Movie Review: Lifetime Movie Network's "From Straight A's To XXX"

Belle Deserves Better

This weekend, Lifetime Movie Network aired this film based on and "inspired" by the true story of college student Belle Knox. She became a porn star to pay her way through Duke University, was outed by a fellow student as a porn star, and was all over the media for her choices. Knox is currently retired from the industry. She also had nothing to do with the production of this movie at all. To say that this movie is unfair to Knox is an understatement. There is a particular kind of cruelty to exploiting someone like this. Knox chose every way and every instance in which her sexuality was displayed in her porn career. In this approximation of her life and her choices, she had zero say on how things went down whatsoever. Considering the sexual nature of this chapter of Knox's life, that is a pretty fucking cruel thing to do.

Knox is portrayed by soap opera actress Halley Poulos who presents Knox as being somewhat boy crazy as a teen and pretty selfish. When Knox's character finds out that her dad is going to be serving in Afghanistan, the first questions out of her mouth involve whether she can afford to stay at Duke or not - not about the risk to her dad's life or about missing him. Knox's mother is shown as being almost cartoonishly conservative while the dad is saintly. Knox's character is unwilling to take out student loans that will leave her in debt and is surrounded by rich kids, and she is shown applying on a website to be a performer in her dorm room late at night, with the insinuation that doing something as "bad" as being a porn star could/should only be done in darkness.

The character lies to everyone and heads to NYC for her first porn shoot. On set, she is kinda pressured into signing a model release without reading it, which is not how that usually goes on a set because any doubt about consent means that a porn company is in a risky position selling the footage. Her male costar is cruel and this is pretty much a rape, with the director mocking her scars from being a cutter as a young person along with her being a woman's studies major and her costar not caring whether he hurts her or not.

From there, Knox gets an agent played by eighties star Judd Nelson. He is slightly sleazy but ultimately business-like, and he takes her to her first all-girl scene. Knox is nervous, but Hirsch is kind and offers good advice to the struggling Knox. She is shown from there taking to porn like a fish to water. A fellow performer warns Knox that people will find out about her career and Knox lies to her mother about how she is paying for her tuition. From there, a classmate asks about her career and she lies to him at first but then gets him to promise to not tell. We know how that goes...

The fallout is shown in different forms, such as Knox moping around campus with a college paper writer saying cliched things like "it's like I am wearing the scarlet letter or something" and saying that her parents think that she is still a virgin and they just can't find out. Her classmates sneer and take covert shots of her with their phones - she is even shown being pelted with red Solo cups full of beer and getting harassed in the middle of the night by some frat boys. If it was actually this bad for Knox at Duke, fuck this school in the ass with a rusty machete. Her mother tells Knox that she has "thrown away" all of her accomplishments before porn and coldly hangs up after Knox 'fesses up.

Nelson books her for a scene she doesn't want with an older man but she does it anyway to not be "difficult," but then she finds her spine and starts standing up to her rude peers at school. Even with her mother's reaction, she decides to go on CNN to be interviewed by Piers Morgan and "The View" with actual footage from the interviews used here with actress Poulos spliced in. Her BFF is furious by Knox's TV claims that women on campus didn't support her when there were several who did. Her father comes back and there is a tearful scene where her father basically says that Knox has no idea what doing porn will do to her life. Her brother refuses to speak to her at all and she tells her high school friend that porn sex is more fun than real life sex. Her high school friend expresses all kinds of doubt about whether porn is actually OK.

Knox goes a porn convention that is supposed to be the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas which is filled with lecherous, dangerous-feeling fans and an indifferent Nelson. She is rescued from the men by a friendly dominatrix. However, her porn star peers are shown as being unappreciative of Knox's feminist message. At a fake AVN Awards Show, Knox wins Best Newcomer. (In reality, Knox won nothing from AVN.) A creepy fan makes her way into her hotel room and Knox ends up at the airport in tears. When back at Duke, the waterworks keep coming as Knox claims that she tried to make a family in porn, which isn't exactly true. The movie ends with Knox speaking at a feminist event and telling that student journalist that she is headed for politics as a career.

Overall, the movie is definitely not fair to Knox and definitely paints porn in a negative light as being filled with bad and/or indifferent people who care only about making cash with dangerous perverts who are mean to the very girls that they claim to adore. Too many of the decisions that Knox is supposed to have made in this retelling of this time in her life do not resonate. There is also this inference throughout the movie that Knox should have just gotten the student loans that she rejected rather than be self-sufficient. Porn's actual defense and support of Knox is not given any bit of attention in the plot of this and Poulos' portrayal of Knox as a wide-eyed, greedy victim is truly fucked up. I sincerely doubt a lot of this went down the way this movie claims it did in Knox's personal life. 

You can watch the movie on Lifetime's website but really, I have no idea why you would want to. The lead-in image is actually of Knox and it is from Nubiles' "Nubiles Casting 11" - you should watch that instead.

Tagged in: tv movie, belle knox, lifetime

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