Retro Review: Sex In a Different City

Secret Diary of a Call Girl

If the end of Sex and the City has left a hole in your heart (and TV watching schedule) forget the censored repeats on TBS and check out Showtime’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl.  While it doesn’t quite have the girly friendship aspect (you’re either a Belle or a Hannah, sorry ladies) it makes up for it with a lot more sex in a cooler city (British accents!).

The show’s premise is based on a blog turned book, The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, and is exactly what the title suggests.  If you were a Samantha back in the day you will surely like Belle’s attitude toward sex.  She didn’t become a whore because she was abused or raped, she simply couldn’t find anything else that she enjoyed doing, and was good at, that paid as much for such little work.  Don’t be bringing me down with your bourgeois hangups, the show is not a promotion for prostitution.

The show has received criticisms, especially from feminists, that complain of Belle selling her body and objectifying women.  While Belle is definitely selling her body the show has stated that people primarily see the drug-fueled, sex trafficking side of prostitution and they are introducing the masses to the higher class world of it all where many of the women are well read (in some cases well educated), middle class, and cultured.  I find the show no different than Weeds, The Sopranos, and DexterDiary explores what it means to be a call girl, and does not shy away from the good or bad aspects of it.

The show routinely points out that with the bulk of her clients it is not about the sex, although it usually ends there.  Many of the men want companionship or the GFE (girlfriend experience). It may seem objectifying to women, but Belle finds her job to be more of a social service.  She prides herself on being able to talk to her clients, find out what they want, and give it to them.  Our main character is not a pushover, however.  If there is a client she doesn’t want to see or an act or activity she doesn’t want to do – you better bet she won’t be doing it.  In two seasons I’ve never felt that Belle was under control of a man or being objectified.  Belle is doing what she wants, how she wants.

Just like with the early days of SATC in addition to voice overs,  Belle routinely breaks down the fourth wall of television while in the midst of her latest sexual escapades to explain the tricks of the trade and why either her or her clients are about to do what they do.  We see what it means to be part of an escort service, work as an independent agent, and be a kept woman.  Throughout the second season we really see what her job, and her love of it, can do to her social life.  To be a call girl usually means lying about your life and who you are to your family and friends.  Personal relationships are almost always out of the question, and become very tricky once entered into.

Secret Diary of  a Call Girl is a fascinating foray into the sunny side of London’s seedy underbelly worthy of it’s Amy Winehouse instrumental excerpt theme song of “You Know I’m No Good“.  Seasons one and two available on DVD, season three currently filming.

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