competence porn

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


A 1914 illustration of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes by Frank Wiles for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Valley of Fear, which first appeared in The Strand Magazine. In 2014, Holmes’ “deductive brilliance” was cited as an example of competence porn.


competence + porn (material, usually visual, presenting something desirable in a lurid, garish, or sensational manner), coined by John Rogers in a 2009 blog post about the TNT drama Leverage which he created.[1]


  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: com‧pe‧tence porn


competence porn (uncountable)

  1. Entertainment featuring competent characters carrying out difficult tasks with great aptitude.
    • 2009 August 11, John Rogers, “LEVERAGE #204 ‘The Fairy Godparents Job’ Post-game”, in Kung Fu Monkey[2] (blog), archived from the original on 31 March 2016:
      Good Lord, how we agonized over spending so much time in the briefing scene in this ep. Ironically, this episode arrived just as we were collating feedback off the 'net and found, stunningly, you people love the briefing scenes. For we writers, it was always X pages of pipe we tried to make as entertaining as possible and move past to get into the plot. For the audience, watching competent people banter and plan was a big part of the appeal. "Competence porn" as we started calling it.
    • 2014 April 9, Lewis Dartnell, “Are you hooked on competence porn?”, in The Daily Telegraph[3], London, archived from the original on 7 October 2015:
      Turn on the TV right now and you'll probably find an avalanche of competence porn. Think about the fast-talking dialogue and political strategising of the characters in House of Cards, the medical acumen of House, the deductive brilliance of Sherlock Holmes (in any of the recent BBC, CBS or Warner Brothers adaptations), and the ingenious bushcraft of Bear Grylls.
    • 2015 October 9, Sharan Shetty, “The Martian is not ‘competence porn’”, in Slate[4], archived from the original on 25 March 2016:
      “[C]ompetence porn,” has been thrown around by many critics in describing The Martian. John Rogers, creator of erstwhile TNT drama Leverage, coined the term in 2009, when he and his writers realized that viewers were addicted to the show’s pipe-laying, jargon-laden briefing scenes. “Competence porn” is a truly excellent phrase for an old phenomenon; the frisson of watching smart people tackle tasks with freaky aptitude dates as far back as Robinson Crusoe.


Coordinate terms[edit]


  1. ^ Corrina Lawson (16 October 2009), “Admit it: you love competence porn too!”, in Wired[1], archived from the original on 2016-03-31.

Further reading[edit]

  • Annalee Newitz (1 February 2016), “The Martian, Sherlock Holmes, and why we love competence porn”, in Ars Technica[5], archived from the original on 2016-03-05 — an overview of competence porn in modern fiction