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How "Hustlers" Hustles Us

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by Susan Block

Hustlers, the Fall 2019 film that grossed $33 million on opening weekend, focuses on a group of gorgeous, sassy, New York women earning an honest living through stripping.

Of course, that's before the Stock Market Crash of 2008, for which we can blame Wall Street greed and George Dubya Bush, as well as Obama who bailed out the banks instead of the people who lost everything.

For Hustlers, desperate times lead to crime. In order to feed their families, pay their rent and buy their Chinchilla-fur coats, our beloved stripper s take to "hustling," drugging (with a potent blend of Ketamine and MDMA), robbing and sometimes blackmailing their customers. As is the typical Hollywood "caper" formula, heartwarming comradery, wild hilarity, catchy musical numbers and tear-jerking pathos ensue.

Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria based on Jessica Pressler's New York Magazine article (The Hustlers at Scores), Hustlers the movie stars Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, the ringleader, who does a mean pole dance. Yes, 50-year-old J Lo performs her own dancing--no stunt double for this former Fly Girl. For me, that's probably the most impressive part of the film, even though she practiced with a pole-dance teacher rather than a real stripper, and she demurely keeps all her sweet spots concealed.

Hustlers also features Constance Wu in the leading POV role of Dorothy, aka Destiny, and Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B (a Bernie Bro like me!) in a supporting role as "Diamond from the Bronx." A real-life former stripper who admits--disturbingly albeit candidly--to having drugged and robbed men in her "imperfect" past, Cardi delivers one of the film's catchiest lines (although escorts take issue with the anti-escort implication), "Drain the clock, not the co*k." There are other stellar performances and colorful background scenes with "real stripper" extras, as well as an amusing Usher cameo.

Critics have given Hustlers mixed reviews, and I have mixed feelings about it. Regardless, it's an "important" film for Americansex workers, an unsung section of the American working class, now struggling to survive in the wake of the new anti-sex work SESTA/FOSTA law.

But how true-to-the-stripper-life is this flick?

Sisterly Sex Workers

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen Hustlers and you want to be surprised, zip it up and stop reading!

Though Hustlers is not a very suspenseful film. Most viewers know the stars are going to have a good old Thelma and Louise -like time drugging and robbing douchebags until they get busted.

Most of the real strippers, former strippers and other sex workers I've spoken with appreciate that Hustlers portrays the "stripper life" with more accuracy than previous films about stripping like Showgirls, Planet Terror or Striptease. They especially love the tender girlfriend relationship portrayed between the two stars.

That powerful girl-girl love is very bonobosque. All bonobos are bisexual and, as I discuss in The Bonobo Way, the females tend to form the most intimate relationships, strengthening their bonds, making bonobos the most female-empowered apes on Earth.

Unfortunately, in Hustlers, the great female relationship at the center of the storm leads all the females to jail, or at least probation. That's not too empowering.

But that's Hollywood! And that's just one of my problems with Hustlers.

Then there's the fact that for a supposedly sexy movie, there's not much sex. The stars spend a lot more time shopping than shagging.

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Susan Block, Ph.D., aka ├ éČ┼"Dr. Suzy,├ éČ Ł best-known for her groundbreaking HBO specials, is a best-selling author and international champion of sex education, erotic freedom and bonobo apes. Her latest book, The Bonobo Way, has been praised (more...)
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