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Madeline Brewer Talks Sex Work, Male Gaze, and #MeToo in Cam

Cam

Blumhouse's latest entry in the modern horror genre provides plenty of profound chills for the social media generation. In Cam, a rising cam girl finds herself locked out of her account, which has been taken over by a mysterious doppelgänger.

Written by former cam girl, Isa Mazzei, the film provides a unique perspective on sex work, consent, and our online footprints. Close friend and director, Daniel Goldhaber also experimented with camming to give the film a truly authentic quality. Their partnership resulted in modern thriller that escalates some of our worst anxieties during the social media age to an identity crisis nightmare.

Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid's Tale) stars as Alice, the film's camming protagonist. The film also required her to play the character's mysterious online doppelgänger. The duality of her performances reaches chilling heights as this thriller unravels.

We recently spoke with Brewer about this unique role. From the power of onscreen nudity to the representation of sex work, her performance is an unexpected triumph of the #MeToo movement.

How did you differentiate playing Alice and playing the Lola doppelgänger?

I did a lot of research on cam girls. I had my “Alice” cam girls and “Lola” cam girls. There are so many different kinds of women therefore many different kinds of cam girls. Different styles, creative influences, varying levels of sexual explicitness. I basically watched their shows like I watched Meryl in Kramer vs. Kramer.

As an actress, would you say you relate to Alice or Isa in a way, seeing your image being manipulated on the internet?

I do think anyone with any sort of social following can relate to that feeling. Seeing your name stripped from your body, your work. It happens to artists of all kinds, all the time, writers, painters, etc, especially on social media. Often people share content with every good intention without realizing they’re stripping an artist's name from their work. It’s a new layer of violation, I imagine, when your work and artistry is literally your being. Your name is reduced to “skinny brunette with frizzy hair.” 

What was it like being able to kind of deconstruct the male gaze in this role?

There was a lot of work on the part of our filmmakers to make sure to avoid falling into typical tropes of the woman horror movie plot. We also were very conscientious of straying from male gaze-y framing which Isa was 100 percent on top of. She had her eye on it, even when no one else could see it, because it's become so ingrained in filmmaking, being that for so long, it’s been a boys' club. On a personal level, the act of being a woman in front of a camera, owning her words and body and occupation and creativity is so freeing from the male gaze and from our learned societal influence. I’ve never felt so powerful as an actor.

I heard that Dan and Isa gave you control over your character's nudity. How did it feel being considered like that, especially with the toxic nature of so many movie/TV sets?

There are so many roles that women in Hollywood face in which nudity is “non-negotiable.” Which is to say that if you’re not willing to show your boobs, your talent and ability don’t matter here. Danny and Isa let me be in control of my body physically, and of my work in the same way that cam girls are in control of their bodies and their work in their own homes. The goal from the start was to tell an honest story that does justice to sex workers. I happened to agree that nudity was a crucial element to the story of a cam girl who does nudity. We chose to have the nudity help tell the story of Alice's levels of comfort and vulnerability and violation. 

How did the role open your eyes to camming and sex work in general?

I wasn’t aware of camming much before this film but I watched more cam in those months than I ever imagined I could. I do realize now that if you want to call yourself a feminist, and your fight for women’s rights doesn’t extend to sex workers, you’re in the wrong decade. 

What’s it like going from playing a more oppressed woman like Janine in The Handmaid's Tale to playing someone so liberated like Alice/Lola?

Both are impossibly inspiring to me in so many ways. Janine’s optimism, Alice’s ambition, the strength they both possess. I’m humbled to play them. 

See Madeline Brewer in Cam, which premieres November 16 on Netflix and in select theaters. Watch the trailer below:

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