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Cory Silverberg

YouTube Goes Blue

By June 30, 2012

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Have you ever been on one of those carnival rides (sometimes it's a haunted house, sometimes it's a tunnel of love) where you're in a car on a track attached to 4 or 5 other cars, and you're all slowly being taken from one room to another. Whether the goal is to scary you or turn you on, the promise is that if you keep moving forward, the next thing you see will be really EXCITING!

I have two main complaints with those kinds of rides. First, the build up is always bigger than the pay off. And second, if you think about it even for a second, you're aware that you are in a car, on a track, and you have no choice but to move forward.

This is kind of how I'm feeling about Blue, a new original web series that is part of YouTube's effort to offer original programming and Google's larger move from Internet gatekeeper to content creator. The series follows Blue (played by Julia Stiles), a single mom who has a daytime office job and does sex work on the side to, as she explains it, "make ends meet."

The disappointing has mostly to do with, surprise, surprise, the representation of sex work which is both largely inaccurate and subtly judgmental. But I can't say I expected much more. It have to wonder why, given the number of people who work in Hollywood who have done sex work, the producers don't hire a few good consultants. They could get more of it right and still make good TV. But the representation also isn't as bad as it could be, or as it usually is. Especially since there isn't one kind of sex work or one kind of sex worker.

It might be the format that takes getting used to. Each episode is a single scene, between 7-10 minutes long. And at the end of each episode text appears at the bottom of the screen, teasing the next episode by asking questions like: "If escorting is a secret job, what does Blue do during the day?" and "Will Blue's son suspect anything?" or "Want to meet Blue's mother? Watch Ep. 4 now!"

It's this desperate attempt to keep viewers watching that feels carny-like. And the weird this is that it kind of works. It might also help that the production and acting are more than passable. And while I could care less about what fetish Blue's next client has, and I find it difficult to develop empathy for characters I only get to know in 10 minute bits, I am genuinely interested to see what they are going to do with the story. I'm planning on being disappointed, as I usually was as a kid going on those rides that never panned out, but I'm also willing to be surprised. Either way, the ride is worth the cost of admission.

Watch Blue on YouTube

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