What really sparked my interest in documentaries is a documentary that is unfortunately not on Netflix. “This Film is Not Yet Rated” examines how the Motion Picture Association of America has directed morality, among other things, through its movie rating process; it blew me out of the water and opened my eyes to a genre I had completely ignored before: documentaries.

The first two I have actually watched on Netflix, but the two that follow are what I recommend despite the fact that I haven’t seen them.

Hot Girls Wanted

Rashida Jones produced this documentary for Netflix and I was happy to see other women on the writing, directing and producing teams. The focus of this documentary is the amatuer pornography industry and centers on a small group of women, aged 18-21, who live together and work for “Hussie Models,” which I am sure that you can guess is not a modeling agency.

Let’s get a few things straight. If you are looking to watch porn, go to PornHub. If you are looking for something that shows how fun the porn industry is, I’m not sure where to direct you but this is definitely not that place. Also, what the documentary fails to show the viewer are the distinct differences between amateur porn and professional porn. This failure has brought a lot of criticisms to the documentary and has angered some members of the professional pornography community.

In this documentary, we follow Riley, who achieves the most supreme balance between fuckboy and irresponsible agent, and the women he convinces to come live with him in Miami. He places Craigslist ads or finds women, again, women who are aged 18-21, online and convinces them to fly out, shoot porn and make tons of money.

We meet Tressa, or “Stella May,” and she receives a lot of attention from the documentary because, spoiler, she ends up leaving the industry after awkward conversation after awkward conversation with her mother, father and boyfriend. There are other women who the documentary features, but by the end of it, Riley has a house full of new women.

Look, pornography at its most basic level does have the potential not to be exploitative or harmful to the men and women who watch it, produce it and act in it. But with the rise of the Internet and online platforms for pornography, amateurs flooded the marketplace, and, to be fair, there is a market for watching real people have real sex. But the issue is not that these women are making a choice to go into porn or that I may or may not disagree with their choice. The issue begins with Riley and the rest of the industry. A professional agent for porn stars has the knowledge and the desire to make sure that his or her clients will be successful in the long term. Riley’s focus on the short term and his inability to explain to these women the consequences of their actions show that he is not interested in these women as clients or people but as a quick buck.

This documentary educated me in so many ways, and if you have ever watched porn, whether professional or amateur, if you have ever expressed distaste with the industry, if you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a porn star in Miami, I would encourage you to watch this documentary.

Tig

From how Tig Notaro runs her Twitter account to how she appears on stage, it is so obvious that she is a comical genius. She is one of those comedians who is well-connected (she’s friends with Sara Silverman) but has also probably skipped past your radar.

But one night, Tig Notaro came out onto a stage and started her stand-up with “Hi, I’m Tig Notaro and I have breast cancer,” and it is that performance and aspects of Tig’s personal life on which this documentary focuses.

In the span of a very, very short time, the following happened to Tig: she was diagnosed with C. diff, a very deadly and dangerous bacterial infection; her mother died with no notice; her girlfriend dumped her; and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in both of her breasts. But she had agreed to do a show at the Largo a few days after the cancer diagnosis and instead of cancelling, she ran with it.

This documentary is a very personal account of a comedian who did a full act about all of the worst things that we shouldn’t joke about and how her life changed afterwards.

Jesus Camp

When you say Netflix and documentaries together, this one typically comes to mind. Plus, part of the documentary takes place in Lee’s Summit, Mo. After viewing it, you can probably travel to where part of the documentary is filmed. From what I have heard from those who have seen it and from what critical responses I’ve read, this documentary is about how religion turns children crazy, or maybe it is about how children turn religion crazy?

Blackfish

Surely you’ve heard of this one. This documentary brings to light the horrific and cruel practices of SeaWorld through the narrow lens of one killer whale. Not surprisingly, SeaWorld and its employees have come out against this documentary, but everyone else seems to believe in what the film presents. As I have only been to Shed’s Aquarium in Chicago, I can not personally attest to the treatment of killer whales at SeaWorld. However, I can imagine that a corporation looking to profit from wild and dangerous animals does not also have strong ethical standards.

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