The Girlfriend Experience is perhaps the best kept secret on TV right now – it’s actually a post-Guillaume Gibson Cyberpunk drama. And no one noticed it because no one seems to be watching this show. In case you didn’t know, The Girlfriend Experience started life as a low budget experimental film directed by Steven soderbergh featuring Sasha Gray as a call girl in a workplace drama about sex work. It was then introduced to Starz as an anthology series, with each season featuring a completely different story and cast, with independent filmmakers in charge of their stories.
The first 2 seasons featured stories of Lodge Kerrigan and Amy siemetz. 3 star season Julia Goldani Such as a young neuroscientist working for a startup developing behavioral AI, becomes a call girl in part to escape the drama of her life – her father is deteriorating from Alzheimer’s disease – and to secretly collect behavioral data about men’s emotional and sexual responses to use as research. As is usually done in this situation, I guess.
The Girlfriend Experience always follows the conventions and tropes that the call girl genre seems to insist on. These seem to be set in stone:
– The heroine finds the vicarious thrill of posing as a different person while working in sex.
– The heroine pushes back the limits and risks exposing her identity.
– The existential themes of female identity, autonomy and agency abound
– The heroine comes out at the end changed forever.
The 3 seasons of the series follow these conventions. You could argue that this show has always been a form of sci-fi because any real-life sex worker will tell you how unrealistic and glamorous it is. The show uses sex to sell itself although its sex scenes are often cold, clinical, and non-erotic, as it uses it as a sugar coating to sell the story it really wants to tell each season. This season, created by Anja Marquardt, is a purely feminist cyberpunk drama with slight thriller elements.
It’s not about the heroine’s life in danger, but her agency, her identity, maybe her soul, and certainly her data, the latter being the Cyberpunk part. The tech startup she works for is just as insidious and potentially evil as Facebook. And there are a lot of RVs. Nothing signals science fiction like virtual reality. It’s totally science fiction, but Starz hasn’t done anything to hype or market this show in any way. There is a lot of dense discussion throughout the season about AI, datasets, technical and legal discussions about the nature of human behavior, reaction and whether AI can learn to recognize it and even learn to recognize it. reproduce it. The heart of science fiction stories is the question “What makes us human?” “
The Girlfriend Experience Season 3 uses the prism of sex work and a genre meant to titillate its audiences to explore serious themes typically only found in hardcore sci-fi. The season offered a more subtle and thoughtful sci-fi tale than HBO’s Westworld has been. Great moments are emotional, found in the interactions between Iris and the person she is with, not in shootings and explosions. It’s not the sex that’s shocking here, it’s the dangers of humans losing control of their minds, identities, data, and lives. This show would be nominated for the Hugo Award and the Saturn Award if anyone in the sci-fi world noticed it.
Starz is making the most interesting, unexpected and innovative shows right now, but no one knows they exist due to a lack of marketing and publicity. But that’s a discussion for another time.
The Girlfriend Experience is now on Starz.
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