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Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Illustration for article titled Secret Diary of a Call Girl
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Illustration for article titled Secret Diary of a Call Girl

The thing that Belle Du Jour, aka Hannah Baxter, the toothy, oft-bouffant blonde London hooker who is the titular call girl in Showtime's UK import comedy series The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl really wants to get across is that she is a happy hooker. Some would say that she is also a glamourous hooker: consistently well turned-out (pun intended) in designer suits, usually sheathed in expensive lingerie, and always painting her nails or shellacking her lips with gloss. (Seriously, at least 5 minutes of this first episode were spent on Belle/Hannah painting her nails, putting on her face, or in other ways prepping.) And still others would say, and in fact have said, that Secret Life Of A Call Girl, which aired in the UK last year, does its best to glamourize prostitution.

I don't really agree with that last charge. For one thing, in terms of movies and television that make prostitution look like an enviable career, there are far worse offenders. At least The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl doesn't pretend that all of Belle/Hannah's clients are a gentle, lovestruck Richard Gere, who will take Belle/Hannah away from all this on a magic carpet made of money to a land where no one will care that she was once a hooker, because they'll be too blinded by her shiny heart of gold. On the contrary, in this first episode, Belle/Hannah has to play horsie with a pudgy, mutton-chopped farm enthusiast—which is about as far away from young Richard Gere as you can get.

But the main reason I think the show doesn't really glamourize hooking, is because the image of the happy hooker who is fulfilled in her job, and only does it cause she "loves sex and money", and who professes to thoroughly enjoy playing horsie with a pudgy, mutton-chopped farm enthusiast to pay the rent that Belle/Hannah is trying so hard to project is very clearly that: just an image. In this first episode, virtually everything that Belle/Hannah confesses to the camera as truth is revealed to be a lie, or undercut in some way: When she says, "I'm very high-class" she's sitting on the toilet. She claims to work for herself and only have an "agent," but in fact she is at the beck and call of a ballsy madame who takes 40% of her earnings. While waiting for a client at a hotel bar, she says that she's so good at her job she just knows the man will be a "recent retiree" looking to feel special—then he walks in, a young, handsome man who wants intimacy as much as he wants sex. She says that she's very happy doing what she's doing, but then the second that a client deduces her real name, she spends several minutes moping around doing something that appears to be very close to thinking—which, as everyone knows, is the first sign of unhappiness.

In truth, Belle/Hannah seems to be a young woman playing at being a happy hooker, much in the same way she and her friend played at being "spoiled rich" while touring a fancy open house. Maybe sometimes she can convince herself of that fact, but if that pajama-clad moping section was any indication, she certainly can't pretend to be happy hooker all the time. Right?

Grade: B-

Stray Observations:

—How long was this episode? 20 minutes? Not that I think it should be longer. Comedies about glamourous, glamourous hooking probably benefit from being streamlined.

—Which is grosser: an erotic fixation with farms, or mutton-chops? Discuss.

—Most Pretty-Woman-esque part about this episode: the romantic massage that Daniel gives Belle/Hannah.

—Least Pretty-Woman-esque part: When Daniel goes to shake Belle/Hannah's hand, and she fumbles with her vibrator.

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