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Tribeca Review: Troubling Doc 'Sexy Baby' Looks At The Indoctrination Of Women Into A Porn-Centric World

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist April 25, 2012 at 6:32PM

“Sexy Baby,” a new documentary premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, is problematic from it’s early, explicit pornographic sequences to its bewildering final shot close-up of an actual newborn baby. Ostensibly, the narrator-less film uses the stories of three separate white girls to illustrate the indoctrination of female objectification and pornography at a young age, though their subject seems awfully broad, and their net entirely too small.
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Sexy Baby

Sexy Baby,” a new documentary premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, is problematic from it’s early, explicit pornographic sequences to its bewildering final shot close-up of an actual newborn baby. Ostensibly, the narrator-less film uses the stories of three separate white girls to illustrate the indoctrination of female objectification and pornography at a young age, though their subject seems awfully broad, and their net entirely too small.

One story strand, the weakest in the film, follows Laura, a young model from Virginia (all three girls curiously hail from the East Coast, nearly a continent away from the heart of the porn industry). Laura can’t find happiness, and it’s due to the discomfort she finds in her thick labia. Labiaplasty proves to be the only option, and it’s interesting that she takes on two jobs, one of them teaching small children, because she is self-conscious about her vagina and wants to feel “like a porn star” in bed, which is said to please her unseen boyfriend. The first world excess of unnecessary glamour surgery lingers over Laura’s story, obscured by the fact that she’s positively contributing to society in earning the cash for the procedure. However Laura, as a personality, is a bit of an empty void, prone to thousand-mile stares and monotone inarticulation.

Sexy Baby

Another story concerns now-retired porn star Nakita Kash. While no longer performing onscreen, she continues representing a fantasy through strip shows across the state of Florida. Though she entered the industry as a fantasy for males, she exited with the realization that women were also beginning to emulate her. Pornography in the digital age has permeated the bedroom, she argues, revealing that it’s created a distorted mirror where she sees a sexually timid housewife watching her films and fantasizes about being that girl. Amusingly, one of her part-time gigs is teaching stripping and pole dancing to amateurs, not so they can strip professionally, but so they can feel sexier about themselves. The bulk of Kash’s story soon transfers to her marriage, with both parties acknowledging the stress of trying to conceive. Kash's husband, who also works in the adult industry as a booking agent, notably refuses to answer a question about what to do about their chosen profession when their child reaches their adolescent period.

The unsettling tail of this triptych follows Winnifred, an unusually bright and precocious preteen girl. Winnie claims she does not watch porn, limiting her heavy internet usage to blogs and social networking. But her story forces you to question the very nature of pornography, as living in New York City, pornographic images are unavoidable, as the camera slyly captures fifty foot billboards and on taxicab advertisements spotlighting exploitative imagery of women. Winnie is young and materialistic to say, “Facebook is probably thirty percent of my life,” but self-aware enough to add, “and it shouldn’t be.” In addition to school and gymnastics, she puts on small plays and performances that deflate the notion of modern sexuality -- one amusing sequence has her dissecting the popularity of sexually explicit misogynist pop songs that nonetheless have permeated the mainstream with ease.

Sexy Baby

Winnie’s parents have allowed Winnie a tremendous amount of control over her own image, but it becomes clear that Winnie is too over-stimulated and too green. Just because she’s smart enough to recognize the danger of taking provocative photos of herself and putting them online doesn’t mean she can resist the temptation. Part of it is attention, as Winnie’s parents are separated, Mom allowing her to explore her freedom until a random reprimand, and Dad merely overwhelmed and terrified at his daughter’s blossoming sexuality. But Winnie is smart enough to realize its also about power, and that if her image might in some way titillate, it suggests she has control. She doesn’t worship Lady Gaga for the music.

First-time directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus are unusually aggressive about their first film being visually explicit, to the point where they capture their subjects in suggestive poses that actually reveal their vulnerability. Laura’s genitals are exposed in full detail during her surgery, a moment sure to make the MPAA apoplectic. The camera also makes sure to linger over the still-exceptional physique Kash sports in various states of undress as she performs menial tasks around the house. More troubling is the emphasis on young Winnie’s body, the camera managing to follow her posterior in mid-walk many times. Her parents rightfully show anger when she allows questionable pictures of her to hit the net, though what of this documentary, soon to be on film screens, featuring scenes where she prepares multiple revealing outfits for a Lady Gaga concert? By allowing the cameras to capture this young girl in these moments, it’s allowing her consent over the control of her image. Sandwiched between explicit hardcore pornographic images, Girls Gone Wild montages, and strip clubs, Winnie’s incongruous exposure suggest that there can be no appropriate consent to baring yourself, and no way to escape exposure from the oversexualization of young women. [C-]

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Sexy Baby, Review


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