Teen series are definitely back on trend. After the release of Elite, 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale, on November 30th Netflix showed the first of six-episodes of the Italian series Baby. It tells the tale of two high school girls from wealthy families, Ludovica (Alice Pagani) and Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli). Taught at a private school and living in one of the most des-res parts of Rome, the young women are bored. Hungry for new clothes and designer bags, but also keen to spice up their daily existence, they begin to lead a double life. Against a backdrop of forbidden love, Ludovica and Chiara defy social codes and family pressure to become prostitutes.
Beyond this tantalising pitch, it’s the story surrounding this steamy series that’s controversial. Inspired by sordid real life events that came to light in Rome in 2014, the “Baby Squillo” (“baby call-girl”) affair, the Baby series looks back at the scandal which shook Italy four years ago, with the dismantling of a prostitution ring in Pariolo, a super chic neighbourhood in Rome, where under the pseudonyms of Agnese and Angela, two friends aged 14 and 15, sold their bodies to buy expensive clothes. But in the USA, the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation is not convinced by the spirit of the script. It disapproves of the angle at which certain scenes have been filmed, particularly those where the girls enthusiastically and compulsively buy outrageously priced things provoking jealousy among other teenage girls. Scenes, which in the eyes of the charity, could be seen to promote prostitution to cash-strapped millennials.
The situations shown in Baby have been deemed counter-productive to the combat being fought to defend the victims of sex trafficking. The organisation has expressed outrage at the streaming platform and even asked them to remove the series from its programming: “Despite the outcry from survivors of sex trafficking, subject matter experts, and social service providers, Netflix promotes sex trafficking by insisting on streaming ‘Baby.’ Clearly, Netflix is prioritizing profits over victims of abuse”, explained its executive director Dawn Hawkins in a statement.