It's hard to know just yet how the Great Recession has shaped our cultural landscape, but we can certainly discern a few trends. In the past four years, audiences have largely sought mindless escapism at the movies (ahem, Transformers), while a brave few stoically faced reality with financial meltdown-themed pics like Margin Call, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, and Inside Job. Splitting the difference between these two poles is the spate of recent films and TV shows about down-and-out losers finding pluck and uplift in sex work. This trend includes Magic Mike, The Girlfriend Experience, Hung, The Client List, and this week's For a Good Time, Call..., about two enemies-turned-roommate(Ari Gaynor and Lauren Anne Miller) who'd rather listen (for hours!) to pornography-challenged strangers masturbate over the phone than simply move from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Granted, the Good Time girls only dipped their toes into the sex industry, and co-writer Katie Anne Naylon, who based the script on her own experiences as a 1-900 girl, apparently came out unscathed. Still, as Pretty Woman and Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo can attest, Hollywood has some pretty dumb notions about who does sex work and why. Can you tell which of these ridiculous prostitution premises were actual movies, and which we made up?
1) Private school is just, like, so expensive, right? To give herself the best chance at attending a good college, a 15-year-old valley girl (think Justine Bateman in the '80s) turns tricks after school. But when a hooker-killing psycho starts killing all her streetwalking pals, will our heroine manage to get extracurricular credit for avenging her friends' deaths?
2) The often cruel relationship between prostitute and pimp is nothing to laugh at, except what else can you do when the pimp is a demon? The most popular girl in school (picture a young Cameron Diaz with long, frumpy hair) is hiding several secrets: she's an abuse victim, a drug addict, and a mystic who speaks with the dead. And she's not exactly sure who or what her pimp is—only that if she doesn't obey him, she'll end up dead.
3) Two entrepreneurial job creators decide to get in their own way by opening a brothel in the least sexy place ever: the morgue. They somehow find a group of call girls who have apparently never heard of a hotel before. Sure, men like sex and some don't mind paying for it, but can a business thrive when its customers are too busy throwing up in their mouths?
4) What do you call a prostitute who doesn't seem to know what prostitution is? A young Julia Roberts-lookalike arrives in town and everyone falls over themselves to brand her with a scarlet W. Can our girl keep her sanity and dignity, even when the whole world's against her? More importantly, will she ever get together with the dude she kicked in the %@$# at the start of the movie?
5) It's three days before Christmas. The snow is falling, the sleigh bells are ringing, and a little boy is dying. His heart is on the verge of collapse, and his only hope for a translant is Heather Graham, Hollywood's favorite hooker and the little boy's tubercular aunt (though actually his secret mother). Wanly beautiful throughout the film, Heather Graham makes his sister promise—promise!—that the little boy will never learn the truth behind his Christmas miracle—that she's donating him her heart. Alas, her heart is made of 24-karat gold, and she and the little boy die in each other's arms.
Answers: 1) Angel, 2) Twin Peaks: Walk Fire With Me, 3) Night Shift, 4) Showgirls, 5) Not an actual movie.
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