Casting couch  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The casting couch is a euphemism for a sociological phenomenon that involves the trading of sexual favors by an aspirant, apprentice employee, or subordinate to a superior, in return for entry into an occupation, or for other career advancement within an organization. Careers which are highly desirable and traditionally difficult to break into, such as the movie, television and music industries, have been the subject of casting couch stories in popular culture. Such trading of favors is an abuse of power, and can become a wider sex scandal if deemed newsworthy.

"Casting couch" is also less-commonly used as a general term for the difficult casting process that actors and actresses go through when trying to land roles. The "casting couch" concept in many respects is connotative of the entertainment industry, but may apply to any industry for which entry is highly desirable and competitive.

Common characteristics in the social system

The casting couch involves either the superior asking sexual favor from a subordinate in return for economic or occupational support, or the subordinate luring and seducing a superior with the aim of bargaining career or economic progression.

The casting couch is not restricted to any one particular gender on either side of the trade-off. In its broadest context it implies all social contracts that involves the exchange of sexual contact in return for economic security or career enhancement. Casting couches are a form of game theoretic trade off in social settings.

Accusations of the "casting couch"

  • In her 1991 book You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, Oscar-winning producer Julia Phillips attempted to expose many of the underground Hollywood institutions, and confirmed that "casting couch" mentality was alive and well in Hollywood.
  • In 2005 India TV's India's Most Wanted, an investigative TV show, caught Indian Idol host Aman Verma and longtime Bollywood acting legend Shakti Kapoor in a "sting" operation, and accused them of abusing their positions to force women to have sex with them. They even produced video evidence of Kapoor making advances on a planted girl. Verma, Kapoor and most of the Bollywood industry have defended themselves, calling India TV's claims unfounded and sensational, and claim that the video footage of Kapoor is misleading.
  • In 2006 Zhang Yu, a Chinese actress, released 20 graphic sex videos that she made herself to document her allegations that she won many of her roles through the casting couch.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Casting couch" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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