Romantic comedies rarely delve into the world of sex work with nuance or sensitivity (though the Pretty Woman Rodeo Drive scene will stand the test of time). But upcoming rom-com The New Romantic is flipping the script, featuring The End of the F***ing World's Jessica Barden and Riverdale's Camila Mendes as sugar babies (fellow Riverdale actress Hayley Law also stars). The film, by debut director Carly Stone, won the Special Grand Jury Award at SXSW. Mendes and Barden wear a lot of different sunglasses.
The New Romantic follows Blake (Barden), a sex columnist at her college newspaper. When her editor threatens to cut her column for not being exciting enough, Blake embarks on an adventure in sugar babying, seeking guidance from Mendes' more experienced character. Jane the Virgin"s Brett Dier also appears as a love interest. Male editors repeatedly lecture Blake about "gonzo journalism" and regular journalism.
The film reminds me a great deal of my own college experience, in that I went to NYU during the launch of sugar baby juggernaut Seeking Arrangement and the in-school publication I worked for ran a series interviewing student sugar babies. All of them were doing it to pay tuition, some for fun, none for a column. Male-led lectures about Hunter S. Thompson were not a factor.
Sex columnist and television host Karley Sciortino, a seasoned sugar baby, wrote about sugar babying in her fantastic book, Slutever: Dispatches from a Sexually Autonomous Woman in a Post-Shame World, detailing everything from her wildest encounters to how when it comes to sex worker privilege, sugar babies are at the top of the heap. "I made what I felt was the best choice for me at the time," she wrote. "I looked at myself in the mirror and said: 'Yo, you have sex with people you don't like all the time; you might as well get fucking paid for it.'"
The New Romantic comes out Friday, November 9th.
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