Hired entirely for her acting ability, oh yes

We’d file this under the rubric of things that just aren’t going to work – Equity is to make absolutely certain that sexual predation just does not happen in the acting business. Apologies to snowflakes of every generation and age but that’s just not how human beings work.

Sexual predators, harassers and bullies in the entertainment industries who are lying low, hoping that people will forget, must never be allowed to repeat or get away with their behaviour, the actors’ union Equity has said.

On Thursday it published a report titled Agenda for Change, its response to the sexual harassment scandal, with a raft of recommendations covering subjects including safety at work, sex scenes, nudity, casting and gender balance.

Among the main measures is the launch of a “safe space” campaign, which will include posters, a helpline, and productions being encouraged to have a safe space statement read before rehearsals begin. The union is also promising to investigate non-disclosure agreements, which it says potentially protect perpetrators of harassment.

This is to miss a significant part of what is being sold.

No, this is not to make that old connection between actresses and prostitution, nor even to reference the more modern MAW (Model, Actress, Whatever). Instead it’s to note that for some portion of each new generation of actors and actresses (yes, this applies to men just as much) what is being sold is sexual attractiveness. Youth, seeming fertility, unlined and beautiful bodies and faces. The thing is that if this is what is being sold then that is what will be bought too. Both publicly and privately.

To make an invidious point or two, Bo Derek wasn’t hired for her acting ability but for an extreme form of beauty. Meryl Streep could be several points further down that Richter Scale of looks and still have people lining up to employ her for those very acting skills.

This does not mean that predation, rape in return for a scene, is fair game. It’s rape and rapists should be in prison. But if there are tens of thousands (there are) of pretty young things, male and female, who want to get into the movies then at least some of them will have that youth and beauty bought off them for the chance to go into the movies. Sorry, but that’s humans for you.

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  1. I really don’t think that this is a problem in British theatre or film making. I really don’t. We would have known by now. The Americans might have covered it up for a long time with a lot of publicists and lawyers, but the British industry could not.

    It is too small for one thing. Suppose it happened all the time. You think that Richard Burton wouldn’t have mentioned it? Oliver Reed wouldn’t have punched someone who touched his girlfriend? That half the bat-sh!t crazy women the British film industry produced wouldn’t have stabbed someone to death?

    We would have known by now.

    This scandal has been mainly highly ethnic and a few Gay men. We have the Gay men but we have a lot fewer of the ethnics. Or we did.

  2. Incidentally, is this going to work both ways? Can a male director report an actress for making a proposition to him (if you give me the job I’ll sleep with you/give you a BJ/dress up in squirrel suit/whatever) and will she face sanctions too?

  3. ‘Course it does, SMfS. But Brit actors/actresses come from a much more closed circle. Drama school>stage, maybe > film. You go poisoning that well with juicy revelations you’d never work again.

  4. Meryl Streep could be several points further down that Richter Scale of looks and still have people lining up to employ her for those very acting skills.

    Meryl Streep’s acting isn’t bad, but lord do people pretend it’s something out of this world.

  5. ‘This does not mean that predation, rape in return for a scene, is fair game.’

    Why wouldn’t this be covered under free speech? And, more importantly, artistic license?

    The numpties are carrying on. It signifies nothing.

  6. What it boils down to is that any female rejected for a part will have revenge in her grasp. Along with an enormous increase in costs and a large decrease in acting work because of fear of accusation, lawdog costs, insurance costs etc.

    And ultimately the rise of the non-existent virtual star who needs no wages and can never sue. In films and tv for sure and –as hologrammics improve–ultimately on stage. Hell I bet there are legions of dead–often long-dead–actors and actresses who still have a great career in front of them.

  7. Um.. this is what unions should do… try to arrange things so that which their members don’t want to happen but might because of intrinsic human nature and the business structure do happen quite frequently. The difficulty is that people also can be happy with things happening if they consider they are getting adequate compensation. So we’re back to unions doing exactly what they should do .. negotiate collectively adequate compensation.