A series about prostitution and human trafficking can invite a so-called ‘male gaze’: the strip club as a candy store. Carice van Houten and Halina Reijn noticed while working on their self-invented series Red Light how important it is to be able to step over that.
“What is interesting is that Carice and I also caught ourselves on how much we still think from that heterosexual male norm”, Reijn tells NU.nl about the creative process of Red Light. “So you also have to consult yourself. It is quite a long process, that whole ‘waking up’.”
Van Houten gives an example of how things often go on the set of Hollywood films. “I keep quoting Al Pacino going to a strip club. You get that nineties feeling from men in a candy store. It looks glamorous and fairytale, when we just wanted to show the backside and rawness of that world. You really don’t just see girls in size XS dancing on poles. “
“This is what often happens on a set”, Reijn continues. “You arrive and see all the models with size zero, but life is not like that. Moreover, we do not agree with that ideal of beauty. This is a small example, but it is in everything. How do you portray a sex worker? And how do you write a good sex scene from a woman? ” How they tackled the latter can be seen in one of the first episodes of the series.
In Red Light, Carice van Houten plays a sex worker who works in a club together with her husband – and also a pimp.
‘We’re not trying to answer’
For seven years Van Houten en Reijn, who themselves interpret a sex worker and an opera singer Red Light, research for the series. Among other things, they received help from the uncle van Reijn, who is the national human trafficking officer of the Public Prosecution Service.
“We have really set out a very broad research process. We talked to sex workers, pimps, the police and shelters in both Belgium and the Netherlands,” says Reijn. “Carice has spoken to a lot of women for her role, and many said: we are just as feminist as you are, you are not going to portray me as a victim? We have tried to capture that in the characters. We are not trying to give answers either. , but to really show how complex that world is. “
The series already won prizes in Cannes and was awarded in the Netherlands with a Golden Calf for best television drama and best actress in a television drama (Reijn). A follow-up is therefore obvious. “Of course everyone would like that,” says Reijn. “But what we first have to wait and see is what the Dutch public thinks about it. That should embrace it or not. That’s super exciting and we’ll let it all depend on that.”
Red Light has ten episodes and can be seen from Friday at BNNVARA on NPO3.