What 'Hustlers' Got Wrong About Stripping

For the past two years, I’ve taken my clothes off for money. It’s an interesting existence, and I’ve worked hard to balance my education, my social life and my occupation. I love my job more than anything. I’ve worked in restaurants where I’ve had to commit to doing doubles every weekend, endured the shittiest of managers and have constantly dealt with embarrassingly low compensation for my time and effort. Many people have asked if my job is degrading, but to me, selling your time for substantially less than you’re worth is the most degrading thing of all. That being said, when I heard about Hustlers and its completely female cast, I was lit! However, after watching the movie, I needed to officially gripe about some of its inaccuracies.

To start, Hustlers is a good movie. J-Lo showed us that your body doesn’t just shrivel up once you hit 40, Keke Palmer blessed us with one of the greatest memes of all time during its promotion, and the filmmakers truly made an effort to include actual strippers and burlesque performers. There are also things they got incredibly right, like the dressing room banter, feeling pressured to give extras (AKA, offer sexual favors) and the incomparable joy of having your house mom bring food.

However, there are still so many glaringly inaccurate details in the movie. First, never in my wildest indie-loving dreams would a DJ have allowed me to dance to "Criminal" by Fiona Apple. While J-Lo’s set was fairly impressive for a non-stripper and a fifty-year-old woman, I was shocked that she performed her big stage set to the song. I’ve dreamt of clubs where they allow me to play all my alternative favs like Fiona Apple or Radiohead, but unless you’re at an amazing hipster strip bar, it’s just not going to happen. More likely, J-Lo’s character would have had to dance to the same rotation of Chris Brown, Usher, and other popular artists from the pre-recession charts.

Of course, there was the enthusiastic throwing of money during the very same stage set. Men at the strip club are rarely that generous. I’ve heard men ask me what else I’m going to show them when I am completely naked for a dollar, so I have a hard time believing that J-Lo’s minimal pole skills could garner that kind of “rain.” Of course, this is pre-recession Wall Street clientle, but it's still a little hard to believe. Many people looking to become entertainers might look at that scene and underestimate the hard work this job requires. In most clubs, you don't just go up on stage and make your night's earnings, but you actually have to hustle by selling dances and rooms with customers. You interact very directly with your clients and, sometimes, in the most boring, unpleasant, or funny ways.

Most importantly, the movie essentially suggests that strippers are money-hungry, deceitful criminals willing to do anything for a check. Most dancers I know are weary or completely against giving extras, let alone willing to commit a violent, illegal act such as drugging a man to take advantage of him. Most of us spend our time as therapists, cuddle experts and conversationalists. There are very few of us that that would go to such extreme measures to make our living, but it was certainly a fun watch, and it was mildly satisfying to see strippers get a one-up on men, especially after experiencing so much grief and hardship from customers at the club. 

All in all, grab your girls and go ahead and see Hustlers. It’s a fun movie with a lot of heart. Just remember that stripping is so much more than glitter and Pleaser heels. We’re human beings, and we deserve representation in films that doesn't demonize us.

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