The casting couch is a term that has been used for many years. There are sly, knowing jokes about naïve young actresses being seduced by rich and powerful men that can give them careers or determined women driven to do whatever it takes to get to the top. However, the truth behind these jokes is something far more serious and recently Hollywood has finally started to address this problem publicly. Although the safety of women who are called to be cast for a film or a television show is only the tip of the iceberg. The #MeToo movement has shown that attitudes towards women have to change and the people at the top have to change their behaviour if the seedy jokes and cover ups over unacceptable behaviour are going to stop.
Rocking the Couch is a documentary that highlights a group of women who were sexually harassed and abused by talent agent, Wallace Kaye in the early nineties. It is only down to these women’s bravery that led to the court case and his conviction – but there is still an underlying feeling that Kaye’s behaviour is in the minority. Rocking the Couch discusses that time in the early nineties and how it relates to Hollywood today and whether things have, or can get any better.
Talking to the victims of Kaye’s abuse, the documentary takes a frank and open approach to what happened in what seems like a lifetime ago but is still so clear in the women’s minds. They each talk candidly about their experiences as if they are in court once again and recall vivid details which may shock and appal viewers. However, their accounts are not presented in a salacious way intended to offend and alarm but are simply shown as examples of what happened and in a lot of cases how easily an assault can take place.
Littered among these extremely personal accounts are perspectives from law enforcers. A solicitor specifies the details of what the law considers consent and abuse while a police officer (one of the officers who was present during Kaye’s trial) talks about what should be done to report an incident of abuse and how difficult it can be to secure a conviction. Then there are the showbusiness insiders, and for me this is where the real insights came in, as what they say about the issue of abuse in the film industry is often more telling about themselves and the attitudes that surround the movie business even today. The film never sets out to demonise the abuser in an over-the top kind of way. letting the facts speak for themselves. For those willing to listen, the truth of their horrific ordeals may open some people’s eyes to what’s really going on around them and maybe even help make a change.
Currently there are a few men who have been prosecuted, accused and even serving time for their sexual misconduct. People such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have had their careers all but ruined due to revelations about what they’re really like behind the scenes. This documentary serves as a healthy reminder that if there aren’t better ways to deal with reports of abuse and attitudes and behaviour don’t change then the film industry will remain an unsafe environment for women. This is an important reminder that history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes.
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