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‘Baby:’ a story of love, not prostitution

| Monday, November 2, 2020

Liya Blitzer | The Observer

When you see the pink-colored poster for the Italian series “Baby,” the last thing you’d imagine is a story of underage prostitution inspired by real events, but the third season of the Netflix show continues to unravel the dark, hidden lives of a pair teenagers.

The main character ‘baby,’ Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli), is dissatisfied with her privileged life as a teenager living in Rome’s most beautiful neighborhood. An image of the perfect girl with good grades, friends and sports creates the reality Chiara wants to escape. “Like exotic fish in a pristine tank, longing for the sea. That’s why, even though everything looks perfect, to survive, we need a secret life,” Chiara says in the opening lines of the series. So far, her only problems were falling for bad guys and having a secret relationship with her best friend’s brother; however, this time, she goes a little further.

After making a new friend in reckless classmate Ludovica (Alice Pagani), Chiara’s life turns 180 degrees. They perfectly complement each other like black and white. Chiara is sick of her old perfect friends and life, while Ludovica is a black sheep among her peers who unconsciously seek support and love. As Chiara gets closer with Ludovica, she comes into a completely different lifestyle filled with nightclubs, alcohol and older men.

Chiara and Ludovica go to a party at Ludovica’s friend’s place, Saverio (Paolo Calabresi) or, as Ludovica calls him, “the cocktail guy.” At first, everything seems harmless and fun — loud music, disco lights, free cocktails — except for the teenage girls. However, Saverio intimidates the audience during one of the first conversations with Ludovica. His advice, “sometimes they work out… those bad decisions,” indicates right away that something is off. He does a good job of simultaneously spoiling Chiara and Ludovica with charming compliments and slowly getting into their minds, persuading them to make a bad decision. Little do the girls know Saverio thinks of them as objects, the secret weapons that can bring more money to his pocket.

“The best thing about living a secret life is that you never know what’s coming next” becomes the backbone of the series.

During the dinner with Saverio and his assistant Fiore (Giuseppe Maggio), Ludovica receives an offer to accompany older gentlemen under the pretext of her needing money to pay her high school. “Many of them would pay handsomely to spend an evening with a girl like you without any obligations,” Saverio temptingly persuades. 

Chiara embraces the new self with her own free will and joins Ludovica in her undertakings. Their relationships with Saverio’s clients evolve from friendly dinners with cute presents to sexual satisfaction for a higher price. You could say that they sell themselves, but it seems that they sell their feelings more than anything, not bodies. “Feelings, I mean… They’re really just illusions. But then, money’s real,” Chiara offers as an explanation for behavior. 

What I like about this series is that it covers a real story involving multiple complex characters and revealing all the ailments of human society — family and romantic relationships, affairs, adultery and betrayals. Chiara and Ludovica’s secret lives are not about prostitution itself, but rather the struggles of adolescence, the desire, sometimes out of control, to behave contrary to  the expectations of parents waiting for you to know what you want to do and who you want to be in the future.

Teenagers are as fragile as Play-Doh. You can play around with them as much as you want, with or without knowing what you are doing, and it will have an impact on them, even if you press very slightly. They can be lost, not knowing who they are and just seeking an answers as to how to be a grown-up. Oftentimes they find a way to feel powerful and fight the apathy gnawing from the inside by doing things that might harm them. In the end, as one of the screenwriters of the series, Romolo Re Salvador, says, “It’s still a story about love, not prostitution.” Maybe love is what most of these young adults are missing, starting with love for themselves.

Title: “Baby” Season 3

Starring: Andrea De Sica, Anna Negri

Favorite episodes: “No More Secrets,” “Beyond the Aquarium”

If you like: “Elite,” “Euphoria”

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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