Recently, Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron, arguably one of the most powerful and highly paid women in Hollywood, recounted a “casting couch” experience that she had with a big-name producer.
At the time of the incident, she was only eighteen or nineteen and just starting out in her acting career. She said in the interview that the man “was a very big deal and is still a big deal,” hinting that this producer is still working in a significant role in the entertainment industry.
During the interview, she recalled what happened to her. She was sent by her agent to a 9pm “audition” at the producer’s house. He answered the door barefoot in his pajamas with a drink in his hand.
She was uncomfortable but went along with it as he sat much too close to her on the couch. He made it clear that this wasn’t actually a business-related meeting when he didn’t want to discuss the project she was called in for. He then put his hand inappropriately on her leg and that’s when she bolted from the house.
She explained that she felt regret at not confronting him when it happened. Many years later she felt she had her moment when he called her in for a job and she was able to call him out about the experience, in front of his co-producer. He said to her that he didn’t recall the incident at all, making it clear that she wasn’t the only one of the young women he had been inappropriate with.
In today’s climate, none of these circumstances or actions are surprising as, sadly, we’ve all heard similar stories coming out of Hollywood more times than we can count. The “casting couch” has become a metonym for rampant sexual exploitation and harassment in the industry.
The “casting couch” has become a metonym for rampant sexual exploitation and harassment in the industry.
But what’s surprising is that we collectively thought Hollywood had its moment of reckoning with the outing of Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator. We thought that powerful men in Hollywood would no longer be able to remain anonymous and continue their predatory behavior hidden from sight and protected from scrutiny—but apparently not much has changed…yet.
There is hope on the horizon. We’re seeing more and more men in positions of power being exposed and brought to justice for crimes of sexual exploitation and trafficking. First Harvey Weinstein, then Jeffrey Epstein, and now R. Kelly, are all having their moments of reckoning thanks to outspoken survivors, journalists, and documentarians who are utilizing their craft to expose them to the public.
On the heels of Weinstein being exposed, the #MeToo movement has gained momentum and inspired a wave of victims to reveal their abusers. Although there is still much work to do, the public is increasingly becoming more aware of these issues and the need to bring perpetrators to justice.
Clearly, we as a society have a long way to go in dismantling the dynamics that enable predators to continue preying upon those in positions of vulnerability. But there’s certainly more awareness about these issues than there ever has been in the past and for that we are grateful.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore. This photo has been modified. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en