What is Casting Couch? Why it’s Ruining the Industry

The film and the glamour modeling industry seem like an exotic topics of discussion, but various stories remain behind the screen and are never disclosed. There’s been an onslaught of fresh controversial pieces linking the industry lately. A heinous and unethical practice that has secretly been the norm for quite a while.

Stories that unfold on the screen seem to paint a pretty picture, but most often behind the curtains lies a bleak and immoral world. It’s the real-life story of people with aspirations who turn into victims or are forced or coerced to do so with the sole intention of securing a role or position. We’re speaking on the infamous ‘Casting Couch’. 

This may seem odd but it’s nothing new. Going back to the golden age of cinema there are real tales of powerful studio executives and moguls that victimize young aspiring actresses by demanding sexual favors in exchange for offering them roles in films. Things are not different even now. Take a look at the state of the industry today. 

More professionals, actresses mainly are finally exposing such practices. The testimonies and serious allegations levied against the offenders are rising. Legal actions keep following up further exposing this vice prevailing in auditions and casting calls for film and television productions and even the fashion industry.

Let’s elaborate more on this here.

What is a casting couch?

The couch is real. Not just a term but an actual couch that may be found in a casting agent or director’s office where such acts supposedly take place. 

Merriam-Webster puts it this way – “a couch in an entertainment executive’s office on which aspiring actresses are reputed to perform sexual acts in exchange for desired roles.”¹

Such corrupt and predatory practices exist. It’s mostly aspiring young actresses and fashion models in their prime ages who usually fall prey and are compelled to act in accordance with the wrong intentions of whoever they are working for. In this case, this could be casting agents or directors who offer them a desired role or position in a film, TV, theatre, or fashion event in return for sexual favors. 

Whether such acts are consensual or not, their impact on the mental health of those who have fallen as victims is severe. The shame and suffering it inflicts are irrevocable. What awaits is a rather short career and an eventual fallout from the industry altogether. 

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Why it’s ruining the industry.

In 2017, Hollywood’s top actress shocked the world by accusing the film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. These allegations soon led to a torrent of similar allegations pointed against top film industry moguls. This however is not a story of Hollywood alone.

Soon the aftermath of these allegations exposed the dark realities that swirl the industry, giving artists in similar professions across the world the necessary courage to finally admit the truth. That is the existence of such exploitative practices among big league film producers and entertainment moguls. 

Even in Bollywood which leads globally when it comes to the number of films produced, there is no shortage of controversy. In recent years, more actresses have opened up stating they too were victims of the casting couch. Collectively more women working in film and TV are finally revealing this dark side of the industry calling out the perpetrators out front and dealing with them via lawsuits and similar legal proceedings. 

Besides, having to experience such harassment and violations women in film are still denied an equal representation, in all areas from production to acting. Casting couch simply exposes how women are treated in the industry and the experiences they have to endure to land that dream role or get signed up for the next major project. 

Read also: How to create a Modeling portfolio

Why Does Casting Couch Exist? 

The premise is a cliche. 

A young girl dreams of getting into film or modeling. Lands in a big city to fulfill her aspirations. Look for opportunities and connections. In the process, she meets with top players who may compel her to give in to their demands in return for that next career-defining leap. And this goes on until she eventually speaks out and in desperation leaves the industry altogether.

So, why do women have to submit and be violated to rise and stand equally? From where did this whole notion come up. 

One key reason may be attributed to the widespread objectification of women in the media. Films, adverts, and modeling have always revolved around young females with appealing physical characteristics. There have been and continue to be numerous instances where these mediums represent women in overblown body proportions that appeal to the male fantasy. 

The current masculinity crisis can also be blamed. It has become more than ever now for young men to exaggerate their masculine traits and encourage them to act in ways contrary to acceptable norms or even against the law. Culture is a motivating factor in how it shapes behavior and attitudes. Often, more films and TV now actively promote violent behavior among men. Most of these fictional characters represent what the typical male in their 20s and 30s wants to be. Violent and irrational solely guided by emotions alone and not reason or logic.

With the continuation of such a toxic form of patriarchy, women still are kept under and their rise to prominence is kept in check. They are forced to submit to the demands of authority figures, mostly executives. Sexual deprivation and decay of morality may also be a defining reason why such unethical and unlawful activities like the casting couch exists even today. 

Conclusion

Over the years, a growing number of movie stars have revealed their stories of sexual harassment and how producers and directors misuse their power. This shadowy side of film and fashion that most aren’t aware of is now brought to light. Legal action has been successful in prosecuting the culprits and deeming them convicted sexual offenders. Like the case of Harvey Weinstein who was found guilty of rape and abuse and sentenced to long-term imprisonment. 

Despite these, tales of harassment still come out afresh. Legal frameworks should be set up and passed to confront and banish such practices from the industry. Strict laws protecting the dignity of women, especially new entrants in film, TV, and fashion should be enacted. What is more important is that entertainment and studio heads should do a cleansing act by monitoring and eradicating any such practices that are prevailing in their organizations. 

You might be also interested in: Debunking Myths Around Modelling

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