Ron Jeremy: Fall of a Porn Icon review – a thrilling reinvention of true-crime documentaries

·3-min read
The disgraced pornography actor Ron Jeremy (BBC)
The disgraced pornography actor Ron Jeremy (BBC)

Back in June 2017, a woman named Ginger Banks posted an online video in which she detailed allegations of rape and sexual assault against the most famous porn star in the world, Los Angeles-based actor Ron Jeremy, then 64 years old and a veteran of more than 2,000 pornographic films. The flood of similar accounts that followed led to a police investigation, which three years later, saw Jeremy charged on multiple counts of rape and sexual assault. It didn’t stop there. When the arrest was publicised, more women came forward, leading to further indictments. Jeremy is presently awaiting trial in California on 34 counts involving 21 women.

Ben Bryant’s pithy, eye-catching BBC documentary includes a number of accounts from women who are not part of the court case. First, it goes back to the source, Banks, an actor in the adult film industry and webcam host, whose original video, shot sitting on her sofa next to a sleeping cat, laid bare a truth that appears to have protected Jeremy for years: “I know that somehow society thinks that the witness account from someone who is not in adult entertainment is more credible than someone who is in adult entertainment.”

Time and again in Bryant’s film, women make the same point. Tana Lee, a former adult film actress tells a distressing story of being raped by Jeremy before she entered the industry, and her confusion about it: “He definitely, like, put his penis in my vagina without my consent,” she says. “If that happened to my future child or anyone I f***ing knew, I would call it rape, so I guess that because it’s me, I think that it’s, like, not.”

Other interviewees from within the industry, mostly male, suggest that Jeremy’s reputation as a “groper” was well known and part of his persona, but that he would stop instantly if told: “Stop it, Ronnie.” Moss Krivin, however, who describes himself as Jeremy’s longtime personal assistant and best friend, claims that he told the actor on numerous occasions, “just don’t put your hands on them… he never listened”.

Bryant eschews the severe, colour-drained palette and emotional starkness typically associated with news documentaries about traumatic cases such as this one, presenting a visually exciting, colourful portrait of the LA sex industry and the women who are part of it. We see something of their personalities beyond the depiction of them as victims of an alleged serial sex abuser; these are often financially successful women, who are simply asking that their experiences and voices be given equal weight to other witness accounts. It has the effect of showing them also to be equally vulnerable.

Bryant is not afraid to mix in humour – such as the porn director who asks if the crew realise what “BBC” stands for in the porn industry – and the film is set to a brilliant, ever-shifting soundtrack that could be accused of being more MTV than BBC. It’s fascinating, though, to see such an unusual approach to the subject; it’s a fine line to tread between “entertaining” and “distressing” when trauma is involved, but Fall of a Porn Icon shows that tonally it can be done.

‘Ron Jeremy: Fall of a Porn Icon’ can be streamed via BBC iPlayer now.

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