Netflix can be a blessing or a curse.
Case in point – the other day, I loaded a movie called “Sexy Baby” into my queue.
The synopsis stated: This provocative documentary examines what it’s like to be female in today’s sex-obsessed culture from the viewpoints of three very different women.
And also depressing, frustrating, mind-boggling, rage-producing, and “I’m so over this issue” fatiguing.
The film centers around the completely separate lives of three women:
- A NYC tween named Winnifred, 12 years old.
- An assistant kindergarten teacher named Laura, 22 years old.
- A former porn star/pole dancer named Nichole, 32 years old.
For reasons likely having to do with both interest and footage, the film largely hones in on Winnifred, who at 12 (she is 14 when the film closes) admittedly has the toughest challenges of her life yet ahead.
Near the end, she says:
I think this is the same with every teenager. You are going through so many changes, and it is so freaking confusing to figure out how you want to portray yourself. And there’s a lot of girls just exploiting themselves and putting themselves out there to be judged by guys and other girls. But at certain point, if you don’t want to become a prop in some guy’s life, you have to find a goal and a path. And I do want to change people’s lives.
Winnifred is right. However, the fact that she knows this, and can articulate it, at age 14, is an insight many teens her age likely yet lack.
As well, it is easy to forget while watching “Sexy Baby” that these three women are people first and “props” (for the filmmakers to explore an issue common to all three) second. There is a lot of nudity, no small bit of rank language, an uncomfortably bloody moment in the operating room (Laura opts to have her labiaplasty on camera), and a number of terms from the adult film industry all jumbled in with the human beings living amongst it all.
Yet each woman has her own life that she is doing her best to live with what she knows in each moment as it unfolds.
For instance, I love that Laura, the 22-year old, explains that she chose teaching kindergarten over pressure from family and friends to pursue modeling. She said she was seeking something (and I paraphrase) more real – something with more substance.
I love that Nichole, the 32-year old, has pushed her own boundaries and broken through to what seems to be a more fulfilling connection than any she’s had before when she appeared in adult films (at the start of her story, we learn she had never believed in marriage or monogamy until she met her husband, Dave – and then by the end of the film, they have just given birth to a baby son).
Most of all, I love that Winnifred is awake and aware enough to wrestle with the complex issues and compounding influences out in the open, using her voice through acting, writing, and talking with her parents and friends – and the filmmakers! She is already changing the world just by articulating so clearly what most young people her age either can’t or won’t say (or just are never given the chance to share).
And here, I have to return to my feelings of oh-so-over-it fatigue – I mean, how many different ways do we really need to showcase how sexualized our culture is?
Of course, just to be fair, in my work in the field of eating disorders and recovery, I am likely much more aware than many and I probably see a lot more of this sort of thing than most have time to watch, read, or listen to.
But that just means I am that much more bone-weary of the clothes, the makeup, the hair, the sexting, the boobs, the bod, the butt, the whole 9 yards.
Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe that is why I queued up “Sexy Baby” – because every so often, it is good to remind myself that I am so over it all.
In this day and age, literally anybody with a few extra bucks in their pocket can order up their ideal body, from top to bottom. But (thank goodness!) we can’t so quickly customize our hearts and souls.
These we must work on the hard way – the old-fashioned way – and exactly the way we see Winnifred, Laura, and Nichole working on theirs throughout the film, finding their own questions (and then their own answers), choosing who their close mentors and confidantes will be, expressing themselves (even when hindsight may later label a particular form of self-expression an “oops”), and pushing forwards to find an authentic, real and lasting sense of self that doesn’t revolve around a mirror and a selfie. I won’t watch “Sexy Baby” again.
I’m not sure I would recommend it to others (it bothered me that, out of the zillions of women they could have chosen, the filmmakers opted for three different women who each in their own ways seemed to precisely fit the persistent “thin ideal” that is so unrealistic, so unrepresentative, and most of all so unwelcome in our culture today).
But I am cautiously glad I viewed it – the reminder was timely, and I feel stronger than ever in my commitment to myself to put health, love, life, joy, peace, and service first in my life (which, happily, leaves me approximately zero extra free time to absorb super-sexualized media messages!)
Today’s Takeaway: Have you seen the film? After reading this post, would you want to? If you have seen the film, I’d love to hear your insights! If you decide not to watch it, I’d be curious to know why!