hot girls wanted
The Netflix blurb for Hot Girls Wanted promised to spotlight the amateur porn industry and the women it exploits. I was expecting something along the lines of a traditional documentary; lots of interviews, investigative reporting, some slide shows. Instead, it’s more Real World style, with a camera crew following a group of women around and observing their lives. There are some fact slides presented during scene transitions, but for the most part very little of what happens is deliberately directed at the viewer.
The film centers around Riley’s house and the girls who live there. Riley is an agent, posting the titular ads on Craigslist sites across the world. “Who doesn’t want a free flight to Miami?” With him live five girls who have come to Miami to start their amateur porn careers. They all pay rent. He also mentions that he is sometimes talent, though we don’t see him in this role.
Among the girls, the focus is on Stella, who has moved here from rural Texas. We follow her back home to visit family on two occasions. Her parents don’t know what she’s doing, though her mom discovers her secret after poking through her room, and she eventually tells her dad. She has a boyfriend, not in the industry, who initially seems ok with her doing porn, then grows increasingly unhappy with it, though he remains supportive.
I’m not sure how they selected Riley’s house to follow. The choice to follow around some actual women is a good one, since we aren’t left to wonder what their lives are like, but at the same time, I’m not sure if their situation is typical. The good news is it doesn’t seem all bad. The exploitation is mostly preying on girls who want to get out, see the world, etc. and don’t have a lot of money. But they are not, at least here, strung out drug addicts like one may imagine. They do smoke some weed, but many of the scenes in the film consist of them hanging out at the house, appearing to enjoy themselves. You would not, based on these scenes, ever believe they are being exploited.
The average shoot in amateur porn pays about $800 and takes a few hours. Each girl does three or maybe more shoots per week. They pay Riley 10%. Generally, they should be clearing more than $2000 a week, which is what keeps them working. It’s more money than they can make elsewhere. They don’t appear to have extravagant lifestyles, but neither do they seem to be saving much money. It’s not clear where the money goes, which would have been very interesting to investigate in more depth.
“Plan B costs $40, but they paid me an extra $100, so I’m $60 ahead.”
The average career in amateur porn lasts about three months. Each site has a genre, like losing their keys and having no money for the tow truck driver. Or the pervy neighbor. Whatever the ten line script is, it requires a constant influx of new girls. How many times can one girl lose her keys before it becomes unrealistic? For some of the most popular girls, they will move up. For most, however, they will move down into work that is much more deliberately degrading.
It’s never made clear what kind of contracts are in place. The $800 shoots don’t involve much negotiation, and the girls are often not told explicitly what they’ll be doing. Sometimes they find out in the middle of recording what they’re expected to do. Or more accurately, what will be done to them. It’s rarely pleasant. One of the girls rationalizes this by saying that at least if guys are watching this, they aren’t out doing it. For my part, I’m glad I’m not aroused by someone licking their own vomit.
We don’t meet many men, but one of the most interesting scenes is a behind the scenes at a shoot. Creepy family friend is going to deflower a girl going off to college. Though we don’t see much, off camera the man seems more jovial and friendly, and not creepy or abusive. Another girl repeats the sentiment that most of the men they work with are very nice. I wish more time had been spent exploring this angle. Not because I think the men are particularly chivalrous, but working conditions definitely impact their quality of life. We get hints and can make inferences, but for something that is presumably the focus of the film, not much happens on screen. Immediately afterwards, the girl states “I hate when they do that.” What it was we never know.
This is I think the biggest weakness of the film. It spends too much time humanizing its subjects, we don’t learn about the things that dehumanize them. Stella packing, Stella playing with the dog, Stella skyping with her boyfriend, Stella hunting (geese?) with her dad. But comparatively little Stella being exploited. It’s a fair choice. We are sympathetic to Stella (and the others) and don’t want bad things to happen to her. It also makes for a more pleasant viewing, in what could have been a very uncomfortable experience. But perhaps some more discomfort is exactly what’s needed.
Another fascinating scene is the girls watching Belle Knox on a talk show. Simply put, they are not supportive.
At the end of the film, Stella has moved back home and taken a job at Redneck Heaven, which has it’s own Jersey Shore style show on MTV. The other girls have moved out as well, but Riley has a new crop of eight girls living in his house.
Noted weaknesses aside, I liked it. It’s not preachy or slanted, leaving the value judgments to the audience. At the same time, while it’s clear there’s something bad going on here, we’re not given quite enough information to determine how bad.