Louis Theroux Weird Weekends – BBC Knowledge

BBC Knowledge is re-running a 1998 series by Louis Theroux in which he
goes Gonzo-style into ‘weird’ subcultures. It makes a worthwhile change
from the standard fly on the wall stuff. He’s filming openly, to the
point of even participating in the main activity reported on. There is
no subterfuge or undercover try-to-catch-them-out but he leaves it,
thankfully, up to the viewer to ponder the lifestyles of the strange and
The episode
that caught my attention was about the Los Angeles porn industry, then
(1998) in the midst of an HIV scare (several performers had been
recently diagnosed and caused shock waves through the industry with many
reconsidering their careers) but not yet fully affected by the online
free-for-all (performing and downloading) which has made the current
business model basically untenable.
But what we learn from the film is that it’s an excellent short term
money spinner for performers despite the risks to your physical and
mental health. The glaring difference with the real world – speaking in
terms of male and female pay rates in doing the same job – is that men
earn far less than women and actually have a much harder (to excuse a
pun) job than their female co-stars: keeping wood and delivering the
money shot after a long day filming on a set with many staff around and
when many of your co-performers may not be of your sexual taste is
admirable. The attrition rate mentioned by the producers and casting
agents, who, of course, make the most money out of your talent, is not
A few vignettes stuck in my mind: the English girl who preferred to work
in American porn instead of Europe because “she doesn’t get bruised or
injured here”; the male former Airforce performer who looked genuinely
puzzled when asked what he was going to do if porn didn’t work out in
the future (there is never a plan B in America, it seems); the sheer
stress on all the males to perform – and you got to feel sorry for those
gay-for-pay straight dudes who have their minds and genitals messed