by Furry Girl

01.24.12

While I still say that Jasmine in Independence Day reigns supreme when it comes to a positive, realistic portrayal of a sex worker in a mainstream movie, I wanted to do some gender balancing and write about another favorite sex worker character.  I asked my Twitter followers if they could guess my favorite man ho, and no one could.  Like Jasmine in Independence Day, this character is from a family-friendly, big-budget movie, not a "kooky" comedy, a thriller/horror where a cliche killer targets sex workers, or a movie that's R-rated and centers on sex work as a titillating plot device to illustrate how fucked up a person is, like the depression porn that is Leaving Las Vegas.

My favorite "male" fictional sex worker character is the android prostitute Gigolo Joe from Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence, played by Jude Law.  (Law played a sex worker in another favorite entertainment, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  The saying on my blog, next to my photo, is a quote from that book/movie describing the bisexual hustler Danny: "A good time not yet had by all."  However, that's a true crime book/movie, not a favorite character of fiction.)

Artificial Intelligence is a retelling of Pinocchio set in the not-so-distant future where realistic androids, called "mecha," have become a normal part of the servant class relied upon by wealthier people.  A tech company decides to test a prototype mecha child, named David, which is the first of its kind programmed to feel genuine love and permanently imprint on a set of parents.  This scifi fairy tale follows David's quest to find "the blue fairy" from the children's book, whom he believes can turn him into a real boy as she did Pinocchio.  David does all sorts of charming and precocious things as he bonds with the family of one of the company's employees, but things go awry when the couple's biological son torments David until he repeatedly creates dangerous situations while trying to defend himself from the cruelty of humans.  Rather than having him destroyed as they're supposed to, David's human "mother" cares about him enough to set him free in the woods, where he has no idea what dangers await him.  After being discarded, David meets a "lover mecha" named Gigolo Joe as the two flee from both the police and a luddite band that captures and destroys mecha for amusement, all while searching for David's mythical blue fairy so he can "become real" in order to win his "mother's" affections.

What I like best about Artificial Intelligence is that it poses questions.  I don't really have a stance on ethics of artificial life, but I look forward to seeing such debates play out in the coming decades.  What rights or considerations, if any, would you want to extend to artificial life form?  Is "violence" against an android immoral?  These topics have been dealt with via Lt. Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the rapes of sexy "female" cylons in Battlestar Galactica, the uprising of machines in The Matrix, and other science fiction stories that ask questions about our moral obligations to technology that we create to be our slaves.  I like the addition of sex work to the topic, which seems like a natural progression, since we all know that as soon as we get new technologies, we rush to figure out how to have sex with it or use it to create or transmit porn.

But, what does the movie say about sex workers, especially this particular android sex worker?  I've edited some of Gigolo Joe's most relevant scenes into the 13-minute clip below.  Above all, I love that a family-friendly movie has a small "child's" only real friend be an fugitive hooker who never expresses a single desire to "escape" his occupation/programming.  (Unlike David, who desperately wants to be more than what he is.  Being an cute and loving mecha child is a terrible curse, but being a mecha prostitute is apparently pretty awesome.)  I also like the idea of stripping away the boring "...but why did you turn out this way?" sad-story-time character development normally seen in movies with sex workers.  Gigolo Joe wasn't the product of a broken home and molestation and forced sex trafficking, he is was created because human society needs prostitutes.  The fact that so many "lover mecha" seem to exist in this world speaks to the profession's permanence and the important role sex workers (be they android or human) fill in society.  Gigalo Joe isn't so much a character as an inextricable part of us.  Very bold stuff for a family-friendly movie to be insinuating.  It's an outsider story where the sex worker character is not an outsider because of his occupation, but because he is not flesh-and-blood, and that deep divide is the serious one, not sex worker versus civilian.

The only thing the movie is sorely lacking with this character is explaining how exactly Gigolo Joe's financial structure is set up.  Is he an independent sentient who keeps his fee, or does he have some kind of agency, renting him out like a DVD?  And what does a mecha prostitute spend his money on, anyway?  These are the answers we need!

Click the screenshot to watch the .mov file in your browser, or click here to download and watch in Quicktime (.mov) format, which is 22mb.  Spoilers about the movie contained within, obviously.

What this movie tells us about sex workers, Gigolo Joe, and the society that created him:

* Sex workers can be patient and compassionate lovers.
* Sex workers can be amateur therapists.
* Sex workers can encourage people to leave abusive partners and find something better.
* Sex workers appreciate tips from motel owners about how to avoid danger.
* Sex workers can tailor their appearance and demeanor to please different clients.
* Sex workers sometimes have to deal with vengeful, crazy spouses of their clients.
* Sex workers don't like licensing schemes, and will operate illegally if it keeps them safer.
* Sex workers aren't shy about listing their best qualities for you.
* Sex workers can participate in quests to help others realize their deepest desires.
* Sex workers can be very resourceful and know where to go in town to find anything.
* Sex workers can get a lot of business from conflicted religious people.
* Sex workers can get arrested.  (And if you're a good friend, you'll spring them from police custody.)
* Sex workers instinctively know how to operate futuristic helicopter submarines.
* Sex workers can be heroes who help people in times of need.
* Sex workers are safe to have around even the most adorable children.





6 Comments

  1. My vote goes to Lord Fanny from 'The Invisibles' by Grant Morrison.

    Comment by Helicopter Submarine — January 24, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

  2. Does it strike you as funny or odd that both of these examples come from science fiction movies?

    Comment by Zane Selvans — January 25, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  3. "I like the addition of sex work to the topic, which seems like a natural progression, since we all know that as soon as we get new technologies, we rush to figure out how to have sex with it or use it to create or transmit porn."

    That was insightful.

    "* Sex workers instinctively know how to operate futuristic helicopter submarines."

    Finally the truth comes out!

    Comment by Ki — January 29, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

  4. This could get messy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_2LpLhOsc4

    Comment by Sharon — February 4, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  5. Zane: I'm a big scifi fan, reasons for which definitely include the genre's ability to discuss things that are still "too controversial" for their time of publication. That layer of abstraction ("It's a robot prostitute in the future!" or "The Trill lifeforms use bodies of various genders throughout their lives!") allows people to think about contemporary problems in new ways.

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 5, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

  6. @ the youtube link Sharon posted: yuck. (also, 20 minutes long? Really?)

    Comment by Luna — February 6, 2012 @ 5:19 am

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