Part of the problem may be the show itself, a spinoff of the controversial 2015 documentary Hot Girls Wanted, also produced by Rashida Jones. This time the criticism is over allegations that the series featured performers without their consent. While "Take Me Private" isn't the episode mentioned in the specific dispute, it does reflect some of the larger problems with the show's often criticized approach, which combines advocacy with pornsploitation. Can the audience truly trust the show to prioritize the Alice and Tom's well-being above the desire to make grabby television? It's a delicate line the filmmakers struggle to walk.
By taking what could have been a b-plot in a True Life episode and stretching it out to jumbo-sized Netflix length of a full hour, the filmmakers clearly want the story of Alice and Tom to create empathy for the two. The couple gets lots to explore their thoughts and feelings on screen. We meet their friends and get a sense of their lives outside of camming. But the creators can't help moralizing and delivering a message.
Towards the end of the trip, Tom and Alice finally have a relatively honest conversation about the awkwardness of the trip and their feelings. It has the cadence of a break-up. "You deserve some real happiness and not just some computer fantasy," Alice tells Tom. "You're not quite as happy as I think you could be." They share a hug and he drives her to the airport, providing the type of melancholy yet hopeful ending that often ends reality shows. It's pat. Easy.
No one ever acknowledges that Alice's entire trip, though it may take place outside of the cam-world, does occur under the lens of a team of documentary filmmakers funded by Netflix. It's a question the show doesn't engage: Does the presence of the Hot Girls Wanted crew put more pressure on the meeting? Would the trip have gone better if cameras weren't there? Less awkward, maybe?
That extra level of artifice goes unexamined and unacknowledged because to do so would puncture the fantasy that Hot Girls Wanted is peddling. The show wants you to believe that it's providing an authentic, eye-opening look behind the curtain of an often misunderstood industry, but, like in the case of Alice and Tom, appearances can be deceiving.