When you think about adult film stars, different thoughts run through people’s minds. Society has made it easy to make a statement or have an immediate opinion about pornography. Which is why Deborah Anderson, a well-known and esteemed photographer, has taken the liberty of showing us the girls behind their porn star image. Aroused is well-directed and unique in its content and presentation.
Renting a house in the Hollywood Hills, Deborah Anderson collects sixteen of the most well-known adult film stars (Belladonna, Alexis Texas, Francesca Le, and Misty Stone to name a few), she designs a photo-shoot in order to reveal their sensual side rather than their sexual one. Aside from the photo-shoot, Anderson gets up close and personal with the women on a different level. In a private setting, the photographer uses close-up shots, distinct lighting and conversations to get behind the porn star façade and into their thoughts. Was entering the world of pornography a choice? How do they live outside of what they do? How did they get into the business?
Surprising is what their answers turn out to be. Anderson really lets the girls do all the talking, not afraid to bare all for the cameras the intimacy of their personalities and not just their bodies. She lets them talk about their childhoods and what their families think of their profession; how they feel about their harsh critics and what it’s like to have outside relationships while doing what they’re doing.
What’s most intriguing about the insightful documentary is the interview conducted with one of the agents in the industry. It’s one of the highlights of the hour as Anderson tries to understand not the just the porn stars and their motivations, but also the person who helps manage their career. What she digs up are things you don’t expect to hear and the agent’s answers will have you raising your eyebrows.
It’s interesting to note the fact that Anderson wants to get to know the girls on a personal level yet still uses their bodies to exemplify the full extent of who they are. It reiterates the fact that they are in touch and relaxed in their own skin, yet Anderson’s use of certain poses and too many close-up shots are somewhat distracting to the overall content. An extremely close shot takes away from what the girls are saying and has you focusing too much on certain parts of their face, which fills up most of the screen so there’s really nowhere else to look. It’s excessive in the final ten minutes or so and since it’s so late in the documentary, it thankfully doesn’t take away from the overall message.
Anderson also briefly touches on the aspect of sex in society, how it’s perceived, and the obsession our society has with it. Yes, sex sells, but what Anderson questions is the obsession of attaching it to every product and service that the ads and companies try to sell. It’s a shame Anderson doesn’t delve into this topic more as it proves interesting to the overall link to pornography and how it’s perceived.
While a couple of things don’t quite work, Anderson does a great job in her directorial debut. The topic she chooses is a brave and unique take on a subject that is taboo. She vows to get to know the girls and their points of view before seeing their work so that she doesn’t pre-judge them based on what they do. This makes her an unbiased storyteller, choosing to focus on the industry and the girls’ experiences with it, hoping to take one step closer to shedding a stereotype. Aroused is definitely a documentary worth watching if only for the unique point of view and approach that Anderson chooses to take.