#MeToo: Why banning hotel room auditions won’t clean up Hollywood
An overflowing mess
Grabbing a single mop to clean up the proverbial oil spill of sexual assault and harassment accusations that have spoiled the Hollywood waters, SAG-AFTRA proposed a ban on hotel room auditions to tackle the issue.
As well as calling upon powerful Hollywood heavies to resist their apparently primal urge to turn a casting call into an monstrous sexual buffet, the guild also urges members and their representatives “not to agree to professional meetings in these high-risk locations.” So that’s it, everyone! Problem solved. Sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood is officially over.
The guild’s proposed ban against auditions in hotel rooms and residences – in which many reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault have occurred – is a nice idea but it’s a little retrograde. In announcing the proposed ban, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris declared, “We are committed to addressing the scenario that has allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors under the guise of a professional meeting.”
That’s fine if such harassment and assault was only taking place behind closed doors. Arguably the real problem is that sexual harassment and assault have been happening openly in the industry for decades – and not just in hotel rooms or residencies.
Hotel room auditions are only now being acknowledged as bad
Despite the wide-eyed, innocent shock of stars like Meryl Streep (The Post) & Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), the ubiquity of sexual harassment and assault within the biz has been widely acknowledged as being the worst kept secret of the entire industry.
In an apoplectic rant following the reveal of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, screenwriter Scott Rosenberg (Beautiful Girls) shared on Facebook, “Everybody fucking knew. Not that he was raping. No, that we never heard. But we were aware of a certain pattern of overly-aggressive behavior that was rather dreadful. We knew about the man’s hunger; his fervor; his appetite. There was nothing secret about this voracious rapacity.”
On Good Morning America, Rose McGowan (Charmed) echoed these sentiments, admonishing the industry by exclaiming, “Everyone knew (about Weinstein). I know that. I was there.” Meanwhile, allegations of Kevin Spacey’s reported sexual harassment and assault of young men within the industry was also met with a similar macabre shrug of familiarity. Hadn’t we all heard something about Spacey before?
Seth MacFarlane was cracking jokes about the actor’s alleged behavior as far back as 2005 in Family Guy and it was also made into a regular punchline on the now-cancelled Hulu comedy Difficult People long before it made the headlines.
Openly conducted; privately dealt with
None of this sounds like a “behind closed doors” issue. If these statements and comedy sketches are of any indication, this kind of harassment was happening out in the open and was known and acknowledged by many.
Auditions held in hotel rooms and other residences are a big problem but banning them doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface with regards to where, how, and why performers may face exploitation, assault, and harassment. The issue appears to be far more nefarious and goes beyond grotesque misuses of power behind closed doors.
When female performers finally started opening up and sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and assault in the industry, their alleged stories hinted at a prevailing old boys’ club of Hollywood. While many of these accusations did take place in the same haunts of an inescapable hotel room, there were plenty that apparently took place on set or at industry parties.
Hotel rooms aren’t the only hosts of predatory behaviour; apparently just about any industry workplace is a potentially unsafe one, too.
Anna Faris (Scary Movie 4) revealed she once had her ass slapped on set in front of an entire production crew: “It made me feel small. He wouldn’t have done that to the lead male.” Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club) revealed multiple instances of sexual misconduct committed against her in otherwise “safe” workplace locations as a child.
When I was thirteen, a fifty-year-old crew member told me that he would teach me to dance, and then proceeded to push against me with an erection. When I was fourteen, a married film director stuck his tongue in my mouth on set.
Carrie Stevens (Rock Star) alleged Oliver Stone (Platoon) assaulted her a party. “Oliver saw me where I was standing near the door and he just reached out and groped me, grabbed my boob like it was a toy or a hand you’d shake.” Meanwhile Björk alleged Lars von Trier repeatedly harassed her on the set of Dancer in the Dark.
The controversial director (who denies the allegations) reportedly threatened to “climb from his room’s balcony over to (Björk’s) in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention” and gave her “unwanted whispered sexual offers” while on set.
You’re gonna need a bigger broom
Maybe hotel room auditions aren’t the thing that should be banned. Maybe the unspoken old boys’ club of Hollywood is the thing the guild should be speaking out about. If the many allegations are anything to go by, sexual harassment and assault are traditions of the Hollywood old boys’ club apparently propagated within the industry since the Hollywood Babylon golden era of Tinsel Town.
After all, this is the industry that Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It Hot) once cautioned in her memoir as being “an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.”
It’s the industry which allowed for a teenage Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz) to be allegedly groped by producer Louis B. Mayer who would hold meetings with the young star sat on his lap. It’s the industry that allowed for Tippi Hedren (The Birds) to be reportedly molested and abused on set by Alfred Hitchcock.
As Hedren herself put it in 2016, “This is legion all over the world. There’s nothing unique about it. Women complain all the time about somebody trying to make a pass at them or have a relationship in which they are not interested.”
Banning hotel room auditions won’t “clean up” the industry anymore than laws and regulations against sexual impropriety and exploitation. When it comes to sexual harassment and assault, Hollywood still has an almighty mess to clean up.
But throwing a broom at the damn thing and calling it cleaning isn’t going to contain or clear the issue. Sooner or later, a lot of people are going to have to take some responsibility for that wreckage and actually start sweeping.