Friday, February 24, 2017

Selling the Girl Next Door Documentary

Selling the Girl Next Door discusses the issues of child prostitution and exploitation. Viewers are introduced to Salina and 
her mother. Salina is 13 years old and had only lived in Las Vegas for a few months when she began running away. Runaways are frequently targeted by sex traffickers and sadly Salina became another victim of exploitation and prostitution. Host Amber Lyon dives into the issues surrounding the ease of buying and selling underage girls on the internet, visits the infamous brothel The Bunny Ranch, and speaks about what is being done to help these victims of sex trafficking. Selling the Girl Next Door packs a large emotional load into only 42 minutes. By looking at the context, audience, purpose, and point of view of the documentary we can see exactly how it manages to pack that emotional warhead. 

The exploitation of underage girls has become increasingly problematic and has evolved with the internet tools now available. The time during which this documentary was released was also during an era of evolution in prostitution via the internet. In 2012 it was estimated that 600,000-800,000 women, children, and men were trafficked and sold for sex in the United States and 50% of those were children. The DoJ website states “Technological advances, in particular the Internet, have facilitated the commercial sexual exploitation of children by providing a convenient worldwide marketing channel. Individuals can now use websites to advertise, schedule, and purchase sexual encounters with minors”. These social and technological developments set the stage for this documentary to be able to focus largely on what was happening right then.

I think that Selling the Girl Next Door was really aimed at parents. Many people in this country do not know that this is happening. In order to protect young girls from this atrocity their parents have to be aware that it is happening. This documentary makes the message quite personal as well using the point of view that it is told from. Additionally, airing on CNN encourages primarily adult and/ or parent viewership. 

This documentary wants to affect change. I mentioned earlier that the creators of the documentary want to make the message personal. For many people this documentary serves as an eye opener. For people who know of the problem but only generally this documentary gives great insight into what life is like from beginning to end for these children who end up being sold into prostitution. Unfortunately the creators did not include specific information in the documentary on how people can help solve this problem which I think would have been very worthy content to include. This documentary primarily uses pathos but also includes elements of logos and ethos. There is an element of logos from CNN who produced and presented the documentary. The choice to include first hand accounts of what life is like as a child prostitute from girls and women who have experienced it also add to the ethos of the documentary. While these women don’t necessarily have degrees or titles they do have very real first hand accounts of what their lives were like. Aside from the argument that child prostitution is a very real problem this documentary also makes the argument that there is a problem with the systemic treatment of victims of child prostitution. The pathos connected with seeing a child or anyone talk about their experiences with being sold for sex and locked up in a detention center for simply being a victim are incredibly strong. 

Selling the Girl Next Door was produced by Steve Turnham and Courtney Yager as part of the CNN Special Investigations and Documentaries unit. While the original airing of the documentary on cable TV could have limited the initial audience, the documentary is currently available to stream for free on multiple documentary websites and YouTube. While specific viewer statistics for this particular program are not available we can a good majority of CNN viewers who might have watched this program are within the ages where it is common to have children or grandchildren given that  Only 23% of CNN viewers are under 30 years old. Throughout the documentary the include interviews with men who have been arrested for soliciting prostitution as well as a young girl who was sold into prostitution and her mother. The interviews with Salina and her mom, as mentioned earlier, serve to really personalize the issue and create empathy for the victims of sex trafficking. The interviews with the “johns” also create a feeling of disgust and disbelief at some of the things they say.

I think this is a good introductory documentary to the issue of child prostitution. Parts of the documentary were less than satisfying because it touches on several issues but doesn’t give any details or potential solutions. Overall, I find it to be an engaging documentary that prompts further thought and research but not a terribly comprehensive documentary. 

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