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Politics, privacy and porn: Intimacy asks if we are ever truly alone

A new Spanish Netflix series asks what privacy in the modern age looks like, especially when all too often the little we have gets betrayed

Itziar Ituño as Malen in Intimacy (Photo: David Herranz/Netflix)

Old habits die hard. Or at least that’s what I learned growing up with an ex-military stepdad.

“Have fun at the mall!” read a WhatsApp message that flashed up on my phone when I was studying in Canada. Bemused, I peered around half-expecting to find my stepdad nearby, binoculars and camouflage in tow. He wasn’t, but thanks to a few taps on the Find My Friends tracking app he could infer from the comfort of home over 4,000 miles away that his stepdaughter was off buying overpriced moisturisers.

He’s not alone. As much as I hate to admit it, I too have become somewhat
addicted to Apple’s answer to reconnaissance. I’m begrudgingly part of a generation that needs to know everything about everyone at all times. We’re information obsessives. But, do we sacrifice our privacy as a result of this addiction? What does privacy in the modern age look like, especially when all too often the little we have gets betrayed? These questions are at the heart of the new eight-part Spanish drama Intimacy (Intimidad).

The series is set in Bilbao where we meet Malen (Itziar Ituño), an ambitious and take-no-nonsense mayoral candidate who’s about to experience the unthinkable when a compromising sex tape of her is leaked to the press. The man in the video, conveniently, has his back to the camera. He’s also not her husband.

The story that follows sees Malen try to salvage a career in the public sector
while her private life is on display for all to view online. Her male counterparts presume she will withdraw her candidacy as they expect her to be riddled with debilitating shame. She makes it clear that this emotion is reserved for those who try to weaponise her private life.

Thanks to a perpetrator we spend the eight episodes trying to identify, Malen is exposed at her most intimate, much to the self-confessed humiliation of her husband, Alfredo. The news that his wife’s infidelity has been broadcast to the world sends him into a spiral.

To enter his marital home, Alfredo has to wade through a sea of the press. It only adds ammunition to his anger and the irony is certainly not lost when he expresses his horror that the journalists have taken pictures of him – he too has now joined the privacy invasion club.

When asked to help guide their daughter, Leire, through the oncoming
fallout, his ego takes hold. “I won’t talk to my daughter, not now she knows I’m a cuckold,” he snipes. It’s not just this opening misogyny that makes
Alfredo’s character almost unbearable, but the whiplash he gives watchers. He plays hot and cold with Malen for the remainder of the series, going from
furious betrayed husband to doting spouse and back again. He also confesses to his daughter that he had already been sleeping in his office before the tape leaked.

Throughout the story, Malen learns she’s not alone and soon her life becomes intertwined with three other women. High school teacher Begoña,
played by Patricia López Arnaiz, confides in Malen that her sister, Ana, was subject to the same crime. Intimate photos and videos were passed around her workplace and cruel and humiliating harassment ensued. The politician asks what course of action her sister took, although it’s hard to believe that a woman surrounded by expert advisers would genuinely seek help from a stranger. “She killed herself,” Begoña says as Malen’s eyes dart back and forth. For the first time, she’s lost as to her next move.

Then there’s Alicia, an inspector who deals with crimes of this nature on a daily basis. She assists Begoña in finding justice for Ana and coaxes Malen to allow her to do the same. At home, we see Alicia struggle with her openness about her homosexuality as her partner yearns for a baby.


At this point my admiration for Intimacy did waiver. Workplace harassment, leaked sex tapes, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, the trials of fertility… these are issues worthy of a series in their own right, so squeezing them all into one began to feel like an injustice. Perhaps this was the point. Invasions of privacy are intersectional, and so must be the plot of any show depicting them.

When these women come together the script-writing verges on perfection. Leaving her office with Alicia, Malen is met by a crowd of feminist activists carrying a large banner that reads: “We stand with victims of privacy violations”. The plot may only logistically permit three women to tell their story, yet this greeting outside her workplace shows that on-screen and off-screen, there are more out there. It’s mastery.

Back to addictions. Another one I have is endings – or rather endings that are done well, and Intimacy joins that camp. Alfredo finally decides on a
temperature and strides back into his choir practice group – where his situation had provoked sniggers – announcing that if the rest of them are
going to act like 15-year-olds, that’s not his problem. Begoña channels her
newly found activist spirit and volunteers to help women where she couldn’t help Ana. As for Malen, her candidacy is confirmed, misogyny be damned. Bilbao is left decked out in her campaign posters, her face overlooking a city that has seen her at her most vulnerable.

Intimacy makes you think about just that. In a know-it-all, digitised society do intimate, private moments exist? Can we ever be truly alone? Malen, Begoña, Alicia and Ana make it clear that if you’re a victim of a crime that abuses that right, you certainly aren’t.

Intimacy is streaming now on Netflix

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