Starz premiered a new series this year titled The Girlfriend Experience following the professional life of a high-end escort. Riley Keough is a second-year law student who just gained an internship position at one of the biggest law firms in her field. From the perspective of a young woman close to her age who is also pursuing graduate studies and attempting to get an internship in a top-notch company, she seems to be living the dream. The first episode begins with her applying to various internship positions and her responses to all the questions are perfectly constructed and rehearsed to appeal to each interviewer. Therefore, we quickly learn that she is a driven and ambitious woman who is also exceptionally intelligent and calculating, so she knows how to manipulate the system to her benefit. In other words, she embodies all of the qualities we each cultivate in order to “make it” in a world obsessed with profit (personal and professional). Due to her busy lifestyle (juggling graduate studies and an internship when both are full time is NOT easy), she has been unable to establish a close relationship with anyone. She confesses to have never been in a relationship and has only one friend who seems more of an acquaintance or that they got thrown in together because everyone else found them off-putting. In one of the best scenes in the series she tells her older sister that spending time with people is a waste of time.
What was surprising about this line is that it wasn’t the first time I heard it from the mouth of a twenty-something year-old. All of my friends/acquaintances were met while studying and running a student organisation together and we hit it off based on mutual benefit. The same with my boyfriend. Being as honest as he is, my boyfriend often states that he only keeps people around as long as he can use them (real romantic, I know). However, I think in this respect Christine’s attitude and decisions are easily understood. She is what we are all becoming: automatons whose interactions with others are based solely on transactional gains. Escort work just seems logical: she enjoys sex but does not have the time nor predisposition to establish and maintain an emotional bond with someone and she needs money to pay rent (interns are, after all, unpaid slaves). As a graduate student with determined career and life goals, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find a twenty-year-old worth your time (as in not a college drop-out who has no goals or ambitions in life and spends his/her time in unproductive activities) and even more difficult getting your schedules to match when you do. I should know because I’ve been struggling with this for nearly four years. Escort work is a win-win; you get to satisfy sexual needs and money to satisfy other biological needs (food, house, etc.).
One of the most captivating factors of the show is Christine’s seeming indifference to everything. She has the same emotionless eyes in every scene, whether it be talking to her sister or having sex with a client or peeing or masturbating. Each of her actions seem to be purely a biological impulse and do not touch her mentally or emotionally. In this, Riley deserves to be lauded for her amazing talent as an actress. I honestly don’t know how she kept from looking amused during some of the sex scenes because I laughed out loud at quite a few. The men were all so into it and she was completely dissociated. She honestly looked like she was making to-do lists while they savagely fucked her.
On the other end of the spectrum, Christine’s clients are just as interesting. These are the middle-aged men of upper class America; wealthy and overworked with spouses who are just as wealthy and overworked and have no time to listen to their problems nor show emotional compassion. Christine is not a prostitute. She is a paid girlfriend. In other words: she feigns intellectual interest and emotional commitment to her clients in exchange for money (hmm, sounds like the basis of a lot of marriages anyway). She learns the intimate details of her clients’ lives and satisfies their needs for emotional and sexual intimacy. It is really not about the sex. It is about the men not feeling alone, which is in itself the most intriguing element of the whole series. My take on The Girlfriend Experience is quite simple: this is the world we live in. We are too busy to establish or maintain intimacy with our partners because it does not benefit us financially, but if it did then no problem. Even the wealthy are alone and everything comes down to business. Honestly, all millennial women should watch The Girlfriend Experience.