‘The Deuce’, ‘Harlots’, and more: All the best content about sex workers
If we’re all being perfectly honest, it’s felt like forever waiting for season three of HBO’s porn industry drama The Deuce to arrive. We’re still waiting for an airdate, but we’ve spied the show on the HBO summer sizzle teaser and we’re hoping for an August premiere.
While we’re upset season three is going to be the last of the underrated historical drama, considering the time jumps between seasons one & two it probably wouldn’t be possible for them to continue the story for much longer.
The show is created by George Pelecanos and David Simon (both of The Wire fame) and features a staggeringly good ensemble cast including James Franco (as a pair of twin brothers) and Maggie Gyllenhaal as self-made sex worker Candy, who eyes up a new career in the booming porn industry.
S1 was set between 1971 and 1972 and explored the high times of the burgeoning porn industry in New York City. The Deuce offers a gritty depiction of the world full of sex, crime, and violence as porn is gradually legislated and politicians fight to clean up Times Square.
S2 picked up the same characters within the same location five years later, where we found The Deuce’s protagonists living at the apex of the Golden Age of Porn, when being a major player in the adult film industry was no longer a dream but a credible reality.
Getting us even more excited for the third season of the show is how The Deuce will incorporate the police corruption, mafia involvement in the porn industry, and political tolerance for sex work into the story against the backdrop of the booming disco and punk scenes.
We loved both the first and second season of The Deuce, so we can’t wait to return to the world and the characters five years after we first met them. The show is one of the best and most feminist depictions of sex work and the porn industry we’ve ever seen on screen and we can’t get enough of it.
While we all wait for S3 of The Deuce to arrive, there are some great TV shows and movies about sex work and the adult film industry worth sniffing out online in preparation for it. Here are ten of the best.
This majorly underrated Hulu Originals show looks at sex work in the 18th century and two warring brothels fighting for business.
Starring Samantha Morton as a brothel owner and mother to two daughters (both in training as harlots), the show takes a ferociously feminist stance in exploring the complexity of sex work from physical, emotional, and entrepreneurial perspectives.
It’s one of the best written shows out there right now and if you’re not watching it we urge you to start.
Inspired by Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 movie starring adult film goddess Sasha Grey (which we also highly recommend), the Starz series is just as compelling and impossibly bingeworthy.
The tenacious TV show stars Riley Keough and Amy Seimetz and provides a sharp and validating interrogation of sex work as a gratifying (if often complicated) way to make money. The result is a chilling, thrilling, and ludicrously smart narrative anchored by exceptional performances.
Set in 2006 against the backdrop of a changing online pornographic landscape, Justin Kelly’s biographical dark dramedy tells the true story of the life and early career of Brent Corrigan.
The movie brims with a pitch black humor and a set of captivating performances from Christian Slater and James Franco as two warring pornographic filmmakers fighting for ownership of gay porn’s newest and biggest star.
The film paints a bold picture of the pre-YouTube era of porn (where adult films were still often locked behind a paywall) while also delving into a messy crime story full of murder, mishaps, and intrigue.
Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’ examination of Florida’s amateur porn industry is produced by Rashida Jones and offers an intimate look into an unmoderated industry.
One where “barely legal” young adult performers face some questionable and occasionally harrowing workplace challenges and where the pornographic dream is ultimately exploited for a far less glamorous and potentially unsafe reality.
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On
The Netflix Originals spinoff show of the movie provides a diverse and lucid look at the ways technology has changed the sex work industry for a variety of men and women.
The documentary series has faced accusations of utilizing narratives without appropriate permission, which is fairly ironic since the focus of the show also revolves around the empowerment of sex workers and workplace ethics for adult film performers.
Gabriëlle Provaas and Rob Schröder’s documentary about two identical twin sisters hitting their 70s while working in Amsterdam’s red light district might be one of the most buoyant and heartwarming portraits of sex work ever put on screen.
The movie does a great job of removing any glamour from the profession, with both sisters highlighting their financial necessity to continue toiling away in the job.
It also offers a lighthearted glimpse into the legalized sex trade that mercifully avoids the temptation to paint the Fokken twins as tragic victims. This is their livelihood – plain and simple.
We don’t need to tell you that Paul Thomas Anderson’s groundbreaking deep dive into the Golden Age of Porn of the 70s is one of the best films ever made on the topic, do we?
21 years later and the movie is still bold and unique, with a distinctive perspective and voice that has been often replicated but never matched.
An electric cast including Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, and Heather Graham carry the glitz, glamour, and eventual grim excesses of the industry with great charisma and humor.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and starred in this film about a dude struggling to get a handle on his porn addiction after he meets the woman of his dreams (Scarlett Johansson).
The film has its flaws (the depiction of regular simple working class folk is irksome, to say the least), but Don Jon also offers an interesting look at porn from the unique perspective of the consumer and how visual storytelling can impact our expectations on sexual and romantic levels.
Franco stars in yet another story about the porn industry – this time as Hugh Hefner in this devastating biopic about Deep Throat actor Linda Lovelace (played by Amanda Seyfried).
The movie offers a sympathetic depiction of the star while making some connections between domestic abuse and the adult film industry that aren’t always delivered as thoughtfully as they should be.
Nevertheless, the film provides a provocative look at the 70s porn industry and many of the key players involved in its rise and fall from grace.
Though the main focus of Jennie Livingston’s seminal documentary rests on the ball scene of 80s New York, the movie is also important for providing insight about the transgender women of color who made their living from sex work.
Venus Xtravaganza talks openly about how many trans women from the ball scene are in the sex work industry, and the dangers of the job.
The movie gravely underscores this point when Venus is found murdered in her hotel room, highlighting the need for transgender people and sex workers to be better protected in society.