Kevin McGahern’s America is yet another documentary commissioned by RTE about the States, in which comedian Kevin McGahern ventures across the Atlantic. The menagerie of oddness residing there seems to fascinate us Irish. Perhaps it scopes the landscape out safely for the émigré? Maybe the scale of America appears attractive in its antithesis to Ireland? Maybe they are objectively just a strange bunch of lads?
The online sex industry is the focus of this episode; cam girls and boys who have found an alternative to the bellicose and often debauched adult sex industry that has swelled into every crevice of the internet. When one of these ‘cam boys’ speaks of the emotional support and gratification he receives from his ‘fans’, he points to several objects in the room. His laptop, PS4, and clothes were all bought by them. The intimacy of ‘camming’ is the real draw of the art: the ability to talk and interact with the people behind the computer screens. Fans are buying their way into these people’s lives.
These new age porn stars have begun to let the line between the stage and pulpit bleed. They encourage a live stream of comments where members of a page can chat to the performer and each other. This intimacy and connection contrasts with the pornography found elsewhere on the internet, often filled with anonymity and aggression. But it begs the question: what is the role of the porn star and viewer in this new format, and what comes next? Where can porn go when the border between fantasy and reality has broken down?
McGahern finishes the program by exploring virtual reality, strapped into a VR set while a model in another room begins masturbating on her show. McGahern’s hands are placed – almost in apology, or apprehension – between his legs. When asked how VR will affect us in the future, the model suggests that it will ‘supplement and enhance the experiences we have in real life – not replace them’.
Kevin McGahern presents his show with an unthreatening Irish passivity. He doesn’t probe intensely to uncover some unknowable truth, and his openness to others does add a personal touch that can be lost in the sharp glare of Louis Theroux’s spectacles.
You can watch the show here: www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/kevin-mcgaherns-america