Welcome to filmosophy. We will begin with a short discourse on a documentary about amateur pornography.
Hot Girls Wanted is one of the most emotionally effective films that I've watched this year. Any true-to-life documentary dealing with a tough issue is bound to be an emotional watch- have you heard of Dear Zachary?- but this film had me alternating between tears of sadness and tears of anger like an extremely fickle emotional wreck. The documentary filmmakers are no strangers to the touchy subject of pornography: their previous film, Sexy Baby, is an exploration of how the popularity of adult entertainment affects our entire culture. The "pornification of pop culture", as they refer to the process, is a problem of the digital age letting pornographic themes easily infiltrate mainstream pop culture. Whereas Sexy Baby convincingly tells us how this pornification of our everyday media is hurting many women in our culture, Hot Girls Wanted takes a more personal look into the lives of pornstars themselves.
Specifically, amateur pornstars. And that is the main thrust of the argument with which the porn industry is fighting back.
The events that happen to the tragically young girls in Hot Girls Wanted were, to me, heartbreaking. The documentary centers on a handful of young women who make snap decisions to ditch their dead-end jobs, small towns, or boring futures to pursue a career in the porn industry. "Money, community, and sex" is their repeated mantra: they'll make more money than they ever have, a friend group of like-minded girls will support them, and they just love having sex. Most of them quickly realize that only a few of them will go on to make a decent amount of money (one woman is 25, but is already referred to as a "MILF" on her way out of desirability), the community set up by their agent/pimp is riddled with uncertainty and fear, and the sex tends to be borderline abusive and absolutely dehumanizing. It's enough to cause one to riot in the streets against what the porn industry is doing to these amateur pornstar girls.
"Amateur pornstar girls!" the porn industry shouts back. The industry, upset by how Hot Girls Wanted has portrayed it, is responding to the documentary by pointing out that it only represents one specific niche of the porn industry in one specific context, and therefore cannot serve as a general criticism of the entire porn industry.
And the porn industry is right to claim this- but only assuming the two following things to be true:
1. The porn industry as a whole does not dehumanize women to the extent that the amateur industry seen in the film does, and therefore has a legitimate reason to fight such a notion.
2. Hot Girls Wanted is trying to be a general criticism of the entire porn industry.
If these two things hold true, then the porn industry's claim against the documentary is valid.
Concerning the first, the only way to find out whether or not it's true is to seek more information on the subject. This education could include discussing dehumanizing sexualization with someone involved in the professional porn industry, consulting one's religious and/or spiritual convictions on the matter, or paying closer analytical attention to the documentary to see if it contains any hints of immorality inherent to pornography.
Concerning the second... how can we know for sure? Hot Girls Wanted never once explicitly claims to be a general criticism of the entire porn industry. Rashida Jones- the biggest name among the documentary's producers- has publically stated that she has no problem with the general existence of adult entertainment. At the same time, the film makes sure to contain multiple scenes of the amateur girls themselves condemning the porn industry as a whole. Could Hot Girls Wanted be implicitly attacking all of pornography? Is it responsible for art to take a side without clearly stating so? Can art portray a morally divisive reality without taking a side?
I don't know. I thought I was going to write from an unbiased perspective. I've been sprinkling signs of my anti-pornography stance into this piece from the first word, and I'm only telling you that after you've inadvertently absorbed my bias into your brain.
There's a larger point I'm trying to make here about interacting with art. Sometimes art tells its consumers exactly what point it's trying to make, sometimes there's an implicit bias hidden to sway us, sometimes art is innocently depicting our human context and leaving us to find the truth within. The only way to better know the goal of an artist- filmmaker, writer, storyteller or otherwise- is through education, as I briefly discussed earlier.
And to actually interact with the art. Even if it offends you, even if you're scared of your most grounded convictions being threatened with change, even if you've been ignoring art up to this point. I promise with all of my heart and experience that it's worth it, and that it's potentially life changing.
I want you to watch Hot Girls Wanted. I want you to actively seek further education on whatever moral questions or biases you encounter when interacting with film.
And most importantly, please don't take the words I write in any filmosophy piece for truth. Ever. Interacting with art is a personal journey. I just hope I can help you take the first step.