The most recent episode of Fox’s Star Trek parody series, The Orville, did something you rarely see on television these days — and even more rarely on television comedies: It told the truth about pornography.
The alien officer Bortus shirks his responsibilities at work and to his family to go to the ship’s simulation room to have sex with computer-generated members of his alien species. When he does return home, he has no interest in physical intimacy with his spouse.
Bortus’ pornographic scenarios become more and more extreme, but he finds them less and less satisfying, leading him to seek a computer simulation from another alien species known for creating “some of the most sought-after pornographic simulations in the galaxy.” He tells the alien he requires “something out of the ordinary… I just do not want to be bored.” The simulation he receives carries with it a computer virus that cripples the ship’s computer and puts everyone’s lives in jeopardy.
While on a mission to save the remaining inhabitants of the planet Nixia, which is about to be destroyed by its own sun, a fellow crew-member asks Bortus about his addiction to pornography. Bortus reveals, “It is a call from deep within. Like a baby seeking its mother’s teat. It feels as if nothing else in the world matters but satisfying the urge and achieving the goal my body has demanded of me. Then as quickly as it began, it is complete, leaving a worn-out shell in its wake. And the only feeling I am left with, the only thing I know, is that a death has occurred.”
On the planet Nixia, members of the same family are separated as Bortus and his colleague are only able to rescue half of the planet’s remaining inhabitants. Bortus witnesses a touching parting scene which reveals to him the depths of emotional intimacy that he has been missing, and that pornography cannot deliver:
“You could have included yourself. You are the First Minister.”
“You know that would be wrong. Please understand, my love. Make a life out there with Nathius (their son). Beautiful life among the stars.”
“All the days we’ll never have…”
“Your heart is full of the days we did. That’s what you take with you.”
Bortus returns to Klyden, admitting that he has been a bad mate; that he has been disrespectful and that instead of communicating his disappointments and resentments to his spouse, he has retreated into a fantasy world.
The porn industry has many defenders who are quick to claim that pornography is harmless, but a growing body of evidence suggests otherwise. As with narcotic addiction, psychologists are discovering that over time pornography addicts require increasingly explicit images to trigger the dopamine rush that causes the feelings of pleasure pornography users seek; meanwhile, women in relationships with porn users report being less happy than those whose partners did not use pornography. Both of these realities were explored in this episode of The Orville.
Although The Orville is not a program that would be suitable for viewing by the whole family, the series’ creator and writers should be applauded for delivering this important, counter-cultural message about the addictive nature of pornography and how destructive it can be to a marriage, to a job, and even to the consumer’s own soul.