So the other night Channel 4 screened Sex: The Annabel Chong Story. I'd heard of the film before, of course, in that some rate it as a great piece of documentary filmmaking. Whether that is true though is highly contentious.
Sex: The Annabel Chong Story enraged feminists on release. Now, I'm the first one in line when it comes to contesting some feminist arguments as I've met many women in life who take huge liberties with the definition of feminism and feel that they can trample over men and do what the hell they like, similar to how political correctness has been hijacked and corrupted. Anyway, I'm glad that this time feminists have the good sense to be able to differentiate between right and wrong, or good and bad in this world.
In a nutshell, Annabel Chong (her real name is Grace), a pretty twentysomething Singaporean Chinese girl, (by way of London), studies at university in Los Angeles and decides to become a part of the porn industry. The story goes that she had sex with 'everybody' in college, was bored and wondered what she could do next (and its here that you immediately feel a tinge of sadness for this poor girl, whose social activities in college revolve around just one thing.) During a class analysing gender, the question was put as to why it was that, when a man has sex with lots of women he's considered a 'stud' and yet when a woman has sex with lots of men she's considered to be a 'slut' or 'whore'. Its an interesting and valid question, but in my experience, it usually means the individual has serious issues or just no morals - no one can claim to be a hero for sleeping with lots of other human beings. Well, Grace (Annabel) took the question to heart and wondered whether she could prove that a woman could be a 'stud' and hurtled head long into the murky world of the porn industry.
It is here that the story takes a darker, sinister tone. You see, right from the beginning, it is quite clear that Grace is not convinced by her own argument, in fact, its written all over her face. The more we get to see of her, the more we see an emotionally stunted little girl who has either not matured enough or not been warned during her formal years that it is actually a big, bad world out there with wolves around many corners. There's a self-deluding idealism about Grace that makes watching this documentary 'car crash' TV.
The more we see of the clips and extracts of Grace's world record breaking gang-bang the more we appreciate that this is a sweet little girl who has got in way out of her depth and the pictures show the horror of pain she subjects herself too in this awful circus. The video, (in which she had sex with 251 men over 10 hours), went on to become the biggest selling porn video ever. Cold comfort to Grace who, according to the documentary, didn't see any of the $10,000 she'd been promised. There are clips of Grace on Jerry Springer - like most of the guests on that show, paraded in front of the baying crowd like some freakish circus animal.
So, either this documentary is a sordid little effort seeking to capitalise on the wreckage of some poor girls life, or it is a devastatingly realistic portrayal of a society where morality has been chucked out like the baby with the bath water and Grace, the film's subject, is portrayed as a victim of this moral bankruptcy. It is very hard to decide which this is.
Grace is obviously a damaged person. As I mentioned above, anyone with a passing understanding of body language can tell that by her tight, constricted mouth when she attempts a smile and her somewhat forced delivery when she speaks, her ticks and mannerisms; this is a girl trying to convince herself more than the listener that what she does is right, when all she is doing is deluding herself.
What makes the film even more of a trial is that just when you feel you've been shocked enough, Grace drops another bombshell. I am sure that, throughout the whole time this film was made, and before it, Grace had mental health issues and it was these that allowed her so easily to slip between the cracks of a society that does not care for its troubled and fall into the hands of a porn industry that took advantage of her. There's something curiously sickening about watching the men line up for their time with Grace, during the clips of the infamous video film, they remind the viewer of predatory pack animals circling some prey and what they all got out of it one can only shudder at wondering.
Grace reveals that she was regularly taking drugs and that she didn't care about putting herself at risk from HIV/AIDS because, as far as she was concerned, 'I believe that sex is good enough to die for'. It becomes all the more upsetting when we gain insight into the fragile, sweet nature of this girl who is intelligent, academic and certainly kind-hearted.
As the film becomes increasingly darker, we see Grace self-harming with a knife and learn that she was gang raped by six men on a London council estate - this makes us begin to understand why she might have gone on to do what she did, but this only alluded to in the film, never dealt with as a motivation behind Grace's actions. She returns to Singapore and we then have to watch her poor mother (a lovely woman) deal with the news that her daughter is now infamous around the world. She assures her mother that she will do right by her and make every effort to make amends only to return to LA and go back to making porn films. You can't help but feel sorry for Grace, but also despise her for humiliating her mother so publicly and promising her so much, only to effectively rub her face in it at the end. Some people, it seems, are beyond help.
This is a very depressing film so on that note I will not recommend it. If you have the mettle, and are tough enough to watch how the corrupt side of Western culture eats its own, then you might want to see this, if nothing else out of anthropoloical interest. Personally, I'd rather have missed it, as it confirmed much about the seedier, unseemly side of humanity that I knew enough about without having to learn more. How anyone could have bought that porn tape and found it a turn on is beyond me. The whole thing looked more like a video nasty than every 80's slasher flick combined.
For the documentary:
For its subject matter: