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Recently, the media made a big deal about Charlie Sheen dating a porn star. It seems that anyone who is in a porn movie is referred to as a porn star. The same is not true of anyone in a normal movie. Everyone in a normal movie isn't a movie star. Everyone in a rock band is certainly not a rock star. Why is it that porn actors are afforded such lofty descriptions?

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I agree that the star part is often unnecessary and should prefer calling them simply actors myself. –  Cerberus Mar 6 '11 at 16:57
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@Cerberus: On the other hand, porn actors probably get more viewings (and re-viewings) than ordinary screen and TV actors, so porn a actor's numbers might put her/him into relative star status. Hey, porn is why they invented "teh Internetz", no? –  Robusto Mar 6 '11 at 17:21
    
@Robusto: Fair enough, I agree; porn star status should be based on objective measurement. –  Cerberus Mar 6 '11 at 19:26
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Adding to @Robusto's comment and the answers so far, it's not like there isn't any differentiation at all. There are porn stars, porn starlets, sex film actresses, and whatnot. And as far as Bree Olson is concerned, she's certainly a star, for all intents and purposes. In related news: Futurama, Season 2, Episode 7, where they walk through the Head Museum ("Movie Stars" → "B-Movie Stars" → "Porn Stars" → "TV Stars"). –  RegDwigнt Mar 6 '11 at 19:36
    
great question Evik –  Anonymous Type Mar 7 '11 at 2:51
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9 Answers

up vote 34 down vote accepted

A starring role is the most important or lead role in a dramatic production like a film or play. The simplest definition of movie star is someone who has played a starring role in a movie. This often carries with it a sense of fame that comes with playing a starring role, but is not necessarily the case. The star of a little-known indie film is still a movie star.

If someone plays starring roles only or usually in a particular genre of film, then that person is a star in that genre. For example, Jackie Chan is often called an action star. Similarly, people who star in pornographic films are often called porn stars. There aren't many supporting and extra roles in pornographic films, so most anyone who has performed in a pornographic film could legitimately be called a porn star.

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+1. Also, I didn't know that the "star of a little-known indie film is still a movie star". –  ShreevatsaR Mar 6 '11 at 18:17
    
This makes a lot of sense: "There aren't many supporting and extra roles in pornographic films, so most anyone who has performed in a pornographic film could legitimately be called a porn star." –  Evik James Mar 6 '11 at 21:28
    
What about pornographic movies with, you know, lots of actors? Are those legitimately not stars? :) –  deceze Mar 7 '11 at 10:00
    
I think anyone partaking in "the act" in a porn film is a "Star" whereas anyone who doesn't is just an extra/incidental role. –  Omar Kooheji Mar 7 '11 at 13:08
    
Excellent answer! –  Django Reinhardt Mar 7 '11 at 18:29
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I think you have to have a "starring role" in order that you be called a star. This is as true in pornography as it is in regular movies. The stars of a film are the leading cast members. In pornography there tend to be only leading cast members, if you'll forgive the pun.

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Are you sure your claim is true in general (that all porn actors are called porn stars)? Or is it that you only hear of porn "actors" who are "stars" to some extent? At least in the example you gave, the label seems justified: according to Wikipedia's article on the person in question,

In 2010, she was named by Maxim as one of the 12 top female stars in porn.

She also seems to have won a clutch of awards, which presumably not everyone who has been in a porn movie has won.

(And BTW, some less-than-stellar movie actors are occasionally described as "movie stars" too.)

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Google shows 1.4 million hits for "porn actress", 0.4 million for "porn actor", and 26.5 million for "porn star". It looks like the claim implicit in the question is pretty close to true. –  mgkrebbs Mar 6 '11 at 20:22
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I think the media likes to say "porn star". When used to reference someone, it make them sound like the "worst of the worst". Using "porn actor" legitimizes them, which probably isn't the media's goal. In the case of Charlie Sheen, the media is attempting to defame him. They do so by suggesting that one of his Goddesses is the worst of the worst. –  Evik James Mar 6 '11 at 21:32
    
@mgkrebbs: It's also possible that people are really talking of actual "porn stars" much more often than mere "porn actors". :-) (I already said this in the second sentence above…) –  ShreevatsaR Mar 7 '11 at 4:00
    
Of course, there will be more hits for the more popular. A point of comparison: million Google hits for "film actress", "film actor", "film star": 1.9, 1.6, 5.6. So for the 1.4+0.4 mhits for the porn actress and actor queries, we would expect at the same ratio 2.7 mhits for porn star, instead of the 26.5 mhits observed (almost 10 times as much). –  mgkrebbs Mar 7 '11 at 8:13
    
@mgkrebbs: But many ordinary movie actors (non-stars) are routinely discussed, while I would expect near-zero such discussion for porn actors who are not porn stars. So I don't see the ratios as supporting the claim. I suggest that this Google hit-counting be abandoned as too unreliable, and some better evidence be found for the claim. –  ShreevatsaR Mar 7 '11 at 9:26
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Is this about porn stars in general or Bree Olson?

Bree Olson is a big name in not only in porn but in mainstream media. Just like anyone who graduates with a high school diploma, no matter which high school, is called a high school graduate, one who participates in a porn movie is a porn actor.

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I am not familiar with the actress/star Bree Olson. Is the one of Charlie Sheen's goddesses? –  Evik James Mar 6 '11 at 21:34
    
Rachel Oberlin is AKA Bree Olson. –  surfasb Mar 10 '11 at 1:34
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Traditionally, "porn star" is used by the media to differentiate between an actor in a film and an actor in a porn film. If a porn movie was considered to be just another genre of film, such as romantic comedy or science fiction, then they would probably be referred to as actors and actresses.

In order to clearly distinguish those who (for whatever reason) the media considers to be undeserving of the lofty title of actor, they use the term "porn star" instead. I would surmise that this was the original reason for the term. At some point the label stuck. Regardless of its origin, I would argue that it is most definitely not an attempt to grant a higher status to actors in porn.

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Seems that in order to earn the "star" label you actually have to be a star - a known name. Although I know little about pornographic films, I've heard of such persons as Marilyn Chambers and Linda Lovelace. More recently I've seen the name "Jenna Jamison" in print (might be a nom de guerre).

If your exploits on screen have given you this sort of notoriety, then "porn star" sounds appropriate. One imagines that among devotees of the genre, there are undoubtedly second-tier luminaries who are commonly known and they would qualify as lesser-known "stars." Below that, we're talking "porn actors."

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+1 for these: "Although I know little about pornographic films...", and "devotees of the genre", and of course "nom de guerre". –  Cerberus Mar 6 '11 at 19:21
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@Cerberus: I think luminaries deserves a +1 too :) –  psmears Mar 6 '11 at 21:24
    
@Psmears: Right, I forgot that one! Not bad at all. –  Cerberus Mar 7 '11 at 1:02
    
I thought that "star labels" are part of their phantom-cloth and entourage to give some visibility of invisibility of some parts and to make the show a little bit different from lessons of physiology –  Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk Mar 7 '11 at 12:23
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It's surprising to me that no one has mentioned this yet, but I think a big reason this usage has become prolific stems partly from both its euphemistic sense, and the psychological power the term star gives to performers in the adult industry.

For newspapers and "official" social commentators, calling adult performers porn stars allows one to be vaguely socially liberal, without necessarily delving too deeply into the sensual or shocking bits of the industry. After all, theoretically, at least in some strands of feminism, sexual liberation and empowerment are found in the adult industry: Some feminists might say that adult work frees women from old, hoary, paternalistic traditions of sexual propriety and fidelity, and allows women not only sexual freedom, but financial freedom, in that they are explicitly paid for a traditionally unrecompensed service. Self-actualization and individual empowerment is faddish amongst cultural taste makers in our day and age, and using porn star allows lots of people to tacitly show how nonjudgmental they are. It is but a small allowance, after all, though of course many of these same would turn white as sheets would their daughters ever come to them proposing to enter the business.

For performers in the adult business, using the word porn star allows them to inject a bit of mainstreamness and glamor into a business that can be seedy at a times, where one can find desperate girls here and there, perhaps hooking for money and/or drugs, perhaps battered by their "suitcase pimp" boyfriend looking to break into the industry. (Not all of them, mind you; I've happened to listen to some pornstars interviewed on the radio, and it seems a good many of them have good heads on their shoulders). If you read into their world a little, you'll find that a big desire among both girls both in and about to go into the industry is this lust to be mainstream, among the bright lights. Using porn star to describe themselves, before actually achieving that status, gives them just a little bit more psychological agency in a demanding job.

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A star in porn movie shouldn't be called a porn star , as an action star in romantic movie is not called romantic star. So it is not right but an old and famous saying is "A man is known by his company"

These things exists in other places also but such gossips and news are hot so when exaggeration meet gossips then it happens.

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The stigma associated with pornography (in that you're categorized by being in that genre much more than being in another genre) probably means it has its own terminology.

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