Ti West's X (2022) is a fun slasher film featuring sex-positive protagonists trying to make a film, live their lives, and take advantage of their youth. While filming their X-rated film, these X-Factor hot humans encounter evil and gore galore.
Sources in this Episode: X' (2022): Major Themes and Easter Eggs Ti West's 'X' Ending Explained: What Happens to Maxine? X (2022) Movie Review - Striking religious parallelism elevates this thrilling slasher A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Porn Industry in 1970 6 Ways to Support Sex Workers in Your Community | The Anti-Violence Project Ghoul’s list of resources for Abortion Access, SA, and Intersectional Feminism
Media from this week's episode:
In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives.
Director: Ti West
Youthful Sex Positivity & Generational Repressing in X by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
“I will not accept a life I do not deserve”
The film opens at the end. A faraway shot of a decripit farm house coated in blood as a swarm of trooper vehicles drive up. Something terrible has happened here and there’s no word of a survivor.
A team of young filmmakers seek out a secluded Texas farm to film their X-rated film, The Farmer’s Daughter. Producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) has left his wife for upcoming star, with the X-factor, Maxine Minx (Mia Goth). Adult film star Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) is looking for a good time alongside her sometimes boyfriend, Jackson (Kid Cudi). Behind the camera, driving the artistic direction of this art-house porn flick is RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenny Ortega) is working the boom.
The crew stops for gas and snacks, while shopping a televangelist preaches a truly southern sermon about the sinful new generation of humans corrupting all our good folx. On their way to their rental house, the encounter the tragic end of a cow. “Just when you’ve escaped the slaughter house.” Wayne chimes in while Maxine confesses she hates gore. Very slasher film.
When the crew arrives at their destination, they hide away in the van as Wayne approaches the home’s owner. The man appears, elderly and unwell, armed and threatening to Wayne forgetting he had rented the property.
They quickly settle in after this harrowing introduction and start recording The Farmer’s Daughters.
Half of the film is a lingering, voyueristic journey around the farm. Maxine wanders around between her scenes, nearly naked and curious, she finds herself in the old couple’s home. The scenes filmed for the porn parallel interactions between Maxine and Pearl, the eldery host of the farm. Both played by Mis Goth, the two mirror each other. Pearl had once been a dancer. She was something special and had herself, the X Factor she sees in Maxine. Pearl is unsettling. She watches Maxine with hungry eyes and grows green with jealousy.
Halfway through the film, the crew toasts to a job well done. They cheers to their youth and the life ahead of them, not knowing that this day is their last. They are quickly picked off one by one by the elderly couple. Pearl is violently envious of their youth. And shes incredibly pent up. Her husband won’t have sex with her because he’s afraid he’ll die, his heart won’t take it. So she makes this everyone else’s problem.
The film becomes a true slasher with gore galore. There are shower scenes, sex scenes, and a final girl but it is unlike most slashers even with it’s odes to the genre throughout. I’ve never seen a film like X and I wasn’t expecting any of what happened.
(I refuse to go out by way of jealous old people. I refuse. But I also relate hardcore to Pearl and if my hubby couldn’t screw me anymore I can easily see myself murdering other people because I’m so upset about it.)
Odes to other Slashers
Clearly, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is referenced and has influenced this film. In TCM, the hot youths are roadtripping in a blue van through Texas. In TCM they drive past a slaughterhouse and in X they encounter the death of a cow that had escaped a slaughterhouse only to die by car.
Like in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the theme of economic despair hangs over our protagonists and villains in X. Financial strains are what led the elderly couple to rent out their land and this same strain is what drives this crew to film.
In Creepy Catalog, X' (2022): Major Themes and Easter Eggs they explain that, The horror movie Psycho (1960) is explicitly mentioned in a discussion about adding Lorraine to the cast of the porn film. RJ claims that they can’t just change the plot to add another character, while Lorraine reminds him that in one of his favorite films, Psycho, this is exactly what happens when Janet Leigh’s character is suddenly (and shockingly, at the time) killed off halfway through. This conversation happens about halfway through X and indeed, the movie is about to undergo a major change from being about the production of a porn film to a straight slasher plot.
Youth & Aging - Time is Fleeting(wood Mac)
I think the biggest takeaway from this film is the characters. For a slasher film to have strong, independent and good characters that are also sex positive and empowering is impressive. It reminds me of Cabin in the Woods, where horror tropes were subverted showing us how characters are multi-faceted. X goes a step further in turning a specific horror trope on its head, painting these sex-positive protagonists as good humans. Though they are filming a pornographic film, they treat it as art. None of the sex scenes for Farmer’s Daughter are abusive or problematic, instead they are professional and even playful at times. The portrayal of sex in this film is refreshing. For an industry with a sordid history of abusing femme folk, Farmer’s Daughter is driven by the actresses. It is always with their lead and in consideration of their desires that the scenes take place. The film itself is soft. Each character appreciates their youth and sexual desires making them an antithesis for Pearl, an elderly woman who is denied her pleasures and reconciling with her lost time. This crew of beautiful, X-Factor humans, are full of history and kindness and truly undeserving of the deaths they encounter.
With all of its homages to classic slashers, X steers away from the typical morale tales we see in slashers of this time. In Friday the 13th, we are given a group of evil teenagers who are so self-centered they allow a young boy to drown, don’t care about it, and continue to have sex and do drugs. Though Jason’s mom is definitely the villain, there’s a bit of sympathy for her. We are meant to leave knowing that their folly was being bad kids - having sex and being careless.
Wayne, though having left his wife for Maxine, is rather level-headed and professional. He is a voice of reason, offering insight and support while keeping a levelhead. One of my favorite quotes and southern phrases heard in this film is by him, “I’ma tell you this cuz you ain’t been 42 but I been 28.” He doesn’t want to work hard labor to make a living and understands the severity of need this film holds over them.
In that article Creepy Catalog article, X' (2022): Major Themes and Easter Eggs Stockton explains, One interesting aspect of X is that sexual elements usually reserved for female characters in horror are shared by both men and women. The character of Wayne is the focus of sexualized male nudity when he searches for RJ in the barn. RJ has a shower scene (right after a conversation about Psycho), and Kid Cudi’s character is slut-shamed by Howard right before he is murdered.
Bobby-Lynne, played by the ever charming Brittany Snow, is charismatic and fun. She loves her youth and profiting off of perveted old men. But she’s also incredibly caring. In a moment before her death, she drapes her scarf over Pearl’s shoulder explaining she takes care of the elderly. When Pearl attempts to shame her for existing, she snaps that it’s not her fault that Pearl didn’t live the life she wanted. She never feels ashamed of her sexuality and desires, loves her body, and refuses to let anyone tell her otherwise.
Jackson (played by Kid Cudi) is a strong, well-endowed veteran. He is a free-spirit who enjoys his life and never overpowers the women around him. Each scene with them in X and The Farmer’s Daughter is full of respect and care for the people around him. He volunteers to help Howard find his wife. And it is Howard who feels emasculated, to be assisted by a strong, Black man who has put his life on the line for a country that doesn’t care about him. Howard even slut shames Jackson before killing him, subverting our expectations of horror.
Lorraine’s choice to participate in the film is supported by everyone but her boyfriend. She inquires about the actor’s ability to separate sex from love and how they feel about it religiously. They all reply that this is a job, that sex can exist outside of love and for enjoyment, and that they aren’t bad people for doing this. When Lorraine decides to perform, RJ switches quickly from “This film is art” to “no girlfriend of mine.” to which he is confronted by the rest of them for these backwards ideas. Wayne explains that none of them are “good girls” but in a way that suggests good isn’t something to strive for and that they aren’t any less deserving of respect for not being good by society’s standards.
Maxine, though paralleled strongly with Pearl, is so much more than her. We learn she has escaped a constricting world of religion to live her truth. She has the X factor and is intent on making the most of her life. When Farmer’s Daughter is eventually released, tied to the horrifying massacre will undoubtedly top the charts securing her infamy.
In an article on Collider titled, Ti West's 'X' Ending Explained: What Happens to Maxine? by Liam Gaughan they explain this connection between Pearl and Max,
The dualism of Pearl and Maxine is exemplified by Goth’s dual roles; she embodies both a faded older beauty and an unexpected final girl. During one of the film’s more insightful moments, Pearl lies down in bed next to a sleeping Maxine and strokes her body. Maxine wakes up to see the older face that literally reflects her and screams.
The film grants both characters' agency. As Pearl insults her, Maxine calls out her hypocritical nature. Pearl may hate her because of how comfortable the young girl is with her body, but Maxine isn’t trying to torment or insult the older woman. Throughout the film, she has felt empowered by the intimacy of the shoot, and acted encouragingly of both Bobby-Lynn and Lorraine. It’s ironic that Pearl has objectified Maxine and despises her because of her confidence.
Furthermore, the villain of the film expands past a horny old couple into an incredibly horny and repressed culture of religion too. The Televangelists preach throughout the film for redemption, they warn of the evil youths corrupting their own, and serve as a through-line in the film for Maxine. Pearl and Howard clearly watch this sermon regularly and though they desire sex themselves, they are quick to villainize the crew for living freely a life they aren’t allowed due to age and societal expectations.
In the Review Geek, X (2022) Movie Review - Striking religious parallelism elevates this thrilling slasher writer Ally Ham explains, They spread the message of eternal life given to those who are not worthy–of suppressing one’s true desires in order to be deserving of such life. And these religious ideals inform and enrich every subject of the film: particularly the divide between generations, between the sexually liberated and sexually repressed. It is not for shock value, then, that X focuses on sex and pornography, as these central themes are set compellingly against West’s concept of oppressive religious ideology–the true villain of the slasher horror.
Also, a note about the sex industry during the time this film takes place. Wayne mentions Debbie Does Dallas, which was an incredibly popular porn film of the time about cheerleaders and starred actress Bambi Woods. Not much is known about Bambi Woods and there are many theories as to what happened to her. She went missing soon after this film premiered and despite the mass appeal of the film, she didn’t receive much pay. Some speculate the mob was involved. Others believe that she OD’d years later.
The little I know about this era of sex filmmaking is thanks to the film, Lovelace starring Amanda Sefried about Linda Lovelace and the making of the film, Deep Throat. The story it shows is a toxic, abusive, and tragic tale about a young woman manipulated, controlled, and harmed by this industry. A stark contrast to what the film portrays (thankfully).
Having the film take place during this period of time was intentional. As expressed in the horror films of the time, the sexual revolution was a controversial topic. There was an intense need for films in this industry, an interest in exploring sexuality, and a conflict against the current thoughts regarding morality.
In a Time’s article, A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Porn Industry in 1970 by Eliza Berman explains, As the business thrived, President Nixon became more determined to stifle it. Following the Supreme Court decision in Stanley v. Georgia, which established that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes, Nixon established the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Despite the Commission’s finding that there was no evidence to suggest that pornography was harmful, Nixon urged the formation of a “citizens’ campaign against obscenity.”
Though many folx protested the rise of the porn industry, they couldn’t take it down. The divide seemed generational with older folx preaching about morality. While youth found other things to worry about. Mason City’s young adults were more concerned about the environmental impact of the cement dust from nearby factories than fictional movies which, they said, were having no impact on their own behavior.
This film does a great job of mirroring this struggle and exploring a point of view we don’t often see regarding sex work. That it’s a legitimate trade and there’s nothing wrong with profiting off the desires of others. In The Farmer’s Daughter the women have power. Bobby-Lynne leads a toast where she says, “Here’s to the perverts who’ve been paying our bills for years!” I find this one of the more amazing parts of the film.
Sex Work is Work: Resources for Sexual Humans by Kat Kushin
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
6 Ways to Support Sex Workers in Your Community
RECOGNIZE diversity: The sex industry is a diverse place, like any other sector of work! There is a spectrum of experiences, perspectives, and identities (e.g. diversity in race, class, gender, age, ability, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.), as well as many different sectors of work. Keep in mind that folks who are already marginalized for other aspects of their identities (e.g. trans people, indigenous people) are disproportionally targeted for violence in the sex industry.
EDUCATE yourself! (and others): When learning about sex work, seek out resources that centre sex workers voices and experiences, or come from organizations that support sex work leadership and rights.
DISRUPT jokes that poke fun at sex work/workers: Yes, people do make jokes about sex work/workers (e.g. strippers)…If you hear a joke like this explain that dehumanizing sex workers by making fun of them, or their profession, is not cool/okay. Jokes that put down sex workers contribute to the shame and violence surrounding the sex industry.
USE your power: How do your personal identities (race, class, gender, age, ability, etc.) shape your understanding of sex work? What is your relationship to the sex industry?; are you -a friend or classmate of a sex worker? a porn enthusiast? a sex worker? We encourage you to reflect on your identities and how you can creatively leverage your privilege(s) to support sex workers in your community.
REMEMBER that consent is an integral part of the sex industry: Consent is an integral part of sex work. Sex workers have been leaders in advocating for body autonomy and the right to set boundaries in their workplaces and beyond for decades!
SUPPORT sex work leadership & community action: attend events in your community that support sex workers and sex worker rights, follow us at https://www.facebook.com/PeersVictoria
Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA is a national grassroots social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education, community building, and advocacy.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT LINE
The Community Support Line is one of our most essential resources, and is operated in collaboration between SWOP-USA and SWOP Behind Bars. Current this support line is operated by tireless volunteers who are trained in rape counseling and crisis intervention. To truly make this longstanding and sustainable we need to expand the capacity of the Community Support Line, consider donating directly to that project here.
About the state of America-
Honestly…there is just a deep well of sadness, anger and other feelings that just consistently sit in the pit of my chest. What I want to say, I can’t say on camera. The more I learn the deeper that pit grows, and the more I just feel sick. There are a lot of positives to learning, in that you see reali