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Sex workers' drama transcends soap opera frivolity


SatisfactionSatisfaction: 60 minutes (10 episodes). Rated: MA. Director: Daina Reid. Starring: Diana Glenn, Kestie Morassi, Peta Sergeant, Alison Whyte, Robert Mammone, Rebecca Moore.

'Glamorous' is one word that does not apply to last year's low-budget Melbourne film, The Jammed. Dubbed the Catholic Film Office's 2007 Film of the Year, The Jammed provided a sledgehammer deconstruction of one of the more morally queasy aspects of the sex industry: human trafficking and its context of abuse of vulnerable migrant women.

The 'glamorous' moniker is better suited to another recent Melbourne production related to the more up-market end of the sex industry. The ten-part series Satisfaction, screened by Foxtel's Showcase movie channel, takes place in the luxurious 232, a fictional high-class city brothel, where demand is high and prices are higher.

The workers' lucrative living and commensurately comfortable lifestyle suggest their career path is one to be envied. But it's more a matter of 'normalise' than 'glamorise'. In many ways the women's profession is just that. They go about their duties studiously. Often the work is a chore. Sometimes it presents a challenge to be met with persistence and lateral thinking. And occasionally, there's enjoyment to be had.

It's more amoral than immoral. The series isn't interested in clichéd condemnation, but it's not exactly celebratory either. By its nature the work brings its share of demeaning or downright seedy moments. The ever-present possibility that the next client could be a pervert or a sicko means the façade of safety and security is never entirely convincing.

Satisfaction's heart and its dramatic strength do not lie amid the extravagances and dangers of the club, but in the personal lives of the characters. Their everyday conflicts are exacerbated by the nature of their profession, so that impending guilt and shame seem to fizz just beyond the on-screen action. Thus the voyeuristic appeal of soap opera evokes insights into the fallibility and emotional complexity of humanity.

A subplot involving lesbian 'fetish queen' Heather (Sargent) and her partner's attempts to become pregnant takes surprising and affecting turns. Lauren (Whyte), recently abandoned for another woman by her husband of nearly 20 years, discovers a new sense of independence and individuality, despite the dubious respectability of the work. And when single mum Chloe (Glenn) is faced with her teenage daughter, Bonnie (Moore), discovering the truth about where her mother goes at night, the fallout is close to devastating.

Satisfaction loses its stride during the second half of the series. A subplot involving tough-but-sensitive club owner Nick's (Mammone) connections to organised crime borders on silly. Likewise uptight 232 receptionist Natalie's (Morassi) infatuation with a rubber-clad client. But it returns to form in time for an emotive final episode cliffhanger.

It's a far cry from the high-impact social punch of The Jammed. Still, Satisfaction is sufficiently edgy and emotionally honest that it's far from frivolous. A second series will go into production halfway through this year. Meanwhile, no doubt Showcase will rerun the first series for all it's worth.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. He was previously a staff writer and film reviewer with The Salvation Army's national editorial department. His articles have been published by Inside Film, the Brisbane Courier Mail and the speculative fiction review website ASif!.




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Existing comments

re Tim's review of the film Satisfaction - no mention of the men who create the industry? No interviews with the customers to explore why they need prostitutes? Viewing brothels just as women's business is nowhere nearly as interesting as the reasons men do what they do.

Jan Richardson | 07 February 2008  

Is it politically incorrect to use the word 'pimp' when referring to those gentlemen who help to keep the sex industry running? Are they not entitled to be described as sex workers? Why is society so coy about talking about them or describing the work that they do? Without them the industry would surely fall into chaos.

Claude Rigney | 07 February 2008  

I'm so disappointed that Tim has not bothered to mention, in his jolly review, those dedicated men who keep the sex industry performing. Isn't it about time we stopped referring to those hard-working and sensitive men as 'pimps'. Are they not entitled to be described as sex support workers? Do they go about their 'duties' any less 'studiously' than the women? No, they are committed to protecting the women under their care and their 'Rights at Work'. Why is society so coy about acknowledging them or describing the work that they do? Without them the industry would surely fall into chaos. Let's come out of that prudish closet and hail them under a new title; Exotic Executors of Eroticism is my suggestion.

Claude Rigney | 08 February 2008  

I love the show!! where is season four?

Jeannette | 07 February 2012  

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