#MeToo: Casting Couch

Karrington Garrett, Staff Writer

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Casting Couch is the process in which a superior person with authority and power demands carnal favors, usually of a subordinate, in exchange for employment into an occupation. It is commonly connected with the movie/film industry and is known as a “well known secret” within the shadows of this industry.

Many people, male and female, have gone through some sort of sexual harassment/assault throughout their lifetime, but talking about it publicly is something that doesn’t happen often, and at times, individuals are shamed for mentioning the encounter; recently a celebrity by the name of Alyssa Milano restarted the hashtag that was created long ago on Myspace by a woman, Tarana Burke, with the two simple words: Me too. This is a hashtag that was meant to give people an open platform to talk and not be ashamed of the sexual abuse they have endured in their life. A chance to be able to listen to other’s stories and not feel alone.

The main reason the #MeToo re-spawned was because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and his sexual abuse accusations by 64 women so far. Some of these woman reign from the “A-List” in the movie industry: Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Lupita Nyong’o, etc. All have spoken of similar experiences and are boiled down to the age-old, presumed dead, practice of the casting couch. In this industry, the superiors prey on young, naive, and wide-eyed people, females in most cases, who hope for a chance to become a huge star, and use their power as a lure, or in some cases, a threat, to proposition these people, convincing them that they will give them a chance at stardom in exchange for “favors.”

While many of these women in this specific case were lucky and smart enough to turn down Harvey Weinstein’s proposition, some women, all around the world, are not lucky enough and are instead prostituted and forced into providing these favors against their will for jobs. Jang Ja Yeon, a South Korean actress, unexpectedly committed suicide by hanging in 2009 at the age of 29. She left a 7-page note behind explaining her physical abuse done to her by her agent, Kim Sung Hoon, and recounted how he forced her to have sex with a string of at least 31 VIP’s, CEO’s, media executives, directors, and other people in power, for advancement in her career.

The casting couch is something that tends to be ignored outside of the film industry, as well as the men and women who are involved in it. Because these victims will seemingly do anything to get a chance at fame, people often dismiss these occurrences as simply a ploy to gain fame, or that they “wanted it.” What most people not connected with the film industry don’t know is that the people in power are fully aware that their power and money allows them to twist public opinion or silence their victims; they feel as though they have an opportunity to do what they want, as if it’s a bargaining chip, or an “amazing chance.” Sadly, in many situations when those in power are rejected, they will use their influence to shut down the careers of the victims, silencing them forever.

The casting couch in the film industry is something that needs to be addressed, so that more efforts can be made to prevent it. People, especially women, must be more respected in this industry, and not seen as objects to exploit to gain fame and respect. We need to know it’s name and stop dismissing these occurrences as “fake” or that they “wanted it,” and instead take action in preventing these corrupt figures from abusing their power.

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