Featured Writer: Lynne Marie Rosenberg
The Election Edition
LYNNE MARIE ROSENBERG of www.castandloose.tumblr.comtalks about the good and the bad of our new government while sharing some of the entertainment industry’s casting notices, highlighting where we currently are as a culture and the uphill battle that continues to lie ahead.
Elections, amiright? The United States just elected a Giant Cheeto of Doom to be president, and, yeah, SNL is going to have a lot of material for the next 4 years, and it’s awful. But, guess what? We caused this.
We are the industry that has perpetuated objectification, body shaming, racism, ableism, cis-privilege, homophobia, Islamophobia, colorism, ageism, misogyny, and all of the things. Often, we’ve done it in the name of “it’s just a joke!” or “well this is just what sells,” or “if I put a black person in that role it makes it political,” or “women aren’t funny.” This is our fault. We have buoyed the beast that is currently rising from the mire. We are the mire.
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we are ubiquitous. Our industry touches every life in the United States with what is probably more reach and more influence than any other industry in the world. Yes, the world. You know the world? It’s that thing that’s about to burn to a crisp. We may have forgotten, but at our core we are artists. Storytellers. Truthtellers. Mirrors. We as an industry have the greatest potential to do the most good in the world, and that is exciting, and scary, and powerful, and wonderful.
But the bad news is, instead we’re doing this:
“(20’s/30’s) - an Asian woman who doesn’t have the hard features of most other Asian females - she is more elegant and sophisticated and knows it.”
“[ TALULAH ] MALE (TRANSSEXUAL/CROSSDRESSER)… Talulah is a male to female transsexual who is as sassy as she is bitchy. If the light is right, she can be quite beautiful, but to the observant eye, she isn’t fooling anyone.”
“[ YOUNG PORN ACTRESS ] […] Seen filming a porn rape scene. […] NUDITY REQUIRED […] We don’t need a good actor here as it is just one line.”
And the university students currently studying to join our industry are doing this:
“Casting ‘Want Some Candy?,’ a short, heartwarming dark comedy for NYU about two sex offenders who fall for each other. Must feel comfortable playing a sex offender. Those who are easily offended need not apply.” (NYU)
”[ MIA ] (Female 45-55) Reuben’s mother and the epitome of a 'Mrs. Robinson’ type - a MILF; she married into money and values the finer things in life; she loves being the center of attention. Insecurities haunt her. Red or auburn hair a plus." (Columbia)
“[ TROPHY WIFE ] Female, 35-50. Any ethnicity. Trophy wife is the second wife of the deceased man at the reading of his will. She never had to work a day in her life and is expecting to be left a nice some [sic] of money from her late husband.” (USC)
Right now is when we can start fixing things.
Writers, go to your scripts—your pilots, your films, your plays, your commercials, your sketches—and flip at least half the characters to female-identifying right now, especially the protagonists. When you start working with a director, producer and a casting director, tell them you want it in the contracts that any roles that narratively do not require a particular ethnicity or culture be cast 75% non-White. Yes, I said 75%. Hell, make it 90%. And remove gender identity restrictions on roles wherever you can. Question yourself constantly. Revisit your prejudices constantly. Question your characters constantly. Run the Bechdel Test. Ask your scripts if they contain aggression or violence you didn’t intend, whether verbal or physical, overt or subtle. Keep writing. Write from pain. Write from love. I promise it will still be funny. Don’t just write about wealthy people. Don’t assume protagonists are white, cis, straight, able bodied, and thin. Keep writing.
Producers and Directors, put a hiring freeze on cisgender, able-bodied, straight, white men for your crews and teams. Just for a little while. OK, for a long while. Fill your crews with women, and the LGBTQ+ community, and the non-Christian community, and the non-White community. Question type. Question the projects to which you say “yes.” Look for possible aggressions in yourselves and in your projects you didn’t know were there. Keep searching.
Casting Directors, you are our lifeline right now. You are the Professors of Representation. The Mavens of Semiotics. Make suggestions the writers and producers and directors didn’t think of. Get to know every damn non-White, non-Cis, gender nonconforming, differently-abled, diverse actor you can possibly find in your city and the cities around. Tell all your casting director friends to do the same. Blast your concept of type out of the water. Change directors’ minds about body type and ability. Call a woman in for a role written for a man. Call a trans-man in for the traditional leading guy. Call a gender nonconforming person in for the ingenue. Take care of yourself. Say “no” to projects that feel bad, even if that feels scary and financially risky. Let them know why you said “no.” Write breakdowns that you’d be comfortable reading as a human if they represented you. Know that we—actors—appreciate you and are not just trying to connect with you for jobs. You are our coworkers and the humans we get to see most often in our lonely careers.
Actors, you can say “no.” I know. I know, guys. I know. But you can. Don’t feel disenfranchised. Stand up. Blacklisting isn’t a thing. If one company doesn’t want to work with you because you stood up for something you believed in, another will, and you’re better off working for them. You can say “no.” Tell them why you said “no.” You are not just a widget in a machine you are an interpretive artist and storyteller. Volunteer. Go teach kids how to read in the imaginative, fun way you can, with character voices and stuff. Go teach kids how to improvise. Question if you’re right for a project. Be an activist, use your stage presence to get people to listen. Read everything.
Advertisers, look to Lane Bryant. I’m done with you and your body shaming. Go look at their ads, and make more like that. We’re done. Women are done. If you don’t change your objectification and body shaming, you are part of all that is wrong in the world. Hire trans models. Show us different beauties. Stop assuming Caucasian is the only thing that sells, or that non-White is a niche market.
Male Comedians, take your ear-buds out because I want to make sure you hear this. STOP TELLING RAPE JOKES. Did you guys catch that? STOP TELLING RAPE JOKES. Rape culture is real. A sexual predator was just elected President, and that sent a signal to millions of women in the United States that half of the country doesn’t care if they are sexually assaulted, verbally or physically. But 1 in 5 women have been. STOP TELLING RAPE JOKES. Not to mention, do you want to be known as the guy who still tells jokes from an old, tropey genre? You’re smarter and funnier than that. Don’t be a hack.
Female, Trans and Gender Nonconforming Comedians, keep going. I love you.
Women Throughout The Industry, come 'ere. Stand in a tight circle, I want to hold you and make sure I can make eye contact with all of you when I say this. Listen. We’re warriors. We’re going to change everything. White women, look at the women of color around you. They’re our leaders. They’re going to lead the charge, as they always have. They know more than we do. Get out of their way. Listen to them. I love you. Hire each other. We might not be ok, but we’re going to change everything.
It can feel like our industry is frivolous or just the fluff of society, but that is absolutely false. We are not fluff, we are the architects of a monster. But we have the most influence. Do every single thing you can to make sure the media you are producing is good and kind and smart and challenging and start doing it RIGHT NOW. We are the moon, and we can change the tide.
Be a solution.
Lynne Marie Rosenberg