The Porn Report : Interview With Professor Alan McKee


alan-mckee The Porn Report

Natalie Brown spoke with the enigmatic and enchanting Professor Alan McKee about his book The Porn Report.

Professor Alan McKee is a long way from Glasgow and experienced a lot of success in his career to date.

From authoring several books to being past president of the Cultural Studies Association of Australia, and past editor of Continuum.

He’s worked on Big Brother, done scriptwriting for comedy and is now Professor in Film and Television at QUT.

Alan, What factor or factors do you attribute to getting you to where you are today?

ALAN: I think the primary thing is bloody-mindedness.

When somebody says, “no there’s no way it’s possible to do that”, I do it to piss them off.

I don’t know whether being queer fits into that. Being outside of the norm necessarily means you always have to prove yourself. Certainly being stubborn-minded has helped.

In 2002, during a Radio National interview, you proposed a cultural experiment called ‘Put down a book’ week. What was the purpose of this idea and what did it entail?

ALAN: Oh yes, ‘Put Down a Book Week’.

A group of people running a campaign ‘Turn off TV’ week

And you hear people trying to persuade you to watch less television.

Another report comes out every other week saying TV is bad for children.

You mustn’t let your kids watch more than a certain number of hours of television a night/week.

They come up with all these arguments like ‘they’re not getting enough exercise and ‘sitting in front of a screen is bad for you.

Now if that were true we should be arguing that children shouldn’t be allowed to read books either because reading a book doesn’t do you any more good than watching television, but of course, nobody says that because books are good and tv’s bad, and it’s just thoughtless anti-TV snobbery.

The reason is that television is the medium of the masses.

TV is a working-class medium whereas books are seen to be more high class.

I was trying to say, “look if you really believe that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch TV because it does not exercise then put your money where your mouth is and ban books as well.”

How successful was your campaign?

ALAN: Oh not at all, but the point was that it was about trying to get people to think about the hypocrisy of trying to ban television.

Of course, the people who are the snobs, just got shocked – how could you say that, but don’t actually have any arguments against it?

Okay, I’ve made an argument, can you engage with that? But they have nothing to give back to you because it’s illogical and irrational.

It’s just something they believe in really passionately, they can’t actually engage with the argument.

Your latest book “The Porn Report” was described by The Weekend Australian as ‘engaging (and startling), confronting and confounding. What inspired you to write The Porn Report?

ALAN: I work in a university and I get paid with public money and I think that brings with it a certain responsibility to do research that is going to be of interest to ordinary people.

And my area is media studies/film and television and if you’re thinking about what issues in that area actually concern ordinary Australians, pornography is way up at the top of the list.

People are worried, does it have an effect on society, is it damaging to children, does it lead to violence against women?

That sort of thing is what people are concerned about and so I wanted to do some research on that.

It was also because I was very aware that a lot of the research that had been done was very poor.

There’s a lot of research that’s been done on pornography over the years, a lot, but it all started from the assumption that pornography is bad.

It set out in various ways to try and prove that.

There’s never been any academic research is done, and this is unbelievable considering there have been thousands of articles in the last thirty years.

There has never been a single piece of academic research done that started by asking the question, what are the effects of pornography, both positive and negative, on society, and on consumers? Nobody had asked that, so clearly it was virgin territory; nobody had done anything like it before.

 What would be the strangest or most bizarre thing that you heard or learnt during your research for the book?

ALAN: The single most bizarre thing that I found out was that there are a sexual group of people who are aroused by young girls’ feet and they have photographs from the sound of music on a website as a pornographic masturbation aid.

NATALIE: What else did the research entail? I remember seeing you at a lecture and you said that you had to watch lots and lots of porn. How did you find the
experience?

ALAN: Oh it was very strange for me watching straight porn.

Very odd because you watch it and you think, oh, that doesn’t go in there.

Interview with Professor Alan McKee by Natalie Brown

Professor Alan McKee runs the Television degree in the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology and is the author of five books including the Porn Report,  and Australian Television. He has worked on many television shows including Big BrotherThe Einstein FactorToday Tonight and The Sideshow.

 

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