Melissa Silverstein reported recently that Megan Fox is off the third Transformers movie because she’s sick of Michael Bay’s well-known verbal abuse and crap in general. This isn’t too surprising, considering Bay had Fox wash his car for her audition. But will calling him on his misdeeds hurt him any? Silverstein says:
But he gets away with this shit over and over because no one has the power — or the guts — to hold this man accountable. He could never get away acting like this in an office environment. It’s also probably true that the if the executives who hire Bay and tolerate his behavior acted like he did, they would be in court up on charges.
Yeah, no kidding. How come the advent of discrimination and harassment laws passed Hollywood right by?
In the 60s, the U.S. began pushing industries to hire minorities whether they liked it or not. They required it of federal contractors, and formed the EEOC to hear and address complaints of discriminatory hiring practices in those industries where it wasn’t required by law. This whole movement is generally known as Affirmative Action. And the reason I bring this up is: a glance at any twelve movie or TV casts from the 60s to the 90s demonstrates that no one ever pushed Hollywood to hire “minorities” in front of the camera. Nor behind the camera.
It follows that if there’s no pressure to hire minorities, there’s no incentive to make them feel welcome. Not until the 90s and Title IX came along, and sexual harassment had a legally definition and remedies under the law. But by then, Hollywood was already a paradise for misogynists and a hellhole for people who weren’t powerful enough to shield themselves from being used.
So why aren’t people complaining to the EEOC or suing for harassment more now? Probably because they lack faith in the government to do anything about it. I’ve heard Hollywood wasn’t considered subject to those rules when it came to casting – you obviously can’t cast a Latina to play Abraham Lincoln. Fair enough, except almost every role was being written for a white man – roles that could just as easily have been written for Latinas if Hollywood weren’t so heavily invested in stereotypes. And in any case, lots of industries had legitimate fears of losing money if they hired diversely: clients didn’t like their accounts being handled by women, didn’t trust women with anything relating to math or numbers, didn’t think women could sell. Assign a woman to a client like that, and you might lose the client.
But over time, that’s exactly what happened. Industries were forced to let women and minorities in, and if they lost clients doing so, tough. That was the whole point – for everyone but Hollywood.
(And what was the excuse for why they couldn’t hire minorities behind the camera? No qualified applicants? No minorities surviving film school because they were so discouraged by it, they left to become lawyers? I can’t imagine an “excuse” for Hollywood that wouldn’t also apply to lots of other industries – who somehow managed to hire minorities anyway.)
With that background, why would anyone ask the government for help? What faith would they have it would help? And so we’re left with a film industry that’s a good thirty years behind most other industries in the United States.