Who would’ve thought that nearly 25 years later, we could call Girl 6, an early Spike Lee movie, a film ahead of its time? It most certainly isn’t Lee’s biggest cinematic achievement. In fact, the director and everyone involved in the film, including the screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks, have apparently distanced themselves from the movie, disavowing their part in its creation. So, how come a film that’s not even mentioned by those who made it and is nearly impossible to find is now more relevant than ever?
Well, though Girl 6 was made in 1996, there are undeniable similarities between the life of its fictionalized protagonist, Judy, an aspiring young actress, and the pervasive nature of the online camming and Onlyfans that exists today. These platforms are viewed as a door of exploration and financial freedom by many of their content creators. Join us as we dive into how this film speaks to a generation of people that live in a time when cash is king and modesty remains optional.
As the movie opens, we see Judy (Theresa Randle), the future Girl 6, as a timid up-and-coming actress living in a big city. She attends an audition with Quentin Tarantino. Her audition was going quite well until she became apprehensive and defiant when asked to undress and reveal her breasts. She eventually complies and reluctantly undresses, only to become quickly overwhelmed with guilt before storming out.
Not only disrespected for her choice by her agent and her mentor but also unable to make ends meet, Judi decides to make some quick money working as a phone sex operator at an office where female empowerment is the prevailing sentiment. In fact, the company’s boss, Lil, runs a very corporate environment. But there is an emphasis on friendship and support, which develops between the work colleagues.
While alive but not well, phone sex was a major industry in 1996. The internet ran at 56kbps speeds, that would take forever to download a spicy image, let alone facilitate the growth of the adult industry the way it did approximately a decade later. Nowadays, as our world continues to evolve and press into a digital space, creating and supplying online content has become an entrepreneurial hub for many — which also includes sex work. And before we go any further into the discussion, sex work is work.
As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, many individuals have turned to OnlyFans — a platform that gives content creators space to upload their often-explicit content for their paying subscribers’ viewing pleasure. In fact, the platform flourished during the pandemic, when both demand and supply for adult content increased. The former happened because people had more time to consume it, and the latter because the other party in the transaction had to make ends meet.
In fact, why wouldn’t you be able to make some money by showing off your body? That’s what Girl 6’s Judy did with nothing else but her voice and acting skills. Well, at first, Judy was satisfied with her work, but things started to shift throughout the movie. Though she adopts a more sexually bolder attitude and personality, she is immediately objectified. Her performance — which she had given him a glimpse of — was mistaken for a renewed sexual interest by her former husband.
Unfortunately, many customers don’t realize that the emotional lives of people working in the sex industry take place when the phones are down and cameras are off. Through a series of events that plunge Judy into emotional turmoil, one caller becomes disrespectful and outright insulting, and verbally violent towards her. Girl 6 suffers a breakdown, after which she’s temporarily suspended by her boss. Judy, however, decides to get a private phone line and continue her phone sex career from home. That scene is particularly interesting and borderline prophetic, as it reflects the current state of OnlyFans culture but is set in the 90s.
Madonna, who also made a cameo appearance, is saying to Judy that office-bound girls are restricted by what they can say. But a fantasy girl that works from home — a home girl — doesn’t have such limitations. Thus, she can invite her callers to fully experience their deepest, darkest, strangest, wildest desires, with no restrictions and no inhibitions, just freedom, no taboos. Sounds familiar, right?
Well, fast-forward some 20-25 years, and amateur adult content creators are flocking to OnlyFans in droves, seeking financial freedom. The loudest voices in our society tell us that this new frontier is actually empowering women through the capitalization of their bodies. And not just women, but men as well. But is that really the case? Is the capitalization of one’s body and the digitization of sex actually empowering, or are they doing more harm than good?
In the movie, after Judy receives her private line so that she may work from home, the disrespectful caller calls her once more. The two engage in a very explicit and perverse S&M conversation — hey, it’s all about the customer’s desires, right? The scene is fantastic, as it features Spike Lee’s iconic gliding shot, which symbolically depicts Judy spiraling psychologically during the conversation, up until the point at which she finally capitulates. This is followed by another breakdown and fear for her safety as the caller reveals that he knows her address.
The descent into deep, dark, unspoken sexual desires of her customers reflects the current supply and demand of the very same content that has become the bread and butter of many earning through OnlyFans. Just recently, a young content creator (we won’t list any names) shared her experience creating sexual content on the platform and commoditizing her body for $200,000 a month. As per her own account, the majority of her earnings comes from commission work — work that has been privately requested by the client.
Afterward, she admitted to having several throat infections in the past from ingesting her own fecal matter (as requested by the client). This makes us wonder whether this type of empowerment, whether done by a female or male, is psychologically healthy. Well, she was incentivized by money, so she created a revolting supply for existing and equally revolting demand. And nobody had forced her to do anything. OnlyFans, as a platform, is a mere facilitator, just as phones were during the 90s, and the internet was and still is.
In the end, Girl 6, a film shunned by nearly everyone due to its incoherent and loosely connected subplots, now speaks volumes to the OnlyFans generations, especially women. Sex sells for good money, but the price of commoditization of our bodies is paid by both the client and the content creator. One pays with money, but the other pay with something else. The need for money chews on the identity of a person and spews out a brand whose recognition and reputation match its marketing efforts. Welcome to OnlyFans — or any other adult content creation platform.
Anyone interested in watching Spike Lee’s Girl 6 can do so on Starz or Amazon Prime Video.