Porn on Purpose

Award-winning gonzo director Robby D. thinks before he shoots

I first met Robby D. in 2001 on the set of a Vivid film he was directing starring Kira Kener. Kira was fucking a guy named TJ Cummings in the kitchen of a nice house. I remember three things very distinctly: He looked more like some skateboard dude than the guy in charge, he referred to Kira's pussy as a cookie, and he wiped cum—which wasn't his—off her tits when the scene was over. About a year later, he left Vivid to direct for Digital Playground, where he's been ever since.

I saw Robby again at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in January and had a chance to pick his brain about his most and least favorite topic: himself. Besides the fact that he feigns modesty about his own ingenuity, he's a great interview. He disses other directors, tells intimate secrets about performers, and has no self-censor button. But the dirt wasn't nearly as interesting as my subject himself. Robby is probably best known for his "Jack's Playground" series, which has racked up lots of awards this year, including the AVN Award for Best Gonzo Series. Jack is Robby's alter ego-cum-everyman, a guy just trying to get laid. He tells women he's a music video producer scouting for talent (he's not, he actually lives off his dad's money). He convinces them to get naked, jerk off, and if he's lucky, fuck on film in order to get a part in a video. Jack himself is never seen or satisfied in front of the camera, as his porn star friends are always showing up at the last minute to steal his thunder and get the girls.

It's a great blend of reality porn and sex comedy, marrying context and copulation. That context is no mistake: "Give me a reason why those guys are getting laid," said Robby about other gonzo offerings. "At least my sound guy gets laid. I want a reason." Oh, in addition to his porn stud buddies, Jack's "sound guy" also gets some action, but more importantly, everyone in Jack's world has some motivation to fuck. What motivates people to do it (does the paycheck count?) is often missing in other gonzo videos.

Robby has produced more than 20 volumes of "Playground," which spawned the series "Jack's Teen America" (about which he says: "I like that a lot, it makes me really horny. I've jerked off to that like crazy") and its newest franchise, "My First Porn," which debuts in August, about Jack trying to make an adult video.

He may be at the top of the gonzo game, but he also directs features, including Contract Star, the one flick this year that got me going in a way pornos usually don't. I don't mean reaching for my vibrator, I mean that it stayed on my mind long after I watched it. Two guys work menial jobs for a porn company. Porn company is in search of its next big contract star. Guys try to convince their girlfriends to do it. Sounds like a simple plot, but Robby rarely does simple. The main characters are Mexican American, and stereotypes abound: guys in hairnets, girls with thick Spanish accents, all fucking against a backdrop of the Virgin Mary painted on velvet. But here's the clincher: They're all played by white actors. Satire on the representation of race and ethnicity in adult film or racist piece of trash? He's quick to claim the former and says he was influenced by send-ups of "all these white guys who think they're black," as in Malibu's Most Wanted. He also reminds me that the reason he made it way over the top was so the acting wouldn't look so bad. ("That's secretly been my whole approach to adult: If you don't have to rely on these people to act, then it will be a much better show.") He also says his two editors, who are Mexican, wrote the script and meant to make fun of themselves.

Of all topics to tackle in porn, race is the most problematic. It's oversimplified, ghettoized, and more than a little un-p.c. Ethnic titles (that's what they're called) are considered a niche, and rarely do different races mix within that niche. In other words, a title is usually all Asian, all Latina, or all black. In addition to such distinct separations, each ethnic group is usually fetishized in some way; think Black Street Hookers, Asian Dolls, Salsa and Spice. If a video's not devoted to one group, then it's interracial, which in porn is shorthand for black men fucking white women. In the last five years, as more performers, directors, and producers of color have come into the industry, there have been more integrated and diverse representations, but things have a long way to go.

So what the heck is Robby D. doing spoofing Mexican culture in an industry that doesn't exactly have a solid track record for sensitivity and irony? If it is meant to be a parody, what if audiences don't get it? (Some reviewers must have, since it picked up an Adam Film World Award for Best Comedy.) He insists that most audiences probably don't get it—so what?—and the fans who've called him racist scum should "lighten the fuck up." Something tells me he'd say the same thing about my analysis of the race politics of Contract Star. The video's not a triple-X Do the Right Thing, but it definitely challenges the viewer (at least this viewer) more than your average hardcore fare. Maybe most people don't want porn to be challenging, but I appreciate it when I'm offended in a surprising way, rather than the usual "suck my dick, bitch" way.

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