The ill-judged legal case that opened the floodgates to X-rated space opera parodies.
Porn parodies are ten a penny these days – in fact, they make up the bulk of the feature film side of the porn world these days, as the market has dwindled under the weight of tube sites, custom clips and short burst smut. X-rated spoofs are nothing new, of course, going back to the pre-hardcore days, but in the past, there used to be a little more effort put into the titling of these films – today, the average spoof is just the title of the film or TV show being imitated, with ‘XXX’ or ‘A Porn Parody’ attached to the title. Emphasising the ‘parody’ aspect – even if some of these films don’t seem to have any parodic aspects to them – is all that is needed to cover the films under US law – parody being protected speech. It’s likely that some rights holders could try to sue, though most appear to have decided that it would mean being dragged into a long, expensive and publicly embarrassing court case that they had no guarantee of winning. They might have been advised by their lawyers that Lucasfilm did just that almost twenty years ago and left with nothing more than a bloody nose, a possible precedent-setting judgement against them and a great deal of bad publicity. The media might not like porn, but it seems they like bullyboy billionaire industries even more.
In 2001, Lucasfilm – no strangers to suing anyone who dares to try and get a tiny sliver of their massive pie – took legal action over an X-rated animated film called Star Ballz, making the frankly bizarre allegations that the spoof movie might confuse consumers into believing that it was an officially sanctioned Star Wars movie, that it might result in loss of sales for Lucasfilm and that it might harm their reputation. It all seemed absolute nonsense – the idea that a crude porno cartoon might be mistaken for an official product was laughable, the suggestion that it might somehow bite into the gargantuan sales of official Star Wars product seemed the very height of greed and the only harm to reputation was likely to come from this pompous court case.
Star Ballz wasn’t even the first Star Wars porn parody – in 1985, Sex Wars appeared on video, but was either too obscure, too trashy or too much unlike Star Wars – possibly all three – to be noticed by Lucasfilm. With a cast of well-known names like Paul Thomas, Richard Pacheco and Mike Horner, this is a decidedly weird affair – arguably too far removed from Star Wars to have ever troubled lawyers. But there are strange visuals, costumes and endearing special effects that all make this worth seeking out if you can find it (you can: it’s on XHamster).
Star Ballz is not exactly a great work of art – a crudely animated affair, following characters like Wank Solo and Lord Limpbiscuit. Allegedly directed by Ddangerfield (real name (David Penava), the obviously Japanese-made film was released by Media Marketing Group – not one of porn’s top production houses, and as the company spokeswoman Lydia Wolfblood said, “No one in their right mind could look at it and say this is Star Wars.” That was something of an understatement.
Given the financial and cultural clout of Lucasfilm, it was perhaps surprising that the court ruled against them. But legally, they didn’t have a leg to stand on. Parody is legally protected, and there seemed little chance of anyone mistaking this for an official Star Wars film. The two products were unlikely to even be sold in the same places. The idea of ‘trademark dilution’ was frankly laughable. The case was dismissed.
To add insult to injury, Media Marketing Group then launched a $10 million slander suit against Lucasfilm. This was because – perhaps in a moment of ill-judged fury – Lucasfilm publicist Lynne Hale had reacted the judgement by saying “this is a pornographic cartoon utilizing Star Wars intellectual property. We feel strongly that the law does not allow for parody to be a defence to a pornographic use of someone else’s intellectual property, especially when that use is directed to children.”
Star Ballz, of course, was not aimed at children – in fact, the words ‘adults only’ were plastered across the sleeve in several places. Suggesting that a company was deliberately pitching a pornographic product to kids was quite the accusation, and MMG were well within their rights to sue, though inevitably, the lawsuit was more a publicity stunt than a serious legal action, and fizzled out quickly. Still, it might have stopped Lucasfilm from appealing the court judgement and instead deciding to withdraw from what was already an embarrassing episode.
In the end, the only thing that Lucasfilm did with this ill-conceived court case was to put porn parodies on some sort of solid legal standing. No one was going to risk legally pursuing any of the producers again, and the floodgates were opened. And of course, Star Wars spoofs have led the way.
In 2006, Private released the Porn Wars trilogy, an ambitious series that suffered from the usual Private problems – hugely expensive production values scuppered by a European cast who could barely speak English grappling with dialogue. Rather better is Axel Braun’s Star Wars XXX, made in 2012. Here, the story, the dialogue and the imagery are recreated with remarkable precision. The effects and the sets – a mix of decent CGI and impressive physical props – are all spot-on, and the characters are pretty decent recreations. If Rocco Reed looks more like Chevy Chase than Harrison Ford and Darth Vader seems a little skinny, that’s okay, because Tom Byron is remarkably authentic as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Seth Gamble is suitably naïve and dopey as Luke Skywalker and Allie Haze is both cute and feisty as Princess Leia.
The sex scenes come in lengthy bursts between the storyline scenes – 90 minutes of the 150-minute movie are sex scenes, but the scenes between them are surprisingly long, so it’s unsurprising that when the sex scenes do appear, they are pretty thorough. And yes, before you ask – Princess Leia does have sex with Darth Vader and Luke (the latter in a three-way with Han), which is all sorts of wrong if you think about the wider story arc!
More recently, Digital Playground have gone all out on Star Wars porn, with Star Wars: The Last Temptation, Star Wars Underworld and two volumes of Parodies Awaken. We haven’t seen any of these, so we can only say that they look pretty impressive. Digital Playground are the producers of the Pirates XXX films, which set new standards for production quality, so I’d imagine that these films would be well worth a look for the Star Wars porn enthusiast.
Meanwhile, for those with more specialised tastes, Anastasia Pierce has made Rogue One: A Fetish Parody, which boasts an all-female cast and the bondage elements strangely missing from the original Star Wars. And if that isn’t to your taste, you could check out the all-male 2016 production, Star Wars: A Gay XXX Parody from Men.com – arguably closer to the very male-heavy world of the original Star Wars film. And for virtual reality fans, there’s the VR parody Slave Leia, in which you get to be a virtual Jabba the Hut.
On top of this, there’s no end of pornographic Star Wars comic strips, art and fan fiction out there for those who care to look, ranging – as you might expect – from the mildly erotic to the unspeakable. Tread carefully if you decide to explore this world.
Those of you wanting sexy Star Wars action in the flesh can check out the Australian touring show The Empire Strips Back, which combines burlesque with cosplay – where sexy Star Wars characters have been a staple for female ComicCon attendees, models in search of nerd attention and general exhibitionists. The burlesque show promises all manner of ludicrous reinterpretation of characters, is unquestionably ambitious and probably much more fun than the average neo-burlesque show, you should keep an eye out for this the next time it goes on tour.
At this point, we can assume that any attempts to desexualise Star Wars have long since been entirely abandoned, though with Disney now in control of the franchise, who knows? This is a company even more litigious and protective of its legacy than Lucasfilm, and I have no doubt that there is a rumbling anger that scurrilous pornographers are exploiting its cash cow for their own profit. I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth when this photo of former Disney star Maitland Ward turned up online:
In truth though, I suspect that Star Wars has long since passed so far into the popular culture that any attempt to control how it is copied, parodied, paid tribute to or mocked will be like playing Whack-A-Mole. It’s out there for the fans to enjoy in whatever way they choose, and if that includes engaging in sexual fantasies, so be it.