The opening minutes of Netflix’s new thriller, Cam, are intense.
There’s a teddy bear-shaped dildo, lush pink rugs, a bunch of online viewers watching anonymously, and lots and lots of blood.
It’s a spooky scene that begins a complex, dark film about the life of an upset cam girl – after her online identity is mysteriously stolen by someone who looks exactly like her.
But more than a thrilling horror that will thrill fans of Black mirror, Cam is an important window into the lives of sex workers, says co-creator and writer (and former cam girl) Isa Mazzei.
“It was really important for me to tell a different story with a sex worker,” Isa said. To hack.
Isa says Cam was her way of correcting stereotypes about sex workers so often seen in movies and television.
“When I was a cam girl, I was very open about it, and found that a lot of people had really damaging reactions when I told them what I was doing.
“Often the reactions were based on assumptions they had because of movies they had seen or TV shows they had watched.
“I really wanted to humanize a sex worker and bring an audience into her experience and identify with her in a way they didn’t have before.”
Cam Certainly does: her main character Alice – known online as Lola – is shown in both her online and offline life. We meet her family, we see what she does outside of work, we see her messy room and her house full of boxes, and we see how dedicated and passionate she is to her job. We also see mundane things like the stuff she searches for on Google – flipping through an online store to buy a new sofa, for example – and the text messages she sends to customers.
In other words, we see Alice as a person – who happens to be obsessed with her job, and whose job happens to be that of a sex worker.
Isa Mazzei says that the authentic portrayal of Alice’s life played an important role in the writing of the film.
“I wanted people to understand that sex work is work. It’s just work.
“We don’t look at our server and ask ourselves, ‘Are you empowered by your work? We don’t get our software engineers and tell them, “You are being exploited for your work!” “We sort of accept them as careers, and we accept the agency of the people who have chosen those careers.”
Regarding the crux of the film – Alice struggling with the hijacking of her online identity – Isa says she wanted to comment on our perceptions of the numbers online.
“For me, it was important to get the message across that, you know, the person behind the screen is a person. There are real people doing that.
“I think it’s really easy to dehumanize people when we only interact with them through a computer.”
Cam is available to watch on Netflix now.