'We Were Duped': Adult Industry Figures React to Ninja Thyberg's 'Pleasure'

'We Were Duped': Adult Industry Figures React to Ninja Thyberg's 'Pleasure'

LOS ANGELES — The distributor of “Pleasure,” Swedish director Ninja Thyberg’s mainstream movie set in the porn industry which debuted digitally at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, held a screening yesterday in Hollywood for “cast and crew,” including several prominent adult-industry actors and directors who agreed to help with the project.

After the screening, director, producer and model Lance Hart tweeted, “I got asked to be in a movie about porn. I said I wouldn’t do it if it made us look bad. I was promised it wouldn’t; I was just playing one bad guy. It got bought by A24 and went to Sundance. I just watched it, and the central plot was a cheap shot making us look bad.”

“I know how hard it is to make and edit a movie,” he added. “Things don’t always go as planned, but the whole takeaway of the movie is basically, 'You’ll get really fucked up if you do porn.' Meanwhile my wife, friends and I are thriving emotionally and financially in our industry.”

Acclaimed director and Gamma creative director Axel Braun tweeted, “We all got duped into helping [Thyberg] make a movie that would have never happened without our support. But hey, ‘Pleasure’ was a hit at Sundance and Ninja Thyberg got signed by CAA.”

“I was promised the same,” Braun replied to Hart about Thyberg’s commitment to treat the industry fairly. “Instead we got a shock-value cautionary tale showcasing in great detail the negative side of our industry and zero of the positive. I'm very disappointed to say that while ‘Pleasure’ may be morbidly entertaining to watch, Ninja Thyberg has failed us.”

Concern Over Director's Past as 'Anti-Porn Activist' Resurfaces

“Pleasure” was shot over two years ago in the San Fernando Valley, with involvement of several people connected to the Spiegler Agency — including Mark Spiegler himself, who appears in the film — and prominent industry names such as Hart, Braun, Small Hands, Casey Calvert and others.

There had been concern among industry figures about “Pleasure” due to the fact that during the Sundance promotion, Thyberg had started mentioning that the movie was part of her “journey” from being “an anti-porn activist” to realizing models and others in the adult industry were people, too.

Earlier this week, XBIZ repeatedly asked the distributor, indie mainstream powerhouse A24, for a screener copy of the film or to be able to attend yesterday’s screening and a Q&A with Thyberg.

While constantly insisting that they were “very interested in what the industry press had to say about “Pleasure,” A24 adamantly refused to allow XBIZ to see the film at this point, even though mainstream reviewers were invited to the Sundance screening by the producers and wrote stigmatizing statements about the whole industry in their reviews.

"Yes, the movie was shown at Sundance, but now A24 has 'locked it down' for the time being for press," XBIZ was told.

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, one of the country’s top critics, reviewed “Pleasure” at Sundance and thought the film endorsed a generalizing, deeply stigmatizing view that “the real paradigm shift in porn — it’s one that underlies a spiritual shift in the culture — is how extreme so much of it has become. Simply put: in porn, 'extreme' is the new normal. I’m not just talking about the rise of fetish porn, the prominence of B&D and other ‘categories’ that were once relegated to the sidelines. I’m talking about the 'rough' vibe that now courses through so much online pornography, and how it has turned porn into an increasingly dark arena for acting out a kind of ritualized, eroticized aggression. Porn used to depict, more or less, what was known as vanilla sex. Now, to put it bluntly, more and more of it is about hate-fucking.”

“I make a point of this only because that’s the world that Ninja Thyberg has made a movie about with ‘Pleasure,’” Gleiberman added.

When asked about Thyberg's background as a self-defined former "anti-porn activist" in Sweden, a source close to the production told XBIZ that the director's statements about social and cultural issues "sometimes get lost in translation."

Sweden is the country where the Nordic Model of criminalizing sex work (i.e., shutting down the sex workers' source of income) originates and is openly espoused by supposed progressives. Other supposedly progressive Swedish figures regularly lambast "the mainstream porn industry" with outdated stereotypes and generalizations.

XBIZ will continue to attempt to view the film and to interview Thyberg about her background and "Pleasure."

Main Image: Ninja Thyberg and promo still from "Pleasure."

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