Sexism in Hollywood Is Alive and Well — And These Casting Call Horror Stories Prove It
Even though it's 2016, gender inequality is still a huge issue — and that applies to the film industry as well. Sexism in Hollywood is rampant, and many actors and actresses are beginning to speak out about the wage gap and not feeling represented in the industry.
Professional actors are bringing film industry sexism to light in the hope that telling the stories of how they've been treated behind the scenes will force some change. The lack of women in leadership roles doesn't help matters: According to Variety, only 7% of the directors of the top 250 top grossing films are women.
The lack of representation of women in Hollywood has resulted in a dearth of compelling, well-rounded female characters, as evidenced by Casting Call ' The Project, a video project showcasing female actors reading and reacting to real casting calls. Many of these calls feature women reading for roles that fall into one of two categories: the va-va-voom seductress or the doting, innocent wife/girlfriend.
It's the madonna/whore complex writ large, and actors are tired of it.
Heather Olsen, a 26-year-old actress in Atlanta, told Mic that she has definitely been affected by such typecasting. She said she's typically cast as the quirky, supportive best friend.
"I definitely agree that women are either cast for a 'sex' or 'love' role," she said. "Anything I've seen outside of that feels like some sort of over-compensation. It really sucks that you can't just be a talented actor. You also have to look like Kate Moss, or be stuck in roles that don't showcase anything expect 'quirky' male support."
Olsen would love to play a variety of characters, and said she is confident about going out for more of a femme fatale/vixen role. "It's pretty disheartening to walk into a room where everyone looks the exact same, like Megan Fox or something — and you realize you came to the party looking like Charlize Theron in Monster, comparatively. And the casting directors treat you that way. There's this air of snobbery, like, 'did she really think that she would fit this?'"
The most blatant brushoff Olsen said she's ever experienced was at an audition that called for a "sexy spy type." She didn't even make it past the sign-in table. "When I wrote down the role I was auditioning for, they looked me up and down and turned me away there before I even auditioned and 'politely' said you're just not what we're looking for," Olsen told Mic.
At one audition, where she was performing a "hooking up" scene with a male actor, Olsen recalled that she was asked to take her shirt off, while the male actor wasn't. "I got really pissed because they didn't ask him to take his shirt off! I asked if they were going to ask him to do that too," she said. "He thought I was making a joke when I asked if he was going to be made to do the same thing."
Of course, many legitimate storylines involve sex and love scenes, which means that nudity can be involved. But when the male actors aren't also being asked to strip down to audition, and the skin-baring scenes are the focus rather than the actual acting, it is an issue.
Morgan Pelligrino, a 27-year-old, Atlanta-based actor typically cast as a "quirky, girl-next-door" type, said she's encountered several casting notes with details such as "Must wear a bikini," or, "Will be wearing only underwear in one scene."
Actress Emily Dunlop, 27, said she is often typecast based on her appearance. "I would say a significant percentage of the roles that come across my table are for women who feed into the ditzy, sexual, partier etc. stereotypes," she told Mic.
While she said she considers herself a goofier character actress, she thinks her physical appearance has caused her to be typecast as a vixen. "I'm a 32DD, blonde Caucasian [woman], and that is a box I probably won't break out of until I'm in my 50s," she said.
Dunlop doesn't take issue with playing a sexy role or getting risqué. But she's tired of auditioning for characters that are solely used as window dressing.
"I've had multiple conversations with my agents about how I don't mind playing a character who has to make out with someone in a scene, or be in her undergarments, " she told Mic. "So long as that isn't who the character is and the sole purpose of her in the story."
Even more so than the often over-sexualized nature of the roles they audition for, many of the actors Mic spoke with lamented general sexist stereotypes that pervade the industry, such as the idea that women can't be funny.
Meghan Peacock, a working actor who mostly works in the comedy space as an improviser, said, "Despite all evidence to the contrary, the idea that women can't be funny still persists."
Peacock told Mic that during many improv scenes, "The other players attempt to endow me with a character like the wife, the slut, etc." One time, she said, a fellow player attempted to have her put her hand on his crotch during a scene.
"These have always seemed [like] small infractions in the grand scheme, but are endemic of the culture that exists," she said. "And we generally just accept them."
At the end of the day, female actors would just like the opportunity to bring life to roles that portray realistic female characters: ones with flaws, thoughts, and feelings.
"I know I have the ability to a femme fatale type if given the opportunity," Olsen said. "Every female could. We are people. We are multifaceted."