In many ways, The Client List is just another mindless soap-like offering. With its cardboard plot lines and Styrofoam sound bytes inserted as dialogue delivered by characters who would be fortunate to be described as two-dimensional, it plods along, shiny in its packaging, banqueting the life of its super special snowflake, Riley Parks.
Riley is supposed to be every woman. She’s supposed to appeal to a mass audience of women who can identify with her. The only problem is that I know no one who remotely lives this life or behaves like her in any way. And neither does anyone else, for the most part. The entire lynch pin of the show is that her husband mysteriously leaves her and their two children and, having no other option, Riley accidentally falls into prostitution in order to feed her children. The problem is that none of this works.
Does she turn to the police to help find her husband? What if he’s in trouble? He’s never left before. No, she doesn’t pursue it through the police. Does she hire an investigator? Of course not. She claims not to have the money, although she has family who obviously does. We never even see her run an internet search on his whereabouts. Husband mysteriously gone, husband bad, end of lynch pin.
But wait, there’s more! Riley is forced into a life of accidental prostitution. That’s right, it’s accidental. Although she’s been looking for jobs that we never really hear about and we’re just told that she didn’t get them or they don’t exist in a bad economy, she winds up at a massage parlor that offers “happy endings” to some of its “preferred clients”. Of course, she tears herself apart over this (as her husband is the only man she’s supposedly ever been with before) but does it anyway to “feed her kids”.
How many ways can I tear this apart in ten seconds or less? Too many to count, it seems.
No one, and I do mean no one, stumbles accidentally into prostitution. The show wants us to blindly accept that this is true when it’s completely illogical and, as the entire show is based on this premise, The Client List falls apart at the poorly-stitched seams. Not only is this bullshit but it’s offensive to anyone and everyone who chooses sex work for a living. It implies, by societal standard, that something’s wrong with sex work, legal or not, and that being forced into it would be the only way anyone would choose it or enjoy it.
While I realize that this is merely indicative of the much broader Bible Belt mentality of hypocrisy in general, it still pisses me off, as well it should. I’m tired of the moral judgment that sex work is dirty or nasty, or that someone who would choose it would be forced to do it. I’m tired of the backlash and double standards on women and sex.
Let me be clear: I do not condone any acts that go against consent. By consent, I mean legal, consenting adults. This is not an essay on human trafficking nor am I about the preach for or against prostitution. It’s much simpler than this, and much clearer to me. When you create a mainstream character that is supposedly pushed into prostitution and literally pimp her out in skimpy little outfits to unrealistically good-looking clients – not to save any children but a lifestyle – we got major problems, even if I’m the only person I know who’s pointing them out.
That’s right, don’t go back and re-read that, you got me the first time. Riley’s not feeding her kids, she’s saving her middle class lifestyle. New clothes, more shoes, lots of food, five dollar coffees here, there and everywhere. Constant activities that cost money. Do you disagree? Are you offended? Well, I’m bloody offended and I’ll walk you down the garden path of why. Does Riley downsize her lifestyle to suit her new circumstances? No. Not even a little.
Does she trade in the monster house for a smaller, more economical version? No. She uses the children as an excuse not to change. They just lost their father, to lose their house would be too much. Lady, if a smaller house is what you can afford, that’s what you do, and fuck the handfuls of five dollar coffees you drink in a day and that flippy, fresh manicure you always got going. No, Riley keeps all the trappings of her middle class lifestyle that she clearly can’t afford so that no one ever has to suffer in any way. And by suffer, I mean doing your own manicure I guess.
On top of all this blatant silliness and offense, we’re expected to believe that Riley’s the all-suffering superwoman. She’s the perfect daughter who raises her mother. She’s the perfect wife who supported her man. She’s the perfect mother, even if she rarely bothers with her children and often passes them off on others. She’s beautiful, wakes with a her make up on and hair done, has a never-ending closet of fashionable clothes, sings (she’s a rock star with her own band, don’t ya know), dances, is completely irresistible to every man she meets, and everyone loves her. And if you don’t love her, too, you’re just a jealous, unhappy bitch. Mary Sue thy name is Riley Parks, and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s ego and insanity run rampant.
Why do I hate The Client List? Gosh, how much time ya got? I could go on, but why bother: Lifetime has a hit, banking on breasts rather than talent, because white suburban guilt’s the new black.