‘The Deuce’ Season 2 charts the adult film industry from backrooms to boardrooms, but how much is based in reality?
HBO’s dark horse ‘The Deuce’ follows the lives of sex workers and pimps in the 1970's in New York City at the start of the adult film industry. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco, the series tackles what many have thought was too taboo for television, showing the darkest sides of what most assume to be a gritty and dangerous industry. Returning for its second season on September 9th, ‘The Deuce’ unapologetically opens up the conversation about sex workers and the adult film industry.
In probably the best performance of her career, Gyllenhaal plays Eileen, a prostitute that becomes heavily involved in the adult film industry. The character of Eileen is riveting, as she continues to pick herself back up over and over again after dealing with violence, abuse - you name it, this woman has had to endure it. Being one of the most inspiring female characters on television, she is a true testament to a woman not allowing a man, or otherwise, to take her down. Making the saying, "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger," ring truer than ever.
While the series is a fictional account of what went on during this time, the character of Eileen has striking similarities to adult film stars of yesteryear and even ones from today. Sure, popular culture thinks of adult film stars as unintelligent and damaged, but Eileen’s character proves the exact opposite. Some might think the story of a self-made, strong, bright woman in the adult film industry is a mere fabrication to make good TV. However, after speaking with Brittany Andrews, a performer, director, producer, dancer and advocate of the adult film industry, it’s clear that women in this field are far more multi-faceted, smart and determined than most of the world gives them credit for.
Sometimes your passion finds you.#TheDeuce returns this Sunday. pic.twitter.com/D34chxjJYE— HBO (@HBO) September 4, 2018
Having been in the business for 26 years, Andrews has lived more lives and has had greater accomplishments than some of the most successful people in in the world. Yet because of the nature of her job, she's constantly underestimated, much like Eileen.
“I started my studio when I was 23 years old. I was producing talk shows, I was in Cosmopolitan magazine, I had, and still, have a very successful career. Soon after I started, I had a 5,000 square foot studio that I rented out in downtown Los Angeles for shooting. I had eight DVD series I was producing and about 30 websites. I even took time off and went to film school. But still, more or less when I met individuals, they always had a stereotype of what they thought I was going to be like, and I wasn’t it. I paid my bills, paid my taxes, enjoyed what I did, and my mom was actually really proud of my success.”
Oddly enough, Andrews even lived in the same area in New York City that 'The Deuce' takes place in, which really connected her to the world of the series. It truly was a crazy place and time, specifically for sex workers in these industries.
“I did live in that area for probably about five years, and it truly was the cornucopia of adult film stars in the 70’s. For me, I've been in this business for 26 years, I can appreciate going back to its roots, and where it all began. Having that texture, and that history and seeing how many things are different and how many things are still the same is fascinating. Also, to see where there’s positive growth for both sex workers and sexuality and how things are still stagnant in both culture and in my own industry as well.”
One of the main plot points in the series is the issue of safety for these women. Almost every woman on the show has at some point been a victim of violence and abuse. And while this portrayal is certainly dramatized for television, it’s something that has changed for the better over time. We see Eileen at the beginning of her journey in the industry as a performer, director and slowly becoming an advocate for not just women, but for the industry as a whole.
In today’s society, there are many adult film stars that do exactly that. In fact, there’s even a committee called APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee) that supports and helps performers with any issues they may have, big or small. After speaking with adult film star and advocate Riley Reyes, who is on the board of APAC, it’s clear that safety is of top priority to the industry.
“APAC works to help adult performers, advocates for them, gets them resources and generally supports them. Women have come to APAC with problems of safety, stalkers and things like that. We help them contact the authorities if that's what they want and we help them find mental health support if that's what they need.”
After four years in the industry and 200 films under her belt, Reyes passion for providing resources for performers doesn’t end with APAC. “My passion projects this past year have been getting a mentorship program off the ground, running a fundraising event against cyberbullying and trying to create a support group for performers with depression and anxiety.”
As portrayed on ‘The Deuce,’ one thing that sadly is still present in the industry is the lack of respect the performers receive from the outside world and the unwanted sexual advances thrown their way. Just because these women’s jobs are to have sex on camera, by no means does it give anyone (besides their scene partner) the right to touch, grope and make unwanted advances.
Adult film star Brooklyn Chase is just one of the hundreds of women in the industry that have had to create very clear boundaries with her fans to protect themselves. Being one of the top searched adult film stars in 2018, Chase has a large fanbase, and while her fans are of the utmost importance to her, she’s not okay with them or anyone else crossing that line.
“Just because I’m a sex worker and you’ve seen me have sex on camera, doesn’t mean I want you to touch me. And fans don’t understand that sometimes. I have been asked, ‘Well, you’re a porn star, why can’t I grab your boobs?’ And my response to them is, ‘Because I’m also a woman, and I don’t know you, and I consented to do a scene with someone that I know and trust and you’re not that person.’”
Chase is the perfect example of a woman that has a very normal, quiet life outside of the industry. Somewhat similar to the character of Shawna on ‘The Deuce,’ when Chase isn’t working she lives in a small town with her husband, who has nothing to do with the industry. Unlike what most of society thinks, adult film stars come from all different backgrounds and lifestyles. Some choose to live their lives solely focused on the industry, while others make it a priority to maintain a simple life when they aren’t working.
“Outside of porn, I am extremely boring. I live in a small town with my husband, two dogs, and a cat. I spend a lot of my day either napping or crafting or sewing or cleaning. I live a very, very simple and unglamorous life, which I love because I get to go to LA and shoot scenes and get a taste of it, and then I get to go home to my very normal life.”
Speaking of having a normal life, everyone had a life before getting into this industry, a family and friends. But as you can imagine, many performers' loved ones had a hard time accepting their career path. Alternative adult film star Joanna Angel is extremely successful in the industry and has created a brand for herself performing, directing and writing. However getting into the industry was in a way a sacrifice for her, losing many friends and upsetting her family. With that being said, it was a sacrifice she was happy and more than willing to make.
“The adult film industry didn’t come to me, I forced my way in, and I love it. But what I wasn’t expecting was a lot of my friends were very unsupportive of it, and I lost a lot of them. They didn’t want to talk to me anymore, they thought it was strange, they didn’t trust me around their boyfriends, they wouldn’t invite me to weddings. I was not expecting that. I ran with this very non-conformist, punk rock group of friends. I actually wrote an excerpt in the book 'Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy' about exactly that.
With Angel being one of many performers that have written a book, it’s also important to know that many of them are educated with college degrees and talents outside of the industry. Another adult film star of note with a college degree and success both in and out of the adult film industry is Nikki Delano. Delano is a world famous adult film star having performed in over 500 XXX movies with a Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Psychology with a minor in Addiction Studies and Criminology.
“People think a lot of us girls are not educated. I have a BA in forensic psychology. Me personally, I don't need porn, I do it because I enjoy it and I love it, and yes, it has become lucrative because I have built a brand. But if tomorrow I didn’t want to do it anymore, I don’t have to do it anymore.”
A less discussed, yet important part of the adult film industry is, of course, the male performers, something that ‘The Deuce’ has yet to fully explore. While the women are often the focal points of adult films and very often get paid more than the men, there’s a different kind of stigma that the men have to deal with. Ryan Driller, one of the top male adult film stars in the industry and a favorite of female performers, recognizes the unfair judgment bestowed on his female counterparts that he often doesn’t receive.
“If I’m at a bar with a female friend in the industry, there are definitely the glares and the stares and the upturned noses. But for me, I'm on the receiving end of wide eyes and eager enthusiasm. It’s not fair. My friend Nikki for instance, she has a much more successful career than I do. I do very well, but she’s the one who’s on the face of a video game and has a product line and is just doing so much in the industry and deserves respect.”
With its second season hitting our small screens on September 9th on HBO, ‘The Deuce’ will continue to explore the intricacies of this taboo industry and how it all began.