Hannah Qin tells us why The Girlfriend Experience is worth a watch…
What are you willing to do for those silk stockings?
Focusing on the small screen adaptation of Soderbergh’s piece, The Girlfriend Experience centers around Christine, a woman who lives as a law student and intern of a prestigious law film and thrives as a high-class escort. From unbiased lens, the series dives into the hosed-down experience of walking in Christine’s shoes, the interaction between clients, and balancing on the fine line between what’s required of work and what’s required of everything else. Christine is played by Riley Keough, granddaughter of Elvis and a star in her own right.
Singling out the exhausting pace that neoteric society requires of us, the dynamics weave in and around the affairs of modern happiness. Honesty in the characters barges through in a hot flash and then disappears as if it had never been there in the first place. Christine’s entire world runs a wind-up toy that’s only purpose is to re-wind. Everyone is constantly building up walls, tearing them down, and then building them higher, only to move up in the social ladder to do the same thing. With her clients, Christine is guarded and delivers her performance neatly tied up in a generic and repetitive bow. But with other women, Christine feels distant and removed as well, if not more so. She has no friends and her relationships with other people, including her family, are in a constant muffled state. Making human connections seems to be society’s definition of happiness and Christine doesn’t make the cut.
Christine is accomplished without a doubt. She’s a good student, she’s punctual at work, and yet it’s not enough. She finds an insatiable need for further control and further recognition. Isolation makes the control aspect easier so she takes it. Christine seemed to show genuine joy only in the pilot and finale, creating a natural bookend for the story. In the beginning, Christine is laughing with Avery as she orders room service off of the client’s card and by the end, Christine becomes the escort and finally has control of her life.
In a way, TGFE is the ultimate feminist series in a reverse process that strays away from mainstream feminism. It’s like eating your birthday cake on Christmas. Christine utilizes men’s attraction to her benefit in paving a life for herself, and she enjoys it. She’s punished for her sexuality when she tries to succeed in the way she’s supposed to. Yet she’s still chastised by her family and other men for her sexuality when she tries to succeed in a non-traditional way. It’s a huge wake-up call on the highly-demanded idea of doing something “right”.
Our natural instinct is to assume that Christine has no more hope and that her life is completely destroyed because she was fired from her internship, erased from any chance of ever finding a job in her hometown at least, and essentially rejected from all conventional ideas regarding success and happiness. However, much to our surprise, Christine picks her life back up and becomes a full-time escort, is successful, and enjoys it. After the finale, we’re caught asking questions like “will Christine go back to law school? Does she expect to be an escort for the rest of her life? How will she fix her career?” Essentially all the things that society expects us to ask. Which begs the question of how much of the cake we actually made and how much was handed to us in the cake mix packet.
At the end of the day, Christine is a radically empowered woman. She is liberated from the confines that dictate what men should do with a woman’s sexuality and what women should do with her own sexuality; she is free from it all.
The show keeps you in discomfort at the edge of the seat and on the tips of the toes, making me question my own ideals in the process. An eye-opener that took the long-held enigma of what it means to be happy and flipped it twice over on its head, The Girlfriend Experience is a must-watch.