In a recent issue of the VHS fan culture publication Lunchmeat, enthusiast Mike Dank describes his experiences exploring other people’s discarded home-recorded videocassettes. “After you accumulate a few hundred ‘normal’ tapes, you tend to want to go a little outside the box and seek out something truly bizarre,” he explains1. One passage of Dank’s account strikes this writer as having a greater significance than the immediate find he details – a resonance more societal than personal.
I started to accumulate more interesting personally-recorded tapes. Some of my initial odd-balls were an audition tape from a terrible actress, a recording of some guy bungee jumping, and what appears to be an amateur recording of an awards dinner. Nothing too terribly exciting, but far from what you might define as run-of-the-mill VHS pick-ups. Then, as if by some sort of VHS-obsessed fate, I found something truly intriguing on the side of the road. Not a block from where I lived, I spotted a cardboard box containing a Betamax deck, and a handful of VHS tapes left out for the trash man. One of these tapes contained the first 30 minutes of an empowerment seminar for women (the kind of half-infomercial, half-roundtable discussion you might see hypnotizing the masses at 2 in the morning) followed by around an hour of soft-core pornography clips stitched together for… well… use your imagination! It seemed to be an inarguable textbook case of someone camouflaging their porn. I mean, who on earth would watch the first 30 minutes of that tape straight through on a whim only to eventually uncover the Skinemax-harvested goods concealed afterward? You start to wonder about the story behind this tape. Did I snag this from some sneaky teenager, maybe a hen-pecked married man?2
Could this be a more perfect encapsulation of sexual trends in the West? Women’s “empowerment” as a ruse, leading into a lonely, voyeuristic depravity, and all of it bound for one civilizational garbage dump.
- Dank, Mike. “Finding Forgotten Footage: Unearthing Ultimate Home Video Obscurities”. Lunchmeat Midnight Snack no. 4 (Spring 2015), p. .
- Ibid., p. .