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Why Red Rocket’s Sean Baker Keeps Writing About Porn Stars

Sean Baker’s new film Red Rocket is a fascinating look at the life of a washed-up porn star returning to his small Texas hometown. Tackling sex work isn’t foreign to the writer/director, as similar themes have come up in past films like Tangerine and The Florida Project. Not to mention that the central character of Red Rocket was first seen in his 2012 film Starlet, filming porn videos from his home studio. That poses the question: why has the topic of pornography inspired Baker to do a deeper dive into the drama surrounding these actors’ lives? Now he’s explained what led him down this storytelling path.  

CinemaBlend recently sat down with Sean Baker to discuss Red Rocket, and when asked why sex work is so prevalent in his writing, he explained that he’s attempting to do the folks in the industry justice. In his words:

There is that taboo sort of mysterious thing that we want to know more about. It's obviously a very special industry in many ways. And so there's maybe even a prurient reason why. Of course, there is. I mean, it (pornography) has to do with sex. I'm interested in tackling sex work as a whole throughout my filmography… I hate the hypocrisy in our society, the fact that all, most of us probably look at porn, but we're not supporting these people who are working in it. And then our society applies a major stigma to it. And ultimately, these people that we are essentially using for our own pleasure, even if it's, you know, just watching their videos, you know, we discard. And they have a tough time moving on from the industry.

Well, it’s hard to argue with that. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of people watch porn, as evident by some of the stats we collect for articles on this very site, and by how well articles on that topic seem to perform. However, society tends to look at the actors involved as less-than, and as Sean Baker puts it, once we’re done using them, they are discarded. Baker’s work does a great job at showing us that sex workers are just people, and their circumstances dictate the lives they lead just like everyone else. 

As for Red Rocket, it’s a pretty wild film. Equal parts bizarre, funny, dramatic, and hard to watch. It stars former porn actor/MTV VJ/comedian Simon Rex in an odd, full-circle casting scenario where he delivers the performance of a lifetime. The rest of the cast is relatively unknown in the film industry, adding to the odd realism that’s become a trademark of Baker’s films. Whether or not you’re a fan of Sean Baker’s very specific style, it’s worth checking out. 

You can see Red Rocket in theaters right now. If you’re curious what other films are coming down the pipeline in 2022, we’ve got you covered.

Jeff McCobb

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he enjoys feeding his addiction to buying furniture on Amazon.