So I’m ringing in a new year
in Australia. Next to moving in with my girlfriend and not being
buried under five feet of snow in a Midwestern winter, the best thing
so far has been catching up with the Australian drama Satisfaction. You might remember
as the show set in a brothel featuring a lesbian sex worker as part
of the regular cast.
I have to admit to being skeptical
about the show. First, there’s Heather, the lesbian character.
A self-professed gay girl who is able to sleep with men on a daily basis
is not the most convincing evidence that we all aren’t just waiting
for the right man.
But what I was really afraid
of was another show about victimization, albeit very pretty victims.
TV and movie stories about
prostitution (insert your favorite Law and Order franchise here)
are littered with the corpses of dead hookers. Those who aren’t
horribly raped and murdered usually fall into two camps.
1. She’s a Pretty
She’s a street-smart hooker, who really just needs
a good man to transform her into an elegant woman, who really just needs
love to put her on the straight and narrow. She fell into the
life because of her circumstances and people who put her down.
Maybe it’s just me, but I always found Vivian (and Eliza Doolitle, for
that matter) more interesting before the Pygmalion play.
2. She’s a Monster.
She’s the abused little girl who tries to find a way out of the life
but never is quite able to manage it, possibly because she never finds
the love of a good man to put her on the straight and narrow.
She fell into the life because of her circumstances and people who abused
her trust from a young age.
Yes, I know this one’s based on a true
story. But the way her story is filmed, beginning with the clips
of an abused childhood, fits right into the cinematic framing of prostitution.
The premises of the two movies actually sound a lot alike. Neither
character ever has had any power to change her own life.
Satisfaction flirts with this
story line, it’s true. (More about that is to come.) Thankfully,
the only thing brutalized on the show is so-called respectable society,
which is revealed to be hypocritical and mean in just about every episode.
Instead of passing judgment on sex work and the women involved, Satisfaction
tells stories about a handful of women who happen to be sex workers,
and who through their work find financial freedom, independence — and occasionally,
well, satisfaction. It’s like Firefly‘s Inara got
her own show.
So on a scale of cliché to creative,
original writing, so far Satisfaction is winning. Mostly.