SPOILER WARNING: TV Critic Callum Gurr gives a comprehensive breakdown of the ITV drama LiarWritten by callumgurr on 20th October 2017
Review: Hot Girls Wanted – Turned On
TV critic Melissa Veitch reviews the controversial Netflix documentary Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On.
“Despite the premise, the series is not explicit, it exposes hidden sides of porn, social media and virtual relationships, not naked bodies
The documentary series is not all about the porn industry; it also highlights how the advent of the internet has affected and brought new dimensions to human relationships and accessibility to porn. The producers state they “wanted to show where there was dark, there was also light.” Yet I found my view of the industry as exploitative, dangerous and as having serious issues with sexism and racism only reinforced and the series portrays technology as being both hazardous and desensitizing, creating more issues in relationships than aiding them.
The first episode, called “Women on Top”, focuses on bringing the feminist perspective to the porn industry. Holly Randall and Erika Lust are female porn directors who stand out in the male-dominated industry and bring a “feminine touch” to traditional porn. Erika challenges the focus of mainstream porn on male consumption and the depiction of what they want to see, instead making film geared towards female desire. She sees porn in much more of an art form, all about mutual arousal, and prevents her actors performing ‘degrading’ actions towards women, like choking or hair-pulling. It brings a much more positive viewpoint to the industry and is refreshing push back against the idea that porn is for men and men only.
The second episode explores how virtual relationships and popularity of Tinder are changing the way we interact and date, making us increasingly more superficial and judgemental. Former Big Brother contestant James Rhine is the focus, who admits that he uses dating apps to have easy flings, before ending the relationships by either ‘ghosting’ the women, or posting snapchats with another girl, and moving on to the next. He calls this “reloading”. We’ve all experienced this kind of rejection and it’s hard not to feel angry while watching, but at the same time you cannot help but feel that this is so typical today that it’s difficult to really blame James. It’s a harsh look at the increased accessibility and choice dating apps bring and suggests that rather than making relationships easier, they actively dehumanize dating, reducing everyone to nothing more than a selfie.
“The documentary series is not all about the porn industry; it also highlights how the advent of the internet has affected and brought new dimensions to human relationships and accessibility to porn
Episode 4 explores insights into the racist aspects of porn today. One porn star speaks how the porn industry is one of the last where it is still legal to not to hire someone based on their race or outward appearance. The episode also draws attention to the fact that white female actors often receive a premium to film with African-American actors, something called ‘the interracial rate’. It’s shocking and awful, but is shown to be completely accepted in this industry and implied will continue to be as long as that is what people what to see.
The fifth episode portrays perhaps the most personal story, that raises considerations about both porn and virtual relationships. It follows the story of Alice, a cam-girl, and Tom who has been one of her clients for 4 years. The two are shown to have a strong friendship, despite only ever speaking through video chat, and both state they care immensely for each other. Yet when Alice goes to meet Tom face to face in Australia, for the first times she recognizes how much devotion Tom has built up around this fantasy of her, and the extent to which it has held him back. It brings into question the morality around these kind of relationships but also succeeds in creating huge sympathy for both Alice and Tom, changing the immediate snap judgment we would usually make.
The final episode is the darkest, most shocking, and undoubtedly most upsetting to watch. It spotlights the story of Marina Lonina, a shy, young, Russian girl going on trial to determine whether she will be placed on the sex offenders register and put in prison for 20 years. Her crime? Livestreaming her best friend’s rape. It’s a sickening story, that you may have read about already, and paints a picture of Marina that makes her very hard to sympathise with, but the docuseries makes a strong case. Her father frequently refers to her as a “little girl” and her lawyer states that whilst no one disputes Marina made an appalling mistake, she is not a monster in the same league as rapists and pedophiles. Marina herself blames the increasing normalization of sexual content on Periscope, and viewing her own self-worth in the number of followers she gained. The night in question, she claims alcohol and pressure from online followers kept her filming, crying, “Everything was a blur. I didn't know how to stop." It’s a reflection of the increasing need to capture everything on film nowadays, taken to such an extreme, that the risks are hard to ignore.
“Porn has become a fully ingratiated part of today’s society and it is hard to imagine a world where this will ever change
Controversy has recently appeared around the series ever since it emerged that the producers were not given permission to use several of the clips included, even revealing one porn star’s real name. This displays a level of exploitation and lack of consent that the producers were trying to draw attention to. Despite this, I would still recommend the series; it does offer an in-depth look at unique relationships and unexplored stories that are extremely interesting, insightful and often heart-breaking. It just seems a shame that the documentary series could have ironically ended up perpetuating the exact objectification it underlines.
However, I doubt this controversy will stop people watching the docuseries, just as raising awareness of the negative aspects of the porn industry will not prevent people watching porn. Porn has become a fully ingratiated part of today’s society and it is hard to imagine a world where this will ever change, despite our feelings about the rampant sexism, racism and endangerment surrounding it. As one porn star states, "The same people who are judging you, are the very people who consume your product."