Big Red Son

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Back to David Foster Wallace or Consider the Lobster.


Wallace's account of his visit to the 1998 AVN Awards, an event that has been dubbed the Academy Awards of pornographic film, and its associated Expo. (originally published in Premiere as "Neither Adult Nor Entertainment" under the pseudonyms Willem R. deGroot and Matt Rundlet)


  • Entertainment
  • Consumption/Gratification
    • The descriptions of Las Vegas coupled with the attitudes of porn industry insiders highlight a dynamic of normal American culture focused intensely on material consumption, and a drive to feel elated or gratified by that consumption. One of the most revealing quotes (also among the most crude) is veteran woodman Joey Silvera's and industry insider Harold Hecuba's answers to why the adult video industry is so popular in the United States. Silvera says, "Dudes, let's face it- America wants to jerk off." Hecuba says, "It's the new Barnum. Nobody ever goes broke overestimating the rage and misogyny of the average American male." Both of these answers reinforce Wallace's notion that American culture is driven by the desire for consumption, pleasure, and instant gratification.
  • Spectacle
    • Wallace lets readers into a world where spectacle dominates culture and flashy shows of money and luxury are considered paramount. See: description of Caesar's Palace, time spent with Max Hardcore.

"Big Red Son" deals with the unlikely event where the porn fans meet the porn stars. Wallace discusses here the interesting phenomenon where it is in fact the audience that is ashamed, not the performers. His criticism in this essay focuses more on the industry and its place in our culture than directly on the fans. As pornography is an industry based in instant gratification and shock value, as sex and gratification become more normal in our society, porn must become more shocking. In this sense, Wallace is criticizing the need for the industry to be seen as shocking as the thing that is pushing pornography over the edge of morality.


This essay, unlike many of Wallace's clearly-written-by-David-Foster-Wallace-and-not-pretending-otherwise essays, is written as though by two news correspondents. Although he acts as though two people are writing this article, it is still littered with Wallaceisms, such as extensive footnotes, interpolations and abbreviations.



The title, "Big Red Son," refers to the adult video industry's relationship to Hollywood film. From page 5 of Consider the Lobster, "The US adult industry is centered in LA's San Fernando Valley, just over the mountains from Hollywood. Some insiders like to refer to the adult industry as Hollywood's Evil Twin, others as the mainstream's Big Red Son."