Netflix's newest addition to its lineup is Baby, a six part series from Italy. Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli) is a sixteen year old from a wealthy neighborhood in Rome. She befriends Ludovica (Alice Pagani), an adventurous spirit who loves to party but hates her home life. Add in Chiara's goody-two-shoes friends, a hot new bad boy at school, and two club owners, and you believe you're in for regular teenage drama. However, SPOILER ALERT, things take a dark turn as Chiara and Ludovica are convinced to sleep with strangers for money. For Chiara, it's more of a chance to break free of the regular good-girl image, while for Ludovica it's an income to pay her school fees.
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Sadly, Baby is based on a true story. The two girls were 14 and 15 years old when they began to spend their afternoons as sex workers. They found the work after googling for ways to earn easy money. Reportedly, they had their own apartment financed by two men and their clientele included over 50 Italian government officials. One of the girl's mothers even knew of her daughter's work and encouraged it, despite her protests and wanting to stop. The other girl's mother was the one who went to the police. After the news story broke, it was reported that the clients had known the girls were underage when they were engaging in sex acts. While sex work is legal in Italy, acts with underage girls is not.
The show has caught heat online for supposedly glamorizing underage sex trafficking, a claim the two directors adamantly deny is the intention of the show. It is hard to watch the girls be so blatantly tricked in their attempts for freedom. They're complimented, praised, and fawned over in an obvious attempt at grooming. And although the show only shows the girls engage in their sex work once each, it's filmed to show the situations as almost liberating and non-threatening.
The episodes also show how slut-shaming is still a common occurrence. Chiara and Ludovica are sexually active with people for non-payment as well, and their decisions to do so mean their peers label them as 'sluts' and 'promiscuous'. In one scene in the pilot episode, a video of Ludovica beginning to be intimate with an ex-boyfriend is shown at a party, where she is mocked and humiliated by the popular girls. It becomes more upsetting when you realize the boy filming the video and engaging her in the acts is standing there at the party laughing with everyone else.
Each of the actors performances were great, but it's Pagani as Ludovica that deserves the most praise. She's vulnerable, stubborn, and gives off the perfect amount of exhilarating angst. Ludovica is the more susceptible of the two. She does attempt to stick up for herself, but the adults have manipulated her to stay between a rock and a hard place.
Baby exemplifies female youth fighting for independence and adulthood, but highlights how teenagers can find themselves in situations they're completely unprepared for. Netflix has apparently already ordered a second series. Baby's six episodes are easy to binge, so make sure to start the show only after you've finished finals this week.