Posts Tagged ‘‘All That Jazz’’

Weinstein, Acting and the Sexual Exploitation of Women

October 18, 2017

The big news story this week has been the numerous accusations of rape, sexual assault and other forms of indecency against the big movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein. The papers and news broadcasts have been full of the accounts by actress after actress about how Weinstein assaulted or otherwise tried to degrade them for his own sexual gratification. And as the scandal has gone on, other women have also revealed how they too were demeaned or sexually exploited in order to get roles or keep their jobs in Hollywood. I saw one headline for a video about Weinstein on YouTube, which quoted one female celeb as saying that he was just ‘the tip of the iceberg. And I’m not remotely surprised.

Hollywood has always had a reputation for the dark side of the glamour of showbusiness. This isn’t just the sordid off-screen lives of some of the stars and directors and producers themselves, but also for the sexual exploitation of aspiring actresses. The most notorious aspect of this was the ‘casting couch’, in which producers would pressure actresses to sleep with them if they wanted to get a part. And I really wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing existed in the theatre. Something very much like it is portrayed in the film All That Jazz, in which Roy Schneider plays a dissolute theatrical producer, who in one scene sleeps with one of the women, whom he is supposed to be auditioning. The film tries to make it somehow less sleazy by having her asking him if he wants to go to bed with her.

And even when there is no personal sexual contact, there is nevertheless a culture where women are very much judged on their beauty and sexual allure in a demeaning manner. Jennifer Lawrence has told how she, along with a group of other young women, were made to strip naked, with only pads covering their private parts, while a female producer looked them over. In Lawrence’s case, she was told to lose a lot of weight in order to compete with the much thinner girls in the line-up. She has said how she told another, male producer about the experience afterwards, to be insulted by him in turn when he said that there was nothing wrong with her weight, and that she was perfectly ‘f***able’.

These stories have been about the American film industry, but I really don’t think we have cause for complacency over on this side of the pond. A friend of mine a while ago told me about a young woman he knew, who applied to enter one of the country’s most prestigious stage schools. She got an audition, during which she was asked to take her clothes off. When she asked why, she was simply told that they wanted to see if she would do anything to get a part.

I don’t know the person involved myself, and this could be another Friend-Of-A-Friend story, but it does have the ring of truth. Some British film stars have told in interviews how they were messed about by the stage schools or acting academies to which they had applied. Euan McGregor said on one interview that when he was trying to start out in acting, he tried several times to get into RADA. Eventually, he got an audition. So he spent £125 on a train ticket from Edinburgh to London. This was in the 1980s, when the money was worth rather more than it is now. When he got there, he found that there was nobody to see him except one man. He was told quite frankly that he hadn’t got in. When he complained that he’s spent a lot of money getting down there just for nothing, the man just replied ‘Well, you’re going to have a lot of disappointments’. Which shows just how arrogant and casually spiteful RADA was, at least to him.

And some men have also said that they were the subject of unwanted advances by powerful cinema executives, who tried to use the immense power they had over their careers to exploit them sexually.

It seems to me that the YouTube video is right. Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg, and the whole showbiz industry is rotten with amoral, exploitative predators. It desperately needs cleaning out.

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