#MeToo and the casting couch

Have a listen to the song on the YouTube video below. It is a lovely song by The Eagles.

Yes, if you listen, this song could have been written about Harvey Weinstein. Except it wasn’t. Because this song came out on the album The Long Run in 1979. Harvey Weinstein was only 27 years old back then.

The song is about the casting couch. It is such a phenomenon, it even has its own name. The place where the starlet hopes to achieve fame and fortune by sleeping with the Hollywood mogul. That’s what the song says. That’s what we all know to be true. It is legendary. The Casting Couch.

If a woman decides to give sexual favours to a powerful man to advance her career, I don’t have a problem with that. It comes down to individual choice. And, we do know that the casting couch has worked well for many actresses. Good on them.

But what I do have a problem with is an aspiring actress who goes to the hotel room of a Hollywood mogul with a very bad reputation to discuss her career, does whatever she feels she has to do, and then calls it sexual harassment: possibly years later. If you go to a man’s hotel room: any man’s hotel room, let alone someone with a reputation such as Harvey Weinstein: you know you are taking a risk. And particularly in the movie business, where the phenomenon called the Casting Couch is the stuff of legend. Are they really all that stupid and naive? Some of them, possibly. But not all of them, surely?

Come sit down here beside me, honey

Let’s have a little heart to heart

Now look at me and tell me, darlin’

How badly do you want this part?

And how is it that sexual harassment in the movie industry is now something new? Something that no one has talked about until now? But that can’t be true, can it? Because how could The Eagles have written a song about it in 1979 if it has only just become a thing?

The casting couch

When I think about workplace sexual harrassment, I think about the office administrator who finds herself in a difficult situation at work, with a boss who can’t keep his hands to himself. A secretary, with an employer who deliberately withholds her salary payments so she couldn’t leave, would be an example of this. That is workplace sexual harrassment. But going along with it to get a part in a movie… That is not in the same league.

There is a big difference between that and deliberately going to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room. Some of the actresses claim they were raped. I am not going to condone rape. But some of them did manage to turn him down, one way or another. Some said they were ‘surprised’ that the meeting was to be held in his hotel room. But they went along anyway.  Some claim their careers were ‘damaged’ because they refused to sleep with Weinstein?  But all of the ones now laying complaints are rich and famous. It can’t have done their careers that much harm, can it?

And how does all of this get fixed by wearing black Chanel gowns to show support for their #sisterhood? That does absolutely nothing. Not attending the awards ceremonies might have sent a message, but simply wearing black shows how incredibly little most of them are actually prepared to do. After all, a girl’s career is important. We can’t spoil it by not being seen in all the right places.

And to make it even worse, earlier this week, the #sisterhood didn’t wear black to the Oscars. Why? Has Harvey Weinstein gone to jail for sexual assault? No. The organisers of the Academy Awards asked them not to. They wanted to concentrate on the awards themselves, and also wanted to showcase the fashion designers. And so, the sisterhood all complied and wore coloured Chanel, and Dolce and Gabbana. I might have respected them just a tiny bit if they had worn black at the Oscars in spite of being asked not to. But they didn’t. And that tells you all you need to know.

The Duchess of Cambridge was criticised for not wearing black to the BAFTAs. She is not part of the #metoo movement. Generally, royals stand apart from any kind of protest or activism. But she was criticised for it nonetheless. And then the ladies all capitulated anyway because the Academy said wearing black was not a good look. So much for the sisterhood.

But, if wearing a black Chanel gown to an awards ceremony is the answer, what exactly is the question?

This stuff really makes me angry, with the hypocrisy and disingenuity of the whole thing. Hey; I make millions. I am wearing a black dress in support of victims of sexual abuse. Yes, I am one of them. Yes, I slept with him. But, gee; I didn’t want to. It was just that there was 20 million dollars in the offing. What was a poor girl to do?

Are you willing to sacrifice?

Are you willing to be real nice?

All your talent and my good taste

I’d hate to see it go to waste

Harvey Weinstein is an odious figure. And everyone who feigned horror at having to go to his hotel room knew that. But every one of the women claiming he assaulted them in some way is now rich and famous. Some did more than one movie with him. Yes, he may be odious. Yes, he may be objectionable. I’m sure he was. But they all have great careers. And they have all made millions of dollars as a result.

We know what sort of a girl you are, my dear and your black dress hides nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Harvey Weinstein should behave the way he does. I don’t think he should get away with it either. But Harvey Weinstein was just continuing a long tradition of Hollywood behaviour. And I’m fairly sure there are a few starlets out there who were put off an acting career for life because of him, or others like him. I would really like to hear from them. They are the ones who actually said no. They are the ones that should be saying #metoo. But they are not there because they are not rich and famous. They are the ones who decided some things were more important than fame and money.

So, is that it for the casting couch? #timesup? I guarantee that time is not up for the casting couch. I guarantee that this behaviour will continue, as it always has. But I also guarantee that this sycophantic behaviour on the part of actresses will also continue, now that the floodgates have been opened.

After a while, nothing was pretty

After a while, everything got lost

Still his jacuzzi runneth over

Still he just couldn’t get off

#metoo is nothing more than a bunch of ridiculously wealthy, privileged people fooling themselves into thinking they are doing something important. They are not. What they are doing is only important to themselves. They are doing absolutely nothing for real women in real workplace sexual harrassment situations. It just tells the rest of us how sheltered they are, how they all live in their own little bubble, totally unaware of the difficulties of the real world. And they proved that by foregoing their principles at the drop of a silk stocking by wearing colours at the Oscars this week.

After all, what is more important than looking after the designers? Can’t bite off the hand that feeds us, can we?

 


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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