There are plenty of amazing characters in HBO’s The Deuce. While we adore all the ladies of The Deuce, one stands out and deserves your love. Ashley/ Dorothy Spina, played by Jamie Neumann, has changed exponentially since the first season, but she’s not ashamed of her past. Former sex worker turned activist, she’s a character with a plan to do good for the women still on the streets, but not without her own struggles. If you aren’t watching The Deuce, then you should be watching it for Ashley alone and I’ll gladly explain why.
The Deuce shows the hub of sex work in downtown NYC in the 1970s and the rise of pornography. While she was Ashley, our beloved character was a sex worker under pimp CC’s control. She had a special bond with CC until newcomer Lori came along, giving CC a reason to toss Ashley aside. For most of season one, she was given the short end of the stick while CC gave all his attention to Lori. We see how much this hurts Ashley and really wears her down. After all, the only thing she was supposed to get out of this arrangement with CC is companionship since every dollar she makes is handed right over to him. There’s nothing worth working for now that she isn’t getting the comfort she expects. In one of the happiest moments of the first season, she ignores CC’s orders to work at the parlor and attends a screening of an erotic film with Frankie (one of two James Francos) after meeting him at a bar. For the first time in the course of the season, we see Ashley happy and with someone she feels comfortable around.
Her day of fun lands her in the care of Abby, Frankie’s twin brother’s girlfriend and bartender. Held up in her room, avoiding CC’s wrath, we see Ashley in a comforting setting. She’s the kind of thoughtful and inciteful person CC doesn’t want her to be or that Abby expected her to be. She shows Abby a new side of sex workers she didn’t really consider until then. Their time together is brief, but it’s obvious that they understand each other. Abby sends Ashley off on a bus out of New York in a heartfelt scene that gives some hope to all the horrible things we see women go through in the show.
Luckily, that wasn’t the last we would see of Ashley. In a surprise return, Abby finds her running a sex worker activist group in a church basement, now going by Dorothy. Her return was as exciting as her escape, and her companionship with Abby is clear in just the look they share when they first see each other. From episode two on, Dorothy inspires Abby to take action in supporting female sex workers all over the city. They set out to find the identity of a female sex worker who died in a fire. With a help of a lawyer Dave, they walk down the Deuce, hoping to educate women on how to keep themselves safe from venereal diseases and help give them the support they need on the streets. Who better to fight for their rights as women than a woman who spent time on the streets, a woman who knew what sex workers needed, and who knew what it felt like to be at a pimp’s beckon call. Dorothy is the perfect leader for this movement since she can truly represent these girls.
All her good work doesn’t go unnoticed, and by the man she wants to avoid. Her former pimp CC sees her in the Hi-Hat, the bar where Abby works, and tries to intimidate her into coming back to work for him. He finds her as she’s trying to do her activist work, clearly not happy with losing his grip on one of his girls. CC tries his best to pry on Dorothy’s insecurities, knowing she craved his attention once before and assumed that hadn’t changed. No matter what CC throws at her, Dorothy remains strong. She has a larger purpose now than just pleasing him. She’s found the love and companionship she craved in Abby and helping other women have a better life than she had when she was with CC. Dorothy evades all of CC’s threats and insults, pushing on to do better and make use of her past.
While so many of the women in The Deuce are compelling, hard-working characters, Dorothy is one we cannot help but love. She represents a hope on the show that there’s a way out of a life of sex work and there’s someone who cares about those girls. They’re slapped, groped, used, and so much worse when there hasn’t been anyone to look out for them until Dorothy came back. She’s risking her life every time she’s trying to give these girls on the street some agency in their own lives when their pimps are meant to hold all control over them. Her own pimp is out to get her, but she’s not afraid enough of him to hide away and let women be treated worse than what they deserve.
In this show, there’s no telling where Dorothy will end up, but we hope she sticks around. She inspired Abby to fight for something and join the women’s movement. She’s giving girls on the street some insight into keeping their bodies safe in an industry that wants to use and discard them. Dorothy herself is a gift to television, a woman who has struggled, persevered, and uses her freedom to empower the women who need her help. She’s hasn’t been a huge player in the show, but she deserves all your love.
You can watch her and the rest of the ladies of The Deuce on HBO at 9 PM EST on Sundays.