On Sept. 16, Netflix released the third and final season of its Italian television series, “Baby,” a show that, despite having managed to gain an international following, is met with modest popularity in America.
In fact for most of you, the title may fail to ring a bell. I wouldn’t be surprised considering that out of the people around me, only one friend has seen the show. Many have compared it to “Elite,” the Spanish teen drama that coincidentally also deals with the interactivities of rich, European high school students. However, while I do love “Elite,” “Baby” deserves recognition as its own separate story, one that is actually based on true events.
“Baby Squillo,” which roughly translates to “baby prostitute” in Italian, is the name of a 2013 scandal that revolved around two girls and their involvement in underage prostitution, who were 16 years old and 14 years old at the time. The story put the Italian media and public into quite a shock, as no one believed an event like this would occur in a wealthy district such as Parioli in the Province of Rome. Perhaps it was this sentiment that led to the show’s debut five years later.
“Baby” follows 16-year-old Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli) and 17-year-old Ludovica (Alice Pagani), a pair of students who attend the prestigious Collodi Institute. Despite their differences, Chiara being somewhat of a goody two-shoes and Ludovica being a well-known outcast in their school, the two become close friends and eventually engage in underage prostitution together.
Unlike the girls from the Baby Squillo scandal, Chiara and Ludovica aren’t risking their reputations for luxury clothes or designer handbags. The financial struggles faced by her mother are what persuades Ludovica to seek out extra money in the first place, while Chiara isn’t even doing it for the money. Instead she finds herself tired of the affluent bubble that has surrounded her entire life, thanks to her wealthy parents, and sees prostitution as an opportunity to act outside of her perfect persona. This distinction between the show and the actual scandal is particularly meaningful, featuring the adversities within the seemingly exemplary lives of its characters.
It is these same misfortunes that carry us throughout the show, leaving many questions to be answered in its last season. Although it would be impossible to unpack everything that happens, there are some notable aspects of season three that would be wrong not to mention.
For me, the most significant event to occur was Niccolò’s (Lorenzo Zurzolo) character development. As someone who starts out cheating on his girlfriend, being the homophobic bully and having an affair with his teacher, I didn’t think the show would even consider morphing him into the person he is in season three. I’m glad I was mistaken. Niccolò’s growth was one of the very few positive moments of the season and seeing him escape his toxic relationship, accept Brando’s (Mirko Trovato) homosexuality and eventually become a genuine friend to Chiara made me take back any negative remarks I had mentioned about him during past seasons.
Like Niccolò, Ludovica is another character that undergoes a major transformation. She becomes motivated to stop prostituting herself after realizing the hopeful prospects of her future, despite being initially discouraged by the promiscuous reputation given to her by her peers at school. By learning not to underestimate her goals and the benefits of pursuing a different lifestyle, Ludovica exudes growth that can only be defined as queen behavior.
Overall, “Baby” has deemed itself as a show that explores the complexities of rich youth, their earnest desires and the consequences that come with them. Those desires may not be comprised of the best decisions, but being able to explore the sincere intentions of its characters makes the show worthwhile. It’s as Chiara says: “We’re immersed in a wonderful see-through fish tank, but we long for the sea. That’s why to survive, we need a secret life.”