Hollywood ‘casting couch’ often lends self to racial stereotypes

Black actresses address issue

Gregg Reese OW Contributor  | 11/21/2017, midnight
By now the issue of female subjugation in the motion picture industry has pre-empted..

“It’s too bad that it’s probably because so many of the women that were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein  are famous and White and everybody knows them. This has been going on a long time to Black women and other women of color and doesn’t get out quite the same.”

—Actress/activist Jane Fonda

By now the issue of female subjugation in the motion picture industry has pre-empted the issue of racist exclusion dominating Tinseltown over the past few years, a situation that almost certainly will carry over to the awards season and the Oscars in February. A neglected aspect of these conversations (which likely will become more prominent in the near future) is how sexual harassment (and marginalization) impacts women of color who aspire to the rarified strata of stardom. In a way, this is not surprising since the imbalance in salary compensation has only recently been broached in any depth.

 The individuals who did agree to speak out on this hot-button issue unanimously did so on condition of anonymity, due to the real fear that doing so would result in forfeiture of future work opportunities. This gives credence to the probability that while the casting couch has been exposed, it still figures prominently in the prospects of productions in the future.

“I’ll work with you if…”

 The act of predation often begins far from the lime light. One anonymous film graduate caught a break when an agent, whom she describes as “…something of a friend,” recommended her for employment within his high profile agency. Once hired, she not only had the “day job” so essential for a budding artist to survive, but one at the very center of the business itself.

“I worked as the receptionist and assisted him as well as the other agents and mnager,” she remembers.

 In due course, however, she discovered her good fortune came with a catch.

 “He became very touchy at the office, which I told him was highly inappropriate and that he needed to stop. Eventually I approached him about potentially taking me on as a client. He said maybe if we were dating he would be my agent.”

 Ironically, this fledging actress met Harvey Weinstein at an industry function (no carnal overtures were made) and completely forgot until a colleague reminded her when the scandal broke.

 In hindsight, she believes that these revelations are a positive step in the right direction, but is jaded about its impact on the future.

 “I don’t think there would be a significant change in the way business is conducted as it is no secret that this has been happening,” she concludes.

 The problem with delving into a story of this nature (aside from the emotional/psychological duress endured by the subjects themselves) is the unwillingness of the victimized to come forward with their stories. Shame and embarrassment are par for the course, but the cost of candor and straightforwardness may also include being blacklisted professionally, resulting in financial hardship or outright loss of one’s livelihood.

 And so it goes that most individuals with stories to tell will flat out refuse to participate, and those willing to talk will do so on condition of anonymity. Still others were initially agreeable to share, then had second thoughts as the memories brought up reawakened the scars and traumas long dormant in the human psyche.