I live in a country of less than five million people (I recently discovered that even exotic Sicily has more inhabitants than Croatia) in which people tend to know most people, perhaps even people’s grandparents, by name, so you can imagine the kind of ripples even the inciest, winciest, tiniest personal porn scandal would create.
Even an issue like somebody’s cat giving birth to her kittens prematurely makes for a subject worthy of gossip here. How then to shut one—or even two—eyes to the fact that Croatia’s most popular pop singer Severina has had her private home porn video splashed over computer screens up and down the country?
Known for her pout, deep cleavage and the little cross around her neck (so that no one is left in any doubt about her immaculate Catholicism), Severina could try, like Britney once did, to claim she was still a virgin if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s the other side of thirty and therefore this might have a strange effect on her career.
In the past I’ve quoted the lyrics of her songs in this column, mainly folk ballads with conservative rhymes in which it’s quite clear where a man’s place is in the world, and where a woman’s is (note I mention women second).The porn tape was apparently filmed on the yacht of her former lover and stolen a good two years ago (!) but cropped up recently, and via a Croatian Internet site became the number one talking point in Croatia. When I say number one, I’m probably not being precise. Among Croats, there is now no longer any other subject apart from Severina’s video. Croats have devoted long column inches in dailies, weeklies and magazines to this eleven-minute porn tape with oral and anal sex followed by dowsing with champagne. The name “Severina” is now being circulated like some sort of a salacious currency. You could exchange it for a trip to the town’s nut-house, which, by the way, is in my part of town, if you were to dare to admit in public to not having heard of these tapes.
Or you could soon start getting some dubious looks even if only, like me, for some reasons of my own, you hadn’t watched it. That kind of excess will only be tolerated in very old, very frail and very poor Croats, and even then not forever. There is an official version of the porn film that has been seen by everybody, but there is also a version that’s only been rumored, and I think I have a right to doubt its authenticity. In one of the more explicit versions the excited Severina is asking her lover to fuck her like a whore, and this request can these days be heard from a lot of very fine and sophisticated little mouths, little mouths which normally balk at the mention of the word “whore.”
WHAT THE RAVEN-HAIRED BEAUTY WHISPERED
Given that Croats are conservative lovers, Severina’s debauched home-video, in which an insatiable raven-haired beauty whispers to her lover (a married man and father of three by the way) that she wants to be his whore, touched some deep undefined layers of fantasy, which meant that even some of my fellow journalists spoke in an elated note about having watched her eleven minutes. In the Croatian magazine I write for there has been a critique of Severina’s film (this, after all, now being the most-watched Croatian-language film of all time), followed by a diatribe from all those who thought that watching it was voyeuristic despite having watched it themselves, and then a long article about the paradoxes of a Catholic nation (Croats are 95 percent Catholics), which would give up the benefits of the afterlife for a tiny piece of that chest. Finally, there was a column piece from a Brussels correspondent who congratulated the Croats on their maturing as people because, as she put it, politicians are no longer our main focus of interest, they have been displaced by stars.
In the meantime, I became this rare breed looking for the company of the similarly inclined: namely, those who have not watched Severina’s tape, not because they couldn’t (as I’ve already explained, that category includes only those on the margins of society) but because they wouldn’t.
There are only a few of us in this state, we happy few, who can sit in any company and say: No, I didn’t watch Severina’s film, nor do I intend to.
One of my friends tried to make out as if he’d never watched Severina, but he soon tripped himself up by bragging that his next-door neighbor, who is a plumber, literally shoved the tape through his window. Of course, the fact that I didn’t watch the film gives me some sense of superiority: there are fewer and fewer women out there who would dare say something like that. It’s only me and the odd female mayor.
Some women have watched because they wanted to make sure their boyfriend/husband didn’t get too carried away in this paradise, some out of a sense of duty, because how were they meant to hold down a conversation if they’ve not seen a single scene from this fleshy drama? These days, even the most abstract conversations, like the ones between artists and philosophers, quickly get derailed into some sort of discussion about Severina. Even politicians have stuck their oars in, those from the leading party and those from the opposition (at whose rally Severina once sang) and the minister of culture has launched into a staunch defense of the singer’s right to privacy.
“Well, who said we took that right?” ask Croats. “It’s not as if we taped ourselves having sex and then spread it all over the Internet.” After all, this harsh nation thinks that Severina got what she deserved: she made a recording and now it’s being broadcast. Today even a distinguished literary critic quoted Borges to explain it—he said something about a knife that Borges writes about which will sooner or later wound somebody—the same is the case with Severina’s recording. When she made it she should have known that one day we’d all get to see it.
I know already that soon I’ll become like the early Christians, and in the catacombs under the city I’ll meet those like me who’ve not watched Severina. Our code sign will be a crossed-out letter S on the inside of our palms. We just have to invent a cryptic greeting.