In a more enlightened age, Being Ron Jeremy and Desperately Seeking Seka would be the titles of honest-to-goodness porno films, but this is the age of smut-once-removed, when adult entertainment is so readily available that it's lost its cachet. The medium's bids for respectability tend to come through filters, like books, documentaries, and TV guest shots by porn stars. Porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry, but adult-film celebrities are still more likely to get booked on Maury Povich than Jay Leno, and to pop up in B-movies and rock videos, not at the Oscars.
The dynamic becomes clear on one of Being Ron Jeremy's DVD special features, a 10-minute Ron Jeremy stand-up comedy routine followed by a half-hour Q&A. The jokes are just okay, but the interview is fascinating, as Jeremy attempts to honestly explain what it takes to be a male porn star. The audience keeps laughing, and Jeremy keeps interjecting, "No, I'm serious," but it's too late. Jeremy's become the funny little smut-clown, willing to sell his name on the stand-up comedy circuit and mock himself in a lame softcore parody like Being Ron Jeremy. In the 40-minute main feature, writer-director Brian Berke plays a geeky comic who discovers a way to take control of Jeremy's body, and Berke's propensity for premature ejaculation and flatulence all but wrecks Jeremy's sex life and career. There's some funny material early on: It's hard to have too much ill will for a movie that features an old man storming into an adult bookstore and complaining, "This butt-plug is defective!" And the scenes where Andy Dick and Jeremy watch adult videos and debate whether Jeremy might be gay have an amusingly weird vibe. But once the Being John Malkovich riffs start, Berke follows a dull course straight to the end, where the movie turns into an ad for Jeremy's comedy career.
It might've been better had Ron Jeremy pulled a Seka, and disappeared from the public eye after a good, short run. In the documentary Desperately Seeking Seka, Swedish journalist Stefan Nylén goes looking for the mononymic early-'80s porn star, stopping first in L.A. to interview her colleagues still in the business, like Nina Hartley and Peter North. Co-directors Magnus Paulsson and Christian Hallman assemble the footage sloppily, inserting random Seka sex scenes and bridging the segments with shaky-cam shots of a stoplight for no apparent reason. To liven up the interviews, the directors add pop-up factoids, but the statistics and dates don't really explain how a full-bodied Midwestern blonde became an exotic figure largely because she worked for a company called Swedish Erotica. Desperately Seeking Seka instead ends up being another mini-history of pornography at the dawn of the video era, and though some of the insights are keen, the fact that so many of people from the porn world are willing to talk to anyone with a camera is getting a little sad. Oversexed folks shouldn't act so desperate.