Hot Girls Wanted

Year: 2015
Production Co: Two To Tangle Productions
Director: Jill Bauer/Ronna Gradus
Producer: Rashida Jones
Writer: Brittany Huckabee

You can't help but wonder if the movie itself takes a certain sense of satisfaction in the fates of the girls we meet early on. The hubris they show when they enter the unassuming suburban house in Miami about the fame, fortune and their dreams of living above judgement and sticking it to The Man is palpable, and as the wheels fall off for many of them you can almost feel the wagging finger of an adult as if over a naughty child, saying 'I told you so'.

Because by virtue of the stories they follow, it's obvious the directors' point of view about porn was fixed before embarking on this project and examples that fit it probably aren't hard to find, so despite some creative legitimacy it has almost no investigative value, if that's what you're after.

The house belongs to a guy who manages porn actresses, placing ads online and convincing them to come to Florida to perform for porn sites with the lure of a hot lifestyle, parties and easy money.

In a fictional film the guy in question would be the antagonist, a big bad wolf deceiving and tempting innocent young girls with promises of plenty and abusing his position of power over them.

In reality the only enemy these young women have is their own unrealistic ambitions and (maybe more understandable – we rarely see the failures in any field) an ignorance of the economics involved in the industry.

We learn pretty quickly that the commodity in online porn is a fresh face, and most of them will soon be shuffled off centre stage to perform more extreme acts to make the same money rather than be one of the comparatively tiny handful that break out and become stars.

The entire arc of self discovery is encapsulated by one poor bespectacled girl who's name I've already forgotten (maybe that's the whole point). When we meet her she's lounging back in a chair, smoking a joint and talking bullshit with her new friends about how cool life is going to be and how cool they all are without a care in the world, sure her love of sex and willingness to do it on camera is her ticket.

Towards the end of the film, not long before we learn in title cards that most of the girls profiled (including her) have left the industry, we see her laying around getting ready to perform a scene while an actor and crew off camera talk about her like she's a side of beef. The discomfort she's trying to project as disinterest looks like she's worried she's about to be raped.

We see a handful of girls come from all over the country wanting to escape boring lives to be porn stars, living in their bland surfer dude manager's house, going out for jobs on websites, going out to parties and carefully curating social media profiles to sell themselves.

Like a lot of documentaries now there are scenes whose authenticity you might question (who would let a film crew record them revealing their career in porn to their mother?), and it doesn't make the whole area of 'does porn hurt women or not' any clearer.

Like almost any documentary about sex work of any kind it's a political statement belying the producers' personal beliefs, and you might even find yourself wondering if it had been bankrolled by a church organisation or conservative think tank.

If it proves anything, it's that a lot of people get into an industry expecting to become successful at it – like a few extremely visible examples do – but end up exploited and disenfranchised simply because it's a buyer's market. The same could be said about mainstream actors or even lawyers.

It just so happens that in the western world, because we're so hung up about sex, people using it as a professional tool no different than a laptop or stethoscope politicises it up the wazoo, and we respond much more harshly to the supposed violation of womens' bodies than we do the health of a law clerk working so many hours a week he earns less per hour than a kid at McDonalds.

A good companion piece is another recent documentary Cam Girlz, which profiled the lives and work of several women who make a living performing (anything from sexual acts to acts with a mere sexual component). It's as biased about Hot Girls Wanted in the other direction about women finding empowerment, economic independence, feeling attractive, etc, but there's a marked difference the twofilms highlight that has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with economics.

In Hot Girls Wanted, the aspect of these girls' ambitions that isn't really looked at is that they put their careers and money-earning potential in the hands of other people – from their schlubby agent to the porn directors and producers who book them (or don't). They're essentially freelance employees.

The women of Cam Girlz have no boss and face similar odds of making a viable living, but the potential to make it is entirely in their own hands and on their terms, performing from their laptops in their own safe environments without managers, agents or directors telling them when to work.

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