phrase sums up the "emptiness" of the experience for me. However, if you google "horror porn," you're more likely to find videos that combine elements of both genre horror films and actual pornography. My usage hasn't quite caught on.

"Food porn" on the other hand was an established internet visual genre even before Pinterest came along to cement its popularity, and before that the phrase had an earlier life as a statement of feminist disapprobation of a fetishized woman-food connection, and criticism of the food-ad industry. 

The dictionaries I checked (with the exception of Urban Dictionary) make no reference (yet) to this use of "porn," as a noun (modified by another noun), centralizing the negative connotations of the word "porn" while the modifier tells us what category of thing is being disapproved of.

There does seem to be the possibility of confusion -- even "food porn" could be misinterpreted to mean standard pornography that uses food in a sexual way. However, it's interesting to think that someday people might say "sex porn" to refer to what we would just call porn, and use the word "porn" in general to refer to any empty, meaningless, or manipulative narrative fragment designed to illicit an emotional response without an honest or decent (moral) purpose.




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