HBO’s newest drama, THE DEUCE, takes on the sex industry in 1971 New York City. It’s the height of Times Square’s seediness, with prostitution a booming business and pornography on the verge of becoming a billion-dollar industry.
James Franco plays twin brothers/mafia-connected bar owners at the center of the sex industry, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as an independent prostitute whose ambition leads her to porn.
Considering the subject matter, sex and sexual violence are prevalent in the storyline — but Gyllenhaal told reporters at the 2017 Television Critics Association summer press tour that the show could not exist without it.
“I think it’s become clear in a way that maybe it wasn’t totally clear a year ago that there is a huge amount of misogyny in the world. I think we thought we were in a better place than we were. Here we have this opportunity to pick it up and lay it on the table and to do it in a way that’s thoughtful and smart, I think, and also real,” she said. “So that includes having to see some things that look violent and uncomfortable, but I think if you don’t put that on the table and take a really good, clear look at it, nothing will change. Nothing will shift. To me, I feel like playing a prostitute who does go through very, very difficult things as a filter through which to look at women and our relationship to sex, to power, to cash, to art, is…one of the most interesting ways to go into really exploring the state we’re actually in right now.”
Co-creator David Simon acknowledge the prevalence of sexual violence and objectification.
“I think it would be a mistake to look at this [show]and think that we were any way trafficking in misogynistic imagery or sexual commodification or objectification as one of the currencies that are driving the show,” he said. “It’s what the show is about. It’s the show’s reason for being. That is what the product is.”
Added Gyllenhaal, “If the show also turns you on a little and then makes you consider what’s actually turning you on and the consequences for the characters that are turning you on and what’s getting you hot, I think it’s a better show.”