The #MeToo Movement: A Performer’s Perspective

Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service
Rose McGowan speaks during The Women's Convention at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.

Payton Williams
Voices Editor
@YoureSoVanya

The #MeToo movement has changed the way the public views the entertainment industry in fundamental ways.

One of the biggest things it’s changed is the way we see performers.

This point should be fairly obvious.

When an accusation comes out, it makes us look much harder at the work done by the perpetrators, by the performers and even, in some cases, by our heroes.

But while this reevaluation brings many necessary changes to the entertainment industry, and to the ways in which we consume media, it falls short in one key way for me.

It has not really spawned much conversation around the mentality the entertainment industry is built on, and how that very mentality has bred a status quo in which sexual predators are able to thrive.

I’ve been a Theatre Performance major at Cameron University for what will soon be 5 years, and I’ve been acting in general for longer than that.

All of my work has been local, but even at this small scale level, a person can begin to see the problem as something built into the system.

It’s something that’s taught to a performer, directly and indirectly, intentionally and unintentionally, from the very beginning.

It is the desperation for work as a measure of self-worth.

From the very beginning, most actors are reminded, at some point or another, of the unlikelihood of their ability to get a career and the selfishness of their goal in the first place.

This idea is driven into the actor’s head over and over again.

For me, it’s gotten to the point I laugh right along with the ridicule. To some degree, I believe people who say my goal is stupid and hopeless.

And yet, I persist in chasing it.

I suspect most performers feel the same way, and I don’t think it’s necessary to point out the many ways this kind of desperation destroys a person’s self-esteem.

People in many career paths, I’m sure, feel very similar, but with acting, the feeling is intensified by the nature of the job itself.

An actor’s chief job is to sell themselves. To sell their look, their tone of voice, their attitude, even their personality.

Even more, the job of an actor is to be vulnerable and to be open with aspects of their emotional life that they may not be comfortable selling.

This puts an actor in a very fragile place.

When an actor goes into an audition, it’s not so much a job interview as it is a sales pitch, and the commodity on sale is the person themselves.

So when an actor is passed over for a role, it very often feels more like a rejection of them as a person and not just a rejection of the work they produce.

So, a career as an actor is a dream that needs a nightmare to actualize.

There are those who will constantly point out that people coming forward with sexual assault allegations as a result of the #MeToo movement have, by and large, had pretty lucrative careers.

These people take a very transactional view of the entire scenario, seeing it more as an exchange of sexual favors for career advancement.

They might even suggest that the people who come forward to tell these painful stories had actually planned it somehow or had wanted to be sexually exploited to further their careers.

In other words, they say that the victims were “asking for it.”

I’m sure I don’t have to point out how this argument is a disgusting defense of an unspeakable act, but more to my point, it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the hierarchy of the entertainment industry.

The trouble is that these producers, these directors, these influential performers and artists, know the mentality of being a performer.

They know the low self-worth, the terror, the shame, the dreams and the hopes that come with being an actor.

They know these things, and they use this information to get what they want.

Actors and performers are desperate for a career.

They are desperate for proof that they weren’t irresponsible and selfish for following their dreams. That they’re lives have value. That they’re going to be ok.

And people with power know this, and weild that knowledge as a weapon.

How can this not be sexual exploitation at best, and rape or sexual assault at worst?

How can we say that any conventional idea of consent can exist in a situation where a person is aware of their power over another person, and use it to get what they want?

Sometimes, consent is not a simple question of yes or no, but rather, a question of who can say yes or no in the first place.

These performers are put in a mindset where they don’t feel as if they have a choice between yes or no, and for anyone to suggest that they asked for this to happen to them is callous and disgusting.

The #MeToo movement has been a wonderful force for shining light into the darker corners of the entertainment industry, and onto the darker implications of what our obsession with entertainment makes possible.

But I think it’s also time for part of the movement to be a serious reevaluation of the way performers think of their business — and themselves.

No job is worth giving up your sense of self-worth.

And no one should be morally gross enough to suggest that someone wants to give their self-worth for a job.

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