While you have to appreciate the sense of ownership, value, and advocacy “Jezebel” presents when it comes to Black bodies, it’s not the most entertaining thing to watch.
|Screenplay By||Numa Perrier|
|Date Released (Netflix)||1/16/2020|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Young Adult|
|Duration||1 Hour, 28 Minutes|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Plot Summary/ Review
Tiffany does not come from a family with money. Her older sister Sabrina is the only person with a job in their barely one bedroom household, and Tiffany has to share the tiny living space with her sister’s boyfriend, her brother, and younger sister. So, in order to contribute, like her sister, Tiffany gets into sex work. However, rather than do phone sex, she enters the emerging market of being a cam girl. Thus leading to her having to learn how to own her sex and assesses its value in a 1998 market.
How It Speaks On Black Bodies In Terms Of Value, Ownership, and Autonomy
While, as noted below, “Jezebel” doesn’t necessarily want to dive into poverty, sex work, or anything of that nature, you cannot deny how empowering it is to see Tiffany know her worth and assert a certain level of autonomy over herself. On top of that, you have to admire, if not outright love, how she combats Chuck and Vicky, two white people who own the site she works at.
Why? Well, because they try to devalue her, push her to feel grateful they even took her on, and disregard what she brings to the table. Taking things deeper, as a cam girl, Tiffany has one client who spends an exuberant amount of time talking to her. This is very lucrative for her and the business named Babe Net. And with Tiffany seeing her check, and hearing what else is out there, and taking note of an incident that happens, she takes into account her options.
In that, seeing a young Black girl from Vegas, living in a week to week rental, you see her gain power and some form of autonomy. Granted, through sex work, but it isn’t like she is in the type of sex work where she is dealing with a pimp, is in dangerous situations, or any of that. “Jezebel” both protects Tiffany as a character, and its audience, from seeing yet another exploited Black woman. However, it also presents the fact sex work is one of the ways someone can claw their way out of poverty and that it doesn’t, as many assume, mean setting aside one’s dignity in the process.
On The Fence
It’s More So An Art Film Than A Entertaining One
One of the best things that have come from the streaming age is that movies can be made that don’t necessarily have commercial value. They can simply be art, or focused on a message, and don’t have to worry about trying to make a notable amount of money. Which, to us, “Jezebel” showcased for it doesn’t necessarily offer anything that would push you to think, “I need to see this in theaters” or “I should pat $9.99,” or the cost for any streaming service for a single month.
Now, I know this contradicts the praise. However, with streaming releases, I do believe you need to judge them partly by whether or not they could survive and thrive if they weren’t part of a package. So with “Jezebel,” which relies on the viewer to enhance its commentary on poverty, sex work, and Black bodies, so comes the need to wonder, if you don’t connect to this, what will it say? Is there something in the realm of entertaining to offer?
To us, the answer is no. “Jezebel” doesn’t do gimmicks in the form of nudity, and it isn’t trying to dive into poverty, sex work, or anything like that with its story or characters. It gives enough so that the viewer, as I did, can create a bigger discussion, but at best it just creates the opening statement. Ultimately leaving “Jezebel” feeling like a film which, unfortunately, in many ways, would never see this type of circulation or conversation if it was released previous to the streaming wars and platforms like Netflix trying to keep a steady flow of content out, no matter if it would create a stir or just add onto their quantity of content.
Would Watch Again? – One and Done
Rating: Mixed (Divisive)
“Jezebel” is the kind of film you can’t necessarily recommend to everyone. It doesn’t have your typical story, and while Tiffany does push many wonderful messages, nearly all of them are reliant on her being Black – at least for us. For if you take away how meaningful it is to see a Black woman own her body, to be able to monetize her time and sexuality, and become one of the top girls in the process, this film is dull. So unless you can really connect or be in awe of what it means for Tiffany to be a Black girl doing well in sex work, without having to take her clothes off much, you may not enjoy this movie.
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