Posts Tagged ‘men without chests’

Was anyone actually surprised?

We all grew up on stories of young starlets going to Hollywood and making it big either because of or in spite of a dalliance on the casting couch. On 16 Oct, Ben Zimmer wrote a piece for the Atlantic in which he disclosed the origin of that phrase: “the casting couch” and he traces the phenomenon beyond Hollywood of the 20’s and 30’s and to Broadway where the Schubert brothers apparently kept apartments for their dalliances with actresses and dancers.

In 1920, Photoplay magazine ran an article which Zimmerman quotes as saying, “young women are not advanced in their chosen profession unless they submit to the advances of studio managers, directors or influential male stars.”

Suddenly, we’re not talking about the activity of a few rich and powerful men.

We’re talking about an aspect of a sub-culture.

Women choosing this profession of actress must surely have heard the same stories as you and I. They knew advancing in their craft mean headshots and dance lessons and a voice coach and nights at the Four Seasons with Harvey Weinstein. We have heard a great many starlets come out with their stories of how Harvey assaulted them or asked for a massage or made some lewd comment. That we haven’t yet heard from Sally Mae of Podunk, Arkansas about the time she rejected Harvey and was told she would never work in Hollywood again suggest that, perhaps, even when not embraced, Harvey’s advances were an accepted, expected part of doing business in Hollywood.

Until it wasn’t.

Until whoever complained first spoke out and then so many followed her talking about their experiences YEARS after the fact. These poor victims who had made so much money and garnered so much fame as a result of their dance lessons, their head shots, their voice coach and their nights at the Four Seasons with Harvey Weinstein.

I have never met a good man who one day discovered he wanted to be a pimp. Pimping, it could be supposed, might be that vehicle he took to such fortunes as might buy his mother a house and send his sisters to college and build a hospital to name after his father. Such noble use of wealth seems incompatible with the base nature required to be a merchant in the rental of women’s bodies (Dan Akroyd in DOCTOR DETROIT and Will Ferrell in THE GOOD GUYS being the exception that proves the rule, perhaps.)

Being a pimp simply carries with it a moral burden and a blood guilt that good men would refuse to bear.

If my son said he was thinking of becoming a pimp, I’d lay out for him the moral issues and the stain such deeds imprint on one’s soul. If my daughter were thinking of going to Hollywood, I’d remind her that success depended a great deal on “who you blow” rather than “who you know.” It has always been this way.

I’m not arguing that since it has always been this way no victim should complain or that Harvey Weinstein should be viewed only as an artist and a businessman in an environment flowing with the eager attentions of women. I am arguing that every woman who posed for a head shot had already decided whether she was going to submit to his advances and had already decided she would at least keep quiet so she could be part of that sub-culture.

I hope it is time to throw out the casting couch and demand that these flesh merchants be honorable men. I don’t expect it, I’m sure a director with a true White Knight’s respect for women could never cast an interesting movie where some young starlet wears the Black Widow costume or exposes her body (for the sake of the art, of course) or embodies the literary and commercial excellence of the FIFTY SHADES movies.

These women knew these advances were going to occur when they walked into the room and declared they were an actress.

And they still walked in that room.

Harvey Weinstein might be a terrible example of the merchant mentality where sex is bought and sold for influence and favor just as any commodity is. But I doubt he is the worst. He’s just the one we’re going to talk about this week. #BringBackOurGirls

He will be replaced and hound starlets will kneel before his replacement auditioning as expected for the lead role in the remake of BUTTERFLY or 9 1/2 WEEKS. I don’t fault them. It is how powerful merchants have always behaved. What cannot be won, must be purchased and everything has its price in their world.

I do not fault, either, the young actresses posing for headshots and trying to relax when such a man touches them and they do what they must to advance in their profession. I do hope neither plays the hypocrite and pretends they did not know, they did not accept, they did want to pay this price.

One last note: I think the greatest fault and condemnation in these stories falls to the men by whom these women thought they were held dear. Where were the brothers, the fathers, the boyfriends? Why did none of these men break role and stand up to the villain and punish him? Had they, too, accepted it was merely part of the culture of Hollywood? We’re they afraid of that offense some women seem to feel when a man thinks they need rescued?

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We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

C. S. Lewis THE ABOLITION OF MAN