The casting couch is a phrase that has only ever existed as a queasy euphemism in Hollywood. In the early studio era, when the film industry was run by ultra-powerful moguls who could make or break stars, even the most iconic actresses (like Shirley Temple or Judy Garland) were sexually harassed by producers early in their careers, as they later recounted. More recently, multiple stories about Harvey Weinstein describe the former mega-producer allegedly luring women to his hotel room under the pretense of discussing a role in a movie. After Weinstein was indicted in May on rape charges (to which he pleaded not guilty), his attorney claimed the producer didn’t “invent the casting couch in Hollywood.” The statement framed the allegations against Weinstein as the kind of “bad behavior” that’s long been part of the industry.

No wonder, then, that the country’s foremost actors’ union recently reached an agreement with the four major TV networks to try to ban the “casting couch” as a concept. The deal—struck between SAG-AFTRA and ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox—could serve as a benchmark for other meaningful agreements in the future, as the union seeks to limit situations in which extreme power imbalances can lead to abuses of authority. For now, the deal is intended to provide some basic protection against the most obvious kind of predatory behavior in Hollywood—even if wider swaths of the industry will need to take further substantial action in order to address the systemic issues that lead to harassment and assault.

SAG-AFTRA represents about 160,000 actors, journalists, dancers, and other media professionals, who must vote to approve the deal (which is part of a wider contract governing pay increases). The goal of the union’s “Guideline No. 1,” which was initially codified in April (and became the …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Culture


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