The New Romantic follows Blake Conway, a senior college student and aspiring journalist, who in an effort to pay off her student debt and avoid her looming thoughts of graduation, joins the sugar baby, sugar daddy dating lifestyle. The niche indie film came out in 2018 and is now available for streaming on Netflix. Blake, played by The End of the F***ing World star Jessica Barden, struggles to write an article about millennial dating due to the lack of romance, sex, and dating in her own life. It never comes off that Blake is desperately searching for love or “the one” but instead that she’s grown to doubt the possibility for romance in the era of Tinder and online dating.
The New Romantic is written and directed by Carly Stone with the intention to not be your average romantic comedy that most critics refer to as the inside out Pretty Woman. Stone even stated in a Q&A with Now Toronto “Like, you think it’s going to be a cookie-cutter romantic comedy or derivative of all these other romantic comedies, and hopefully I show you that it’s not.”
The film opens with Blake on a Tinder date with a boy playing foosball. Almost instantly after their date, he invites her over to hook up. Blake declines and the next day, she heads to a minimart to pick up beer with her best friend Nikki, played by Riverdale star Hayley Law. That’s where we meet Camila Mendes’s character, Morgan, for the first time. This is the inciting moment that pushes forward the entire film. When Blake accidentally grabs Morgan’s ID, Blake searches for Morgan to swap ID’s. When Blake arrives at Morgan’s apartment, she’s surprised to see an older man there. Morgan asks her if she’d like to stay and help her with an “arrangement.” And although Blake passes on the opportunity, this sparks Blake’s adventure into the sugar baby, sugar daddy dating world.
What I found most remarkable about the film is how it took a look at sugar baby dating without taking advantage of the Blake or judging or shaming Blake for her choices.
Blake is a funny, honest, and real character that I enjoyed watching and relating to. Although her leap into the sugar baby lifestyle was a bit naive, I think most of us would make her same choices at first try.
I’ve always joked about getting a sugar daddy with my friends because like most twenty-somethings in college, there’s something enticing about the idea of having an older man (or woman) take care of you and help pay off some of those fun old college loans. But I never actually thought about acting on it. And I’ll admit, at first glance, I judged the lifestyle. I’m still not sure if it’s something I’d ever do, but I don’t judge the lifestyle like I did before.
The Sugar Daddy
“The Professor” was technically Blake’s Sugar daddy but she never referred to him as that. What separated their relationship from the usual acts of a sex worker was the fact that they had a relationship at all. They went out on dates, he bought her gifts, and the whole relationship was free of conflict and attachment. I noticed that there were moments in their relationship that were Hollywood glamorized. Firstly, the fact that he was a professor who somehow had over millions in net worth. Secondly, that he visited Blake’s house unannounced and thirdly, after being her first and only sugar daddy, they turned out to be a perfect match. It’s important to keep in mind the whole relationship was also on the Professor’s terms. Blake seemed to know that fairly well but the deeper she got into the relationship, the more she started to doubt love. And the more the reality of graduation sunk in. Blake never seemed entirely interested in the money that the Professor offered her since she had her eyes set on a bigger prize. Writing an article about the experience to add intrigue to her column and apply for a writers award which would pay her $50,000.
The Sugar Baby
Being a sugar baby simply means offering your company to an older, wealthier man in exchange for romance and gifts. The film touches on how sugar babies are referred to as gold diggers and prostitutes but there’s something different about the relationship. Being a sugar baby takes confidence, positivity, and adventure. It’s definitely not for everyone. There’s something almost primal about the lifestyle, in the film Blake even states,
“…supporting struggling younger ones is nothing revolutionary. Read any Jane Austen novel. Granted, Austen’s heroines always rebelled against this concept for romantic love but financially beneficial relationships were the norm…So the question is, why does our society hate gold diggers? Are we repulsed by our own natural instincts? Maybe relationships aren’t supposed to be for love, but for survival.”
Something about this was sad to me because you can tell at heart Blake is a hopeless romantic, she just has a naive outlook on relationships. She mentions at the beginning of the film about her early onset attachment to rom-coms and how her parents met by love at first sight. However, real relationships take work, have conflict, have growth, and aren’t always pretty. I think her relationship with “the Professor” allowed her to stay in that fantasy.
Overall, my biggest takeaway from the film was that being a sugar baby isn’t as easy as it looks but it shouldn’t be something to judge. It’s a choice and if you don’t like it, don’t be a sugar baby.