Porn: Extra creepy-looking in high-def

Back in the summer of 2005, I wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine pointing out that high-def TV is spectacularly unforgiving of celebrities’ skin flaws — so much so that high-def was likely to uglify several people normally considered beautiful. Newscasters in New York were speed-dialing their plastic surgeons in an attempt to stay ahead of the technological curve. While I was doing the research, several people noted that the next big area of media getting hit by high-def future-shock was porn. “Have you ever actually seen a piece of high-def porn?” one TV analyst asked me. “It’s nasty.”

So I was intrigued to open up today’s New York Times Business section and find an article on precisely this subject. As they note, porn relies on close-ups more than any other form of visual media, and high-def close-ups are almost always ghastly beyond words. To quote:

“The biggest problem is razor burn,” said Stormy Daniels, an actress, writer and director. [pictured above]

Ms. Daniels is also a skeptic. “I’m not 100 percent sure why anyone would want to see their porn in HD,” she said.

The technology’s advocates counter that high definition, by making things clearer and crisper, lets viewers feel as close to the action as possible.

“It puts you in the room,” said the director known as Robby D., whose films include “Sexual Freak.”

Eek. These days, I still wonder how the regular, non-porn TV-show hosts are faring. Back when I wrote my original New York Times Magazine piece on this phenomenon, I was actually pretty gentle in my descriptions of some of the stars I saw in red-carpet footage. I didn’t want to be mean. But the truth was, the majority of them all looked like hell warmed over, and when the camera zoomed in on each full-screen interview headshot, I screamed and screamed like a little girl. It was like being Gulliver in Brobdingnag, queazed out by the sight of the giant’s pores looming like lunar craters. When one well-known celebrity power couple went in front of the camera, both of them looked sephulchral — despite double standards about beauty and aging, men and women are equally humbled before the soul-bearing gaze of high-def. “This,” I thought, “is going to end their careers.”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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