Culture At Large

Russell Brand on the problem of porn

John J. Thompson

It’s not every day that a celebrity known for shocking behavior, tight pants and over-the-top comedy crafts a homily on the catastrophe that is modern-day porn culture. The fact that Russell Brand has just issued one of the most powerful, personal, effective and even prophetic messages on the subject of pornography is simply fascinating. Comic dandy Brand may not be the first person that comes to mind when considering important social commentary, but maybe he should be.

Brand’s recent YouTube episode (embedded below) on the harmful biological, psychological and sociological effects of pornography is spot on and remarkably consistent with a sound Christian theology of sex, integrity and community. “Our attitudes toward sex have become warped and perverted and have deviated from its true function as an expression of love and a means for procreation,” Brand says in the video. This should be required viewing for anyone over 13.

Brand’s take on the toxicity of Fifty Shades of Grey and countless other examples of soft-core pornography in our culture is confessional, highly informed and unapologetically oriented toward the betterment of the viewer. As he has frequently been associated with shallow sexual exploits and charges of misogyny, this is particularly interesting. He sits at the end of his unmade bed (where many of his web episodes are recorded) and riffs. What is clear, though, is that he has done his homework. He has stats to back up his premise. This is not a moralistic reaction to “sinful” culture, but a personal, educated, passionate and spiritual expose of the repercussions of pornography in general and a reflection on the effects it has had on him personally.

This is not a moralistic reaction to “sinful” culture, but a personal, educated, passionate and spiritual expose.

Brand, who first came to America’s attention as a glammed-up stand-up comedian, awards show host and general troublemaker, has spent the last year focusing his considerable wit on serious subjects, ranging from far-left politics to personal spirituality to recovery. In 2014 he launched The Trews (a mashup of “truth” and “news”), in which he improvises observations about world events with limited editing, no set, no makeup and sometimes (as in this case) no clothes. He challenges with data, disarms with confession, speaks with the confidence of an expert and moderates his boldness with comedic self-deprecation and biting satire.

Any pastors or teachers wishing to effectively connect with young people in this media-addled culture should study Brand. Likewise, anyone who thinks a little skin is no big deal should lean in and pay attention. Sex is a very big deal. In his seemingly stream-of-consciousness spiel, Brand touches on something critical about the nature of the pornography problem. “I feel like if I had total dominion over myself I would never look at pornography again,” he confesses. “I would kick it out of my life.” None of us will achieve complete dominion over our penchant for sin this side of eternity. That’s what community, accountability, regeneration and grace are for. But his call to engage the struggle is inspiring indeed. If a guy like Russell Brand can reign in the beast of lust…

There’s obviously a lot more to Brand than meets the eye. In a 2014 Vanity Fair interview, he came clean about the intention of his videos, his recent book Revolution and his overall purpose in life. “In a way,” he said, “redemption is a great part of my narrative. I’m talking about disavowing previous lives, previous beliefs, previous behaviors.” His personal revolution is clearly a work in progress, but one that is becoming increasingly interesting to watch.

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment, Home & Family, Sex