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‘Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On’ has potential, at best

| Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lindsey Meyers | The Observer

In Netflix’s new series, “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” — produced by Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus, and most notably Rashida Jones from “Parks and Recreation” — we get an inside look at the women who dare to work in the porn industry. The series follows up the trio’s 2015 documentary “Hot Girls Wanted” which examined women in the amateur porn industry. Whether we would like to admit it or not, porn plays an influential role in our lives whether you actively consume it or not. In past decades, teenage boys and middle-aged men might have hidden Playboy magazines under their beds and in their closets, but today porn is just a click away. It influences not only the way we have sex, but also the way we view the opposite sex.

The first episode of “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” tackles some of these issues. The episode follows three women: Suze Randall — Playboy’s first female staff photographer (now retired); her daughter Holly Randall — also an erotic photographer as well as producer and director; and Erika Lust — a Swedish erotic filmmaker. All of these women operate behind the camera of erotic photoshoots and porn films and take a feminist approach to their project.

In the U.S., Holly Randall deals with the pressure to create mainstream porn that is more aggressive and more focused on the male gaze. While she refuses to make productions degrading to women, it becomes increasingly clear throughout the episode that her type of productions — high quality and female oriented — may not have place in an industry where fast production and cost are everything.

By contrast, Erika Lust’s productions seem to be doing well. Similar to Holly Randall, Lust is interested in creating productions that show positive experiences for women instead of the violent images visible in many mainstream porn productions. Instead, she wants to create a more emotional experience.

This first episode gives us an interesting and unique look at the porn industry. While it discusses the many gender issues within the industry, the women seem to have a genuine love for their profession. By the end of the episode, porn seems less like a taboo and more like a part of modern society that could perhaps be improved through thoughtful discussion. Unfortunately, the thought-provoking tone of the first episode is not carried over to the second.

The second episode follows the dating life of former “Big Brother” houseguest James Rhine. Rhine uses apps like Tinder and Bumble to date a bevy of women easily. The entire episode is devoted to discussing the pitfalls of modern dating — specifically modern dating apps — but also seems laser focused on Rhine and the women he dates and then unceremoniously dumps. Rhine starts off as a serial womanizer, and by the end of the episode seems to have an epiphany after one scorned woman yells at him (as if she is the first). Afterward, he seems to realize how badly he has treated all the women in his past. His moment of clarity of feels hollow and unbelievable. Furthermore, I left the episode still not sure why I should care so much about his perspective on relationships or dating apps. He’s just another guy that ghosts women on Tinder.

While the first episode of “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” shows new perspectives and ideas on a subject not many people may have heard of, the second follows an unoriginal man through an unoriginal storyline. Hopefully the rest of the series can retake its intriguing tone.

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