What HBOs The Deuce Has Taught Us About Prostitution in the 1970's

What HBOs The Deuce Has Taught Us About Prostitution in the 1970’s

April 20, 2018 12:08 am

Ah, the ‘70’s. A decade split in half. The first half spent in anti-war, counterculture sentimentalities left over from the 60’s and the second a burst of emerging technologies and new ideas. The killing of Kent State students as they protested sparked moral outrage and a wide span of police and ant-establishment hate bubbled to the surface. Microwaves became mainstream. Ataris were bringing the arcade into everyone’s homes and VCRs did the same for movies. Movies such as The Godfather, Jaws, The Exorcist and Star Wars drew viewers by the millions. The most telling change of the whole decade in America was the huge wave of women joining the workforce and insisting on their individuality. While everyone knows of the women’s movement in the 1920’s, fewer understand the real importance of the women’s movement in the 70’s. It was then that women began to truly emerge as individual parts of the human race, no longer content to stay home and cook. They wanted to be out in the world living their lives and experiencing everything possible. Even prostitution in the 1970’s changed as women forged to make everything they engaged in beneficial to them.

The Deuce on HBO – NY, Porn, and Prostitution In The 1970’s

HBO is known for its gritty, cutting edge dramas that bring little known areas of life into a bright spotlight. Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire, and Treme are all great examples. These shows are entertaining, but they also tell us a great deal about worlds most of us are too afraid to enter. The Deuce is no different. Set in New York City, it details the city during the 1970’s porn and prostitution explosion. David Simon and co-creator George Pelecanos strive to show what pornography and prostitution in the 1970’s was really like. The old school Time Square scenes give a realistic portrayal of life on the street for prostitutes, the homeless, and drug addicts of the era.



Prostitution in the 1970’s Was Not About Morals

The subject of prostitution is always mired in morality. Is it right? Is it wrong? Should it be legal? Do we have a right to tell a woman she cannot sell her own body? These questions, while still relevant today, were raging debates in the 70’s. Even so, The Deuce barely touches on these points. Instead, it focuses on the details of why and how prostitution was so rampant in New York at the time. The fascinating way people either become victims or victimizers is on full display. Women chose to become prostitutes to fund a drug habit, but also because they felt like it was a valid profession. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance depicts a woman who is smart, street savvy, and opinionated, but still chooses prostitution as her profession. That was a new way for women to think in the 1970’s.

The Deuce Shows the Transition of 1970’s Prostitution to Pornography

James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal portray three people who make big moves in the 1970’s prostitution scene. Pornography was not the glitzy, bright movie attraction it is today. Films were made with bits and pieces of thrown together sex scenes and sold in paper bags from under the counter. Franco’s portrayal of twin brothers who become mob front men shows us how a regular guy from the neighborhood could become a porn mogul quite by accident. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s smart and business-minded character, Candy, makes us believe that she knew what she was doing when transitioned from prostitution in the 1970’s to the lucrative burgeoning pornography business. We can almost approve of her decision because we have witnessed the power it gives her despite the dark side of the business.
HBOs The Deuce Taught Us What a Precursor the 1970’s Prostitution Scene Was to The Future World

Franco’s character Vincent is based on a real person. He was the owner of a bar in the Times Square area that was unheard of at the time but is commonplace today. There were certainly gay people on the streets in those days, as well as transsexuals and all manner of alternative lifestyles but they were nowhere near as free to live as they are now. Vincent’s bar was unusual for the way transsexuals, homosexuals, prostitutes, businessmen, and law enforcement all hung out there and mixed together without trouble. It was an unknowing portent of what the city would eventually become.

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