Friday, February 6, 2015

As Above, So Below: An Essay on an Unexpected Topic

Author's note: I don't post many things aren't connected to one of my own works, so this brief essay is a bit of an anomaly. Bear with me for a moment. Obviously the idea of men having sex with each other doesn't bother you, or you wouldn't be on my blog in the first place. However, porn bothers some people and this essay is about porn. But it's about really, really excellent gay porn, and how it's currently being used to tell a pretty ingenious story. 

If I haven't lost you yet, then please enjoy. And feel free to share a link. 

As Above, So Below

As a romance author, it’s my job to find the right balance between story and sex. The sex scenes should come naturally out of the building relationship between the two main characters, as well as help move the internal (and sometimes external) plot forward. Sex for sex sake is fluff. It’s filler. It doesn’t tell a story and it often adds little to the story trying to be told. I don’t write fluff, although I do sample it on occasion because sometimes you just want sex. It’s kind of why people watch porn, instead of Secretary. So it was a bit of a refreshing shock to hear something very similar come from a director/producer of gay porn.

During the director’s DVD commentary for Jake Jaxson’s The Haunting, director Jake Jaxson says, “Story is informing the sex, and sex is informing the story.” I was so floored that I actually stopped the DVD and rewound just to make sure I’d heard it correctly. I stared at my computer screen for a moment and thought, “Holy crap, JJ thinks like a romance author!”

I very nearly tweeted that at him, too, but I refrained because I was too busy listening to the rest of the commentary.

The more I thought about it afterward, the more I realized that this is what drew me to Cockyboys (NSFW!) in the first place—many of the scenes have genuine attraction between very real, likeable guys who clearly want to have sex with each other. The models are insanely attractive, engage on social media, and show real affection for each other on and off camera. The photography of RJ Sebastian is beautiful. But the basic scenes aren’t what got me to pony up and purchase a subscription.

I shelled out for their Feature Films (NSFW).

My first conscious exposure to Cockyboys was a short film called “Kiss Hug Fuck Love” that I found for free, possibly on Vimeo (my memory betrays me). I thought this was a short erotic film in the vein of Jesse Metzger’s “I Want Your Love,” which he later turned into a feature film. Both are non-porn films with actual sucking, rimming, and penetrative sex. So I was a bit surprised to find out that “Kiss Hug Fuck Love” was produced by a gay porn site.

Obviously I had to investigate further, which led me to the trailer for A Thing of Beauty. And trailers for other scenes. I could talk about Colby Keller for days, but then this essay would go way off topic. Suffice it to say, I hit the Buy button on a subscription, and I have not regretted it for a moment. I mean, I write gay romance. It’s practically research, right?

Already-long story short, my research eventually found Ricky Roman and Jake Bass in Answered Prayers: The Banker. Reading the Director’s Note, I knew I’d found something special. The film is a reaction to the ugly voices of doubt and fear that make us do things we shouldn’t do, and often prevent us from doing the things we should. The voices that “have the power keep us OUT of trouble and so often get us INTO trouble”. As a long-time fan of the paranormal, how could I resist this?

As visually stunning as it is thoughtfully presented, The Banker surprised me with the story of a man (The Banker) at the end of his rope who is completely undone by a mysterious entity named Jinks. The Banker is reduced to his most basic parts and stripped of all external barriers, and he is forced to confront his fears. Yes, there is hardcore sex. The chemistry between Ricky Roman (The Banker) and Jake Bass (Jinks) vibrates off the screen, and yet the entire encounter is quiet. It’s a discovery. The sex is a visual representation of an internal change within the character of the Banker as he faces his fears and accepts responsibility for all of the damage he’s caused to others. He awakens a changed man and takes action to correct his destructive course.

There is a wider story arc with the characters of Jinks and his brother Moloch (also spelled Malic on the Cockyboys site, and don’t think I didn’t notice that Malic is one letter away from being malice). They are the epitome of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on another. Jinks is trying to save souls while Moloch would see them torn apart.

Each episode (The Banker, The Healer, The Bully, The Lamb Part One, The Lamb Part Two, and The Redeemer) features the deconstruction and reformation of different archetypes, all while showing us an ongoing battle between good and evil. Between our better nature and the part of us that wants to do wrong.

Shakespeare also plays a part in this ongoing narrative. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is quoted in both The Lamb Part Two and The Redeemer (and if it’s quoted elsewhere, my memory is again failing me). The Lamb (Max Ryder), the embodiment of innocence and a character who is being groomed to replace Jinks one day, is fighting against a darker nature. He quotes “Weaving spiders come not here, hence, you long legged spinners, hence,” from the play and finds a deeper, personal meaning in it.

To me it means keep the liars, the thieves, the corruptors, the fears, everything a person doesn’t want around them away. It’s everything I don’t want to become.” –The Lamb, Answered Prayers: The Lamb Part Two

He wants to be on the side of good and to keep negativity out of his life, but ultimately the Lamb falls. He succumbs to temptation and his innocence is lost. In its place is a thirst for power, which leads him down the same dark road that Moloch fell victim to. It also leads to the deaths of both Moloch and Jinks—but not before Jinks sees to his replacement. After all, you can’t have a devil on your shoulder without the angel to balance the scales.

 The penultimate episode, The Redeemer, is the journey of Puck (Levi Karter), one of the three sons of Jinks. Shakespeare fans will remember Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow, as a character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both characters bring a sense of playfulness to their respective works, even as they orchestrate the actions of others. Before his human death, the boy who will become Puck reads from the play, “Thou speaketh a’right, for I am the merry wanderer of the night.” It’s perfect foreshadowing for who Puck will eventually become.

After his human death, now caught in this place between heaven and earth, Puck goes on a journey of discovery that is so beautifully constructed by the filmmakers and lovingly narrated by model Levi Karter, that it transcends film. It becomes a love letter to facing life without fear.

The amazing thing about not knowing—it makes it impossible to be afraid. And in the nothingness of my mind, possibility was made. Nothing spaces would become something places. And so I set out with a plan, collecting the memories of man. Why and how? I do not know. As above, so below.” –Puck, Answered Prayers: The Redeemer

This is one of my favorite quotes from any film, because of the simple beauty of the words, combined with the imagery chosen by the filmmakers. “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul” is seen on a title card as The Redeemer begins and is reinforced by Puck’s narration.

The quote is a simplification of a maxim attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. The longer quote, according to historical texts is as follows: “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” Everything is connected, and by understanding ourselves, we can better understand the world around us.

Puck’s journey was as much about self-discovery as about understanding the world he lived in and his part in the universe. Each grain of sand has a purpose, just like every person who walks the earth. Not everyone is able to embrace life and discover the greater purpose, because they are mired down by negative emotions and the daily grind. They miss the joy that simple things like exploration can bring to us.

In the film, Puck realizes his destiny is to free a man who’s lost his way, and in finding each other, both men are set back on their truth path. Puck assumes the mantle of his father and, in a fun nod to previous installments, we see a flash of Jinks’s all-seeing eye gazing out through a pyramid. The pyramid itself could be another nod to Hermeticism and the three parts of the universe: alchemy, astrology and theurgy.

The final chapter of this fantastic saga, The Actor, releases sometime this month (a guess based on the 2/13/15 release date for the DVD boxed set), and I’m on pins and needles waiting to see how this battle of good and evil will end. Each episode has gotten progressively better and more thoughtful than the last, so I’m expecting a worthy finale to an amazing work of cinematic art.

EDIT: Word is out that pre-orders of the DVD have shipped today (2/6/15) so we could see the final chapter any day!


I don't know if I've inspired you to investigate this lovely series of films, or if I've scared you away for good so I'll end with this.

The best Cockyboys scenes often leave me feeling like do when I've just read a good m/m romance--it's sexy, it's hot, and it has two characters who really connect.

Signing off.  --A.M.


  1. *slow clap* You already know my thoughts on CB, so I won't prattle on here. But WELL DONE, my dear bad influence!: )

  2. Yes! This is a good write up about CB. Very well said.