As a strange combination between a horror film and a monster movie, Cam’s ending offers few answers as to the nature of the malevolence that derails her life, but it does an excellent job of demonstrating the stigmas that sex workers face even in the digital world.
What do you do when someone steals your identity? What happens when that identity is marginalized in some way, and no one is invested in protecting or preserving it? These are some of the questions that Netflix’s newest drama CAM examines in its bonkers race against the ills of technology.
Alice Ackerman makes her money as a cam girl online under the alias Lola. She is preoccupied with raising her rank and popularity on the website, setting up ever more elaborate stunts on her live shows to entice viewers to tip her. But things take a dark turn when Alice is locked out of her account, and a strange force that looks exactly like her begins streaming on her channel. With nowhere to turn for help, Alice eventually confronts her doppelganger during a live show and is able to reclaim her account and delete it, eliminating the imposter.
As a strange combination between a horror film and a monster movie, CAM’s ending offers few answers as to the nature of the malevolence that derails her life, but it does an excellent job of demonstrating the stigmas that sex workers face even in the digital world. Alice keeps her work secret from her friends and family, and when they find out what she really does for money, they initially shun and shame her. When she turns to the police for help with an imposter fraudulently claiming her main source of income, the officers slut shame her and ask her inappropriate and suggestive questions that reveal that they do not consider her to be a person who deserves their respect or assistance. Very early on, Alice realizes that she is on her own.
More than the tension and suspense that comes with the unraveling of this mystery, CAM gives a glimpse into the traumas and roadblocks sex workers face, and how the stigma surrounding their work is often more dangerous than the work itself. Alice and her friends work safely in protected studios that give them the chance to interact with a paying audience at a remove; the immediate danger inherent in traditional sex work can be mitigated by the internet. But the internet doesn’t eliminate the pervasive misogynistic attitudes that marginalize sex workers and render their lives invisible. Even though Alice makes good money doing a perfectly legal job, the association with vice makes her a target of disdain.
Based on screenwriter Isa Mazzei’s real experiences, the movie is a thrilling tale that orients the viewers to the specific issues that cam girls are dealing with, and how unwilling larger society is to acknowledge their status as uniquely vulnerable members of society. The film is taut, tense and chilling and an excellent use of the horror media to examine the anxieties of real life.