Sociology Index

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Casting Couch

Casting couch syndrome or just casting couch, involves the trading of sexual favors by an aspirant or subordinate to a superior, in return for career advancement. Casting couch originated in the film industry, referring to couches in the offices of casting agents that could be used for favors between the agents and aspiring actresses. The term casting couch refers to the practice of soliciting sexual favors from a job applicant in exchange for employment in the entertainment industry, primarily acting roles. Casting couch as a practice is illegal in the United States. Film, television and music industries have been the subject of casting couch stories in popular culture.

Ayushmann Khurrana, a popular actor recalls shocking casting couch experience. He told Pinkvilla in an interview, “A casting director had told me, ‘I’ll give you the lead role if you showed me your tool.’ I told him I’m straight and I politely refused his offer.”

Actor Suchitra Krishnamoorthi of India has revealed that she experienced "casting couch" while struggling to get a break in Bollywood. "I remember many years ago, I had gone to meet a very successful producer about a film role at a plush suburban hotel. They were looking for a new face to launch.''

CASTING COUCH AND '#MeToo'

Actress Alyssa Milano, famously tweeted in 2017, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet” and caused the movement to go viral.

The “King of Thieves” actor Michael Caine said he believes Weinstein’s scandal will serve as an example for others in the wake of the #MeToo juggernaut. “In Hollywood, we were all aware of the casting couch. It was almost a joke. We knew it existed. But my view of the casting couch was that a young lady went to do an audition, the producer said, ‘Well you’ve got the part if you did this’, she said ‘I’m not doing that’ and he said ‘well you haven’t got the part’ and she left".

The Harvey Weinstein scandal began the #MeToo movement that is changing what is considered acceptable behavior between individuals. "Not #MeToo: No More Casting Couch" painting by Kevin Grass who is a Florida realism painter, is about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in America. 

Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers argued in his defense, it wasn’t sexual assault, just the casting couch, with benefits for everyone who took a seat. The phrase "casting couch" is now often used in reference to other industries besides entertainment.

Casting couch has existed in Bollywood auditions that were conducted back in the 1950's.  But the #MeToo movement has made a galaxy of stars come out and speak. Actress Priyanka Chopra, who is arguably one of the biggest stars of the Indian film industry, says that men can also face casting couch according to news agency IANS. In the post-Harvey Weinstein era, will Hindi film industry take a stand against sexual harassment, or casting couch as it prefers to call it? Jyoti Sharma Bawa asks in Hindustan times. Many A-listers have given horrifying casting couch stories that show Hollywood is still rife with sexual harassment. 

Actor Woody Harrelson has declared 'every acting business I ever entered into in New York seemed to have a casting couch.... I've seen so many people sleep with people they loathe in order to further their ambition. 'Wild and Woody', Stephanie Mansfield, Chicago Sun-Times.

Producer Chris Hanley told his former classmates that almost every leading actress in all of his films has slept with a director or producer or a leading actor to get the part that launched her career. - News from the casting couch, Chicago Sun-Times.

Zhang Yu, a Chinese actress, released videos that she made herself to document her allegations that she won many of her roles through the casting couch and the videos were released on YouTube.

Secrets from the Casting Couch: On-Camera Strategies for Actors from a Casting Director - Nancy Bishop.
Secrets from the Casting Couch gives practical advice for actors, written from a casting director's point of view, teaching the craft of film casting in front of camera. It shows how actors can work with today's internet technologies to get cast and features advice and actual exercises that achieve results in the casting studio..