Sunday, June 30, 2024

Margo's Got Money Troubles, by Rufi Thorpe: On Authenticity and Power and OnlyFans

The title and cover art of Margo's Got Money Troubles, by Rufi Thorpe, make it seem like one of those breezy reads about a quirky, cool Zillennial in over her head in the real world. It is that, but it's that only in the sense that, like, Gone Girl is a story about a failing marriage. That's to say, there's a WHOLE lot more going on here. 

This is a novel about authenticity and about correcting power dynamics both in relationships and in society writ large. Margo, a 19-year-old college kid, has an affair with her 20-years-older-than-her-married-with-children college English professor. She doesn't really even like the guy, but he makes her feel a certain kind of way...and later, she understand he abused his power to seduce her. He's a real shithead (and also, side note, Thorpe hilariously gives him some really stupid notions about fiction -- he's a terrible teacher, too). He's furious she decides to keep the pregnancy, and he tells her he wants nothing to do with her or the child, which is actually fine by Margo. 

But things start to get tough. She's fired from her job because her mother won't help her with childcare. Two of her roommates move out because they don't want to share an apartment with a baby. And so, as the title makes clear, Margo runs into a financial brick wall. Her solution: She starts an OnlyFans.

The novel is about all the problems this taboo "profession" creates for her and how so many people make snap judgments about her character and her fitness to be not just a mother but also a productive member of society. The strength of this book is how it makes the case for people like Margo being able to reclaim control over their own lives, how with some guardrails and precautions, sites like OnlyFans allow women to set their own course, to rebalance the power dynamic. 

And then, there's Margo's father Jinx. Jinx, who is one of my favorite characters I've read in a novel in some time, is a former professional wrestler and drug addict. He'd been only an occasional participant in her life for most of it -- as he also had been married with a family when he had an affair with Margo's mother. But now he is back, having retired, and wants to do the right thing better late than never. After some initial hesitancy, he is supportive of her new job, and is a huge help to her in taking care of her kid. 

The novel -- often hilariously -- plays wrestling and sex work off of each other as two examples of entertainment where we it's the consumers of this content who is trying to wrest a reality from an obvious fiction. This is such a smart comparison -- especially given the idea that professional wrestling is widely accepted in society, but OnlyFans is looked down upon.

I really, really enjoyed reading this -- Thorpe has created some captivating characters here, and then set them up together in the cage match of life to let them fight it out. Highly recommended!

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