Ass vs. Sass 

DJ Vlad and the Suicide Girls battle for DVD porn supremacy.

If mixtape-kingpin-turned-porn-impresario DJ Vlad were invited to critique Suicide Girls: The First Tour (Epitaph), he would probably agree with the rest of the third-wave feminist universe that this stylish all-girl burlesque troupe -- porn for Pitchfork readers, essentially -- doesn't suffer for lack of sex appeal. After all, who wouldn't take a prurient interest in watching leggy, bed-headed hipster chicks flaunt their piercings and tattoos whilst roller-skating, naked, through a Laundromat, or reclining on cafeteria tables laden with pink, oily hamburgers and strawberry milkshakes? Furthermore, given the number of times you hear one of them drop the phrase "hot naked bitches" -- which, when uttered by a cute white girl, is supposed to have the wallop of a transgression -- it's evident the Suicide Girls rank high on the snark meter. There's nothing quite like that trademark indie-girl sass, even if the result is a little too indie-girly.

DJ Vlad has the opposite problem: His new Hot in Here DVD is so full of testosterone that, half a cigarette in, you feel as though the dude is slinging his nuts all over your TV screen. And yet, in one area alone, Vlad still has an edge over his feminist counterparts: Frighteningly macho in comparison to the Suicide Girls, Hot in Here still earns valuable points for its wall-to-wall exhibition of big, beautiful booty. Sir Mix-a-Lot would have to sell all his children in Barbary for ass like that.

The visual counterpart to a thousand KMEL choruses, Vlad's flick can be summed up thus: He meets Fat Joe, sticks a camera in his face, and inquires about the beef with 50 Cent. Fat Joe responds, "I don't even know that nigga. I didn't never have a problem with him, but, you know, that nigga, you know, he wanna be disrespectful, if a nigga wanna see me on the streets, just holla at me." Apparently satisfied with Joe's riposte, Vlad sallies over to the house of porn kingpin Mr. Marcus, who is sodomizing a surprisingly frumpy-looking (even in bondage gear) woman on his leather couch. Vlad trains his lens on the woman, who whispers a pained shout-out to the cameraman.

Fast-forward to Vlad's bootyful odyssey through Brazil -- actually a safari from bed to kitchen to shower in his hotel room, where, everywhere, an enormous rear is lurking adorably in the corner, waiting to be assaulted by his camera. This is, apparently, a formative experience for Vlad, as much of the remaining film contains references to Brazilian booty. The only other noteworthy chapter (entitled "What's Crackin'") features verité footage of New York addicts lighting up, with a caption advertising Vlad's forthcoming crack documentary. Of course, Hot in Here's ass-heavy obsessions turn it into a crack documentary all its own. In the end, you're left wondering it's the most exploitive thing you've ever seen, or the most revelatory thing you've ever seen.

The ways these models' bodies are deployed in these DVDs say a lot about the position of women in their respective scenes. By filming contemporary punk-rock chicks in classic pinup poses, the Suicide Girls insist they're subverting conventions of mainstream porn -- and mainstream advertising, for that matter -- that tend to debase and objectify women. But though they succeed in creating an updated, more DIY-oriented vision of screen sexiness, the SGs fall short of replacing traditional porn fare with a totally realistic mode of femininity. The women on this DVD still belong to a rarefied class of What Indie-Rockers Think Is Beautiful: They're thin with flat asses and alabaster skin, and appear to be mostly white and Asian.

In contrast, Vlad's distinctly hip-hop treatment of women is more brutal and, ironically, more inclusive, even if its vision is more narrow. A woman's face and body don't seem to matter as much in Hot in Here, just as long as she has a big ass -- that's where the camera lingers, anyway. There's obviously less pressure to be thin in the hip-hop world, which seems refreshing, until you realize the trade-off is that every woman, whether she's a streetwalker or secretary of state, is pretty much just a body or, more specifically, a booty. Most females would prefer to join an all-girl burlesque troupe where women are allowed to have personalities. And souls.

In the end, it boils down to the politics of Ass vs. Sass: Vlad would probably advise the Suicide Girls to actually eat those oily hamburgers and strawberry milkshakes; the SGs would boisterously invite Vlad to eat a bowl of dicks. And if he wanna be disrespectful, holla.

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