Marlon Blackwell gave a lecture on Monday describing his work, using the term “money shot” on several occasions. The term raised some flags amongst the students, and over the few days, a series of posters began to appear around the building: “money shot is a pornographic term, not an architectural one. Isn’t there a more inclusive way to discuss our work?” This has sparked some interesting responses from the student body. These ranged from accusations of passive aggressive behavior (regarding the anonymity), an accusation of childishness, to “your mom,” to those who provided further options for discussion such as the colloquial definition of “money shot,” or even a response claiming that urbandictionary.com is not a reliable source for colloquial definitions. (To get an understanding of the “common” definition of “money shot,” I would recommend google image searching the term.) The most negative response has been to tear them down to stop any further discussion.
These tags were produced by Melissa Elliott, a second year graduate student of Landscape Architecture. To address the responses, she would like to say a few words explaining some of her intentions behind these tags:
“Money shot” is a term that I have heard increasingly used here in the School of Architecture. I find the use of the term offensive, and am concerned that the term objectifies and devalues women. Yet in a school with a student body comprised of over 50% women, the term has become so accepted that a visiting lecturer, Marlon Blackwell, used it repeatedly in front of a packed lecture hall. After discussion with my peers, I felt that a larger interrogation of this term’s meaning and use within the school was necessary. Without any known forum for such a discussion, I elected to post a few posters around the school reminding our community of the term’s pornographic association and asking whether we could find another means of discussing our work.
Why is the term “money shot” so problematic? As a few people have pointed out, money shot did, at its origin, refer to the most expensive scene of a film. But this term was also coopted by the pornography industry to refer to images of male ejaculation onto a female body. Terms do have different meanings across contexts, cultures, time and genders. However, if a group of us within the school find the use of the term offensive, why not interrogate its use? Why would “money shot”, even in its original use, be a term that we would want to embrace as a community of designers? Its objectification of people, things, and creative products seems contrary to the ethics of our school – which are rooted in thoughtful attention to the relationships between figure and field, intervention and site.
The poster project, as well as this essay, is not an attack on individuals who use the term. One of the reasons that I did not ask Blackwell about the use of the term in the lecture is that I didn’t feel that he deserved to bear sole responsibility for a term that I hear used in our studios on a daily basis. For me, the lecture served as an impetus to take action, but not the sole target of my efforts. What I want to emphasize is the need for a dialogue regarding terms we find questionable, objectionable or confusing, rather than an uncritical acceptance.
What is the correct forum for discussing this term? What are the other terms that we might find problematic? How can we, as a community, move forward?
One of the faculty, Professor Maurice Cox, offered the following words: “I am intrigued by the ‘money shot’ reference appearing around the A-School and welcome the discussion that the anonymous tagging is meant to ignite. I am particularly interested in the issue as it’s been understood by students who may have heard the term used by Marlon Blackwell, the TJ Foundation Professor who is currently teaching with me in the Fulton Gas Works Studio. Students are clearly less interested in the single photo-op moment of their design as they are in the process of their design itself. The term “money shot” is so perversive in architecture that I suspect that Marlon Blackwell only referenced it jokingly and not as a cheap reference to its use in pornographic films. However, such terms are now accepted as normal and deserve to be challenged. I think the tagging quote does that but doesn’t allow much of a way to interact with it.”
The poster underneath is one annonymous response.
Someone decided to make a very intelligent “your mom” joke.
In response to the “urbandictionary.com” definition, someone decided to provide a definition from a more reliable source.