Directors: Jill Bauer & Ronna Gradus
Two To Tangle Productions/Netflix
The idea of the girl next door in porn has been usurped, or streamlined if you like – there’s now no need to find an actress willing to play the part it’s easier, cheaper and there is much in the way of demand – of those willing and easily enticed – to find the actual girl next door and teach her, in the porn-sense of the word at least, to act.
Hot Girls Wanted is a documentary that takes its name from the very basic Craigslist-type ads that are placed, usually offering a promise of free flights and a payment of $3000 straight of the bat. 18-25 year women are flocking. Turned on by the lure of cash and by role models that become famous for being famous for having a sex-tape in their carefully managed, easily marketable past the “amateur” world of pornography is a business that accounts for more net traffic than the combination of visitors to the likes of Amazon, Twitter and Netflix.
Cheap-to-make “authentic” pornography, staged – degrading and based around violence, misogyny and teen sexualisation – is big, big business. Though, as we see from the willing participants here and the pimp-type handlers and helmers, it’s completely without glamour. The thousands promised are eaten up – with young women turned over and out of the industry inside a year at best. If lucky they might have a couple of hundred dollars to their name.
As Hot Girls Wanted plays out it becomes more uncomfortable. The girls on display here will justify the cruel fantasy films they act in – forced blowjob scenes are referred to as “facial abuse” – as being part of a hard day’s work; something that’s necessary, a sort of on-job hazing, the graduation doesn’t seem particularly fulfilling. One girl boasts of being paid $100 extra for filming “a cream pie” (allowing the man to ejaculate inside her and then squeezing it out on camera). She says the morning-after pill only costs $40 and usually works – banking her a sweet $60 extra.
It is grim. It is depressing. And it is not at all about slut-shaming or victim-blaming or prudishness, it is an examination of a trade that works on a vague idea around female empowerment but is about male dominance, fear and manipulation.
In fact as Hot Girls plays out it is reminiscent of Nick Broomfield’s film about the Nevada brothel from the early 1980s. Yes, consider this a Chicken Ranch for the digital age. The cages and pack-mentality still exist, the dominance is still with the men controlling an idea of freedom. And the glamour remains – remains non-existent that is. Hot Girls Wanted is a tough watch. Rather beautifully, skilfully handled, mind. The film never spells out its fears to the audience – it’s just so clear to see the ugliness behind manipulation of vulnerability and sad to believe that an industry, seemingly unstoppable, charges on at this rate – no one ever wondering about the daughters, girlfriends, sisters, and the lie they don’t just get trapped in but seem to be discarded so swiftly. Spent, broken. Penniless – and far worse than that.
Hot Girls Wanted was part of this year’s Documentary Edge Festival and is currently screening on Netflix.