Sometimes it’s hard to measure the distance between the supposedly establishment, respectable press and the seediest corners of hardcore pornography. On March 1, ABC’s "Nightline" celebrated a porn star named "James Deen" (real name: Bryan Sevilla). The apparent "news" hook is his role in a forthcoming movie with the evermore pathetic Lindsay Lohan.
ABC reporter Cecilia Vega sold Deen as a 27-year-old hazard to teenaged girls. They’re boasting he’s found a new frontier of porn consumers, "some of them so young we couldn't even interview them on camera. Their parents had no idea that secretly they have a crush on a porn star. It is a phenomenon that not even the man at the center of it fully understands, but it's one that he fully defends." Insert ooooh-ahhhh track here.
Nothing sells like sensationalistic sex. Just call it "news" -- and hide the smirk.
Deen took the usual porn star’s usual "sex-positive" stance: "You know, there's a 15-year-old girl, an underage girl, an underage guy, an underage person that is viewing a scene that I'm in or any sort of porn, chances are they're doing that because either they're curious, they're horny, whatever it is, they’re sexual enough that it is something that they desire, that they crave, that they want. And it's not necessarily a bad thing."
This is not Ted Koppel’s "Nightline," watching him yammer with an expert about Iranian mullahs. This isn’t professional journalism. It’s crotch-centered tabloid fare for the MTV crowd.
Vega turned to Deen’s vaunted girl fans for more praise, like Christina Ahlsen, now 21: "He looks like somebody that I could see at, you know, a coffee shop or something and actually approach." She also likes porn: "My first legitimate encounter with porn was when I was in fourth grade and I searched Playboy. It was early adolescence, yeah, and that's, you know, a very curious stage." Vega then added: "There are literally thousands of women out there who share Christina's enthusiasm for all things James Deen."
It quickly becomes apparent that this ABC story is not a warning against Deen. It is a commercial for Deen. Anchor Juju Chang began the segment by insisting "James Deen, of course, is not his real name. It's his porn name, and it could soon be a household name." ABC shows you and talks about Deen’s blog, lingers over Deen’s Twitter page with 111,000 followers, as Vega cooed, "And if the visitors to his site are underage, well, Deen says that's not something he can control."
By story’s end, Deen says he’s found himself in trouble in "direct messaging" mode on Twitter with teenaged girls. You can’t "DM" girls without "following" them on Twitter first. Nowhere in this story does ABC note this kind of Internet fraternizing is exactly where everything went wrong for ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Vega reported Deen’s appeal is not just his looks, as "porn’s guy next door," but that "The young fans tell us they're drawn to Deen because he's different, a porn star who holds hands with his leading ladies, who gazes into their eyes, even shows a little romance."
Anyone spending five minutes on Deen’s blog could see ABC’s spin was ridiculous. Click on an ad and you’re quickly led to Deen’s catalog of work on Kink.com, where Deen is not "showing a little romance." He’s slapping the spit out of his leading ladies while he dominates them sexually.
There’s even a film for sale titled "Christian Speed Dating -- Innocent Girl Gangbanged on Film." That’s in case you love the idea of four men gang-raping a virginal Christian girl. The actress – who we’re assured is over 18, but doesn’t look like it – is being strangled in the promotional picture. So much for holding hands.
Here’s the longer sales blurb: "Donna Dolore develops a diabolical plan to get unsuspecting Christian girls who are saving themselves for marriage to lose their virginity on camera for all to see. After luring them in with promises of finding a soul mate she offers them money to do an interview about their experience for promotional material. Trusting and naive Jodi enters a hotel room to film the video, only to be ambushed and f---ed in every hole possible."
ABC News never located an actual parent who might disapprove of Deen and this kind of filth. They never found an anti-pornography expert or a social-conservative think-tanker for a single discouraging word. Put simply, ABC was a porn star’s pimp.