Assuming your children don’t grow up in an apocalyptic wasteland, you’d fully expect some parts of their childhood to look just like yours. Pop culture fads come and go, but they’ll have a lot of the same sports (how often do we invent new ones?), and when they discover porn, it’ll still look like the porn of your youth (they’re not designing new genitalia either).
That’s what you’d think, anyway. But there are some staples of the culture which you didn’t know are on the brink of extinction.
To be clear, porn isn’t going anywhere. When aliens study the ruins of our civilization millions of years from now, they will say that mankind’s rich tapestry of pornography is its great enduring legacy. But for an individual star to become a huge name across the pornoverse is all but impossible these days. There will be no Jenna Jamesons or Ron Jeremys for the new generation.
“So take your 14 inches and get back in the classroom, Ron.”
Back when porn was only available in magazine or videotape form, it made sense to stick to the oeuvre of one performer who … well, worked for you. Thus, one erotic celebrity’s name could singlehandedly keep entire studios afloat. But thanks to the limitless pornographic bounty of the internet, “full-time porn star” may soon no longer be a viable career option at all.
“Oh well. Guess I’ll have to fall back on being a Mensa genius and piano prodigy.”
After years of the interwebs being flooded with millions of hours of both amateur and pirated porn, adult film studio profits have dropped hard. But, ever the resilient purveyors of smut, the industry immediately started thinking up ways to reinvent porn for the modern age. (It’s something they’ve always done.) Their best idea so far? Custom-made videos catered to the needs of individual customers. A vast array of niche products for tiny audiences, some of whom are actually willing to pay money.
As opposed to the rest of the world, which regards porn which costs anything more than “zero” as highway robbery.
So performers who once earned thousands of dollars per scene are now doing webcam shows where name recognition takes a backseat to whether or not they fulfill a specific request, such as laughing at the viewer’s small penis (which is apparently something people ask for). A few eager actors are still trying to cling to the old model, fighting fiercely for a shrinking market and continuous low pay, but when your competition is personalized videos and millions of 100-percent free streaming movies, you’re essentially trying to float on a sack of iron dicks in the middle of the ocean.
We’d love for scientists to study the effects of this on human sexuality. Will it get to the point where everyone’s fetishes are so specific that no two people can enjoy the same erotica? Back in the olden days, everyone in your parents’ hometown could gather around the same Linda Lovelace video and become aroused in unison. Soon, your favorite porn star will be famous only to you, because she’s the best at using a vibrator while dressed as a Civil War general while seductively eating a bowl of pho while laughing at your small penis.
When we say “gay bars,” we don’t mean bars with a primarily homosexual clientele. We’re talking about very specific places — i.e. underground party-filled establishments where gay people would go to meet other gay people and be themselves in a safe environment. They’ve been influencing mainstream culture for decades, whether you knew it or not. Disco and techno both got their starts in gay clubs, and the gay scene shaped Madonna’s act before she became the biggest female pop star in history. We can also thank them for making club drugs like Ecstasy popular. And of course, the gay rights movement started with a series of riots at a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn.
But gay bars are going away. This would seem to be a huge loss to the culture as a whole, but the good news is that they’re disappearing for mostly uplifting reasons.
Well, technically they’re disappearing from bankruptcy, but empowering bankruptcies.
As gay culture continues to be accepted in the mainstream, the traditional safe meeting spots for dating and hooking up are being replaced by online communities and apps, just like they are for heterosexual people. As for going someplace with your friends to have a good time without catching a hate-crimey vibe, it’s fortunately way easier to find spots to do that now. Intolerance / country western bars are of course still a thing, but we actually made enough progress for gay people to no longer need bars that are exclusively for them.
We finally have a bar scene where we can all come together to focus on what truly matters: getting drunk cheaply.
It’s like during Prohibition, when people had to go to speakeasies to drink safely without getting arrested. Well, gay bars were basically the speakeasies of homosexuality. But ever since homosexuality was finally decriminalized in the U.S. (in 2003; homosexuality has only officially been legal since Finding Nemo came out), those kinds of places lost their “rebel” feel, costing them a lot of patrons and eventually leading to them being bought out by Home Depot. That is not a joke.
Another reason gay-oriented businesses are seeing fewer attendees is that many of the unique neighborhoods that once housed regular customers are being gentrified out of existence. And that’s the mark of true progress: Gay business are no longer singled out for being gay, but for being in the way of the wealthy.
When was the last time you saw a crystal meth addict shouting at a half-scared, half-pissed-off animal? Sorry, let us try that again: When was the last time you went to a circus that still used animals in their shows? It must have been a while, and there is a reason for that. The truth is that the time-honored tradition of animal spectacles is winding down, making it harder and harder each year to scare children with clowns.
Harder, but not impossible.
If you’re shrugging this off as no big loss, keep in mind that circuses were popular for 250 straight goddamned years, using pretty much the same format that whole time. You could use a time machine to kidnap a kid from 1821 and bring him to a circus in 2016, and he’d know exactly what he was looking at — trained elephants, lion tamers, tents, the whole bit. It would even smell the same.
But the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s have promised to remove all elephants from their circuses by 2018. Why the change of heart? Money, of course. The circuses opted to quit throwing away cash battling local legislation prohibiting use of rare wild animals like elephants and Sumatran tigers, and fending off lawsuits invoking the Endangered Species Act, proving once and for all that the only way people will stop being terrible is if they can no longer make money doing so. It looks like a ban on lions won’t be far behind.
Soon, the only downtrodden lions you’ll be able to see will be from Detroit.
This is similar to what is happening at SeaWorld, which recently caved to the growing backlash driven by the documentary Blackfish and vowed to eventually free all of their Willies. Dolphins will be next, if the world follows India’s example and bans the capturing and exhibition of our favorite seagoing assholes.
Once again, this is all being done for financial reasons. As a whole, people aren’t buying tickets to animal circuses anymore, preferring to spend all that money on something that won’t result in very uncomfortable questions from their children on the way back home. But because it’s all about the money, it also means that wild animal shows will always be a thing somewhere in the world. They’ll just go from “a common childhood memory” to “something you pay cash to watch in a dark basement in Thailand.”