Blast from the past

Joey Tribbiani and the casting couch

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You’ve probably heard about the allegations of sexual harassment from multiple power moguls, actors and directors in Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bryan Singer to name a few, and most recently Louis CK. They are accused of harassing, stalking, raping, intimidating, blackmailing actresses and abusing their power. But despite the casting couch being a well-known public secret in Hollywood, that whole concept was depicted in an episode of the cult series Friends. More than 20 years ago.

Back in the 90’s the casting couch was apparently a plot devise for jokes and good laughs but I remembered one particular episode about this horrible mentality. The sad thing is… 20 some years after it aired… that Friends episode appears to me more frightening than funny to be quite honest.

I’m talking about The One with Russ episode. The 10th episode from the second season had Joey Tribbiani (Matt Leblanc) in a moral dilemma. He had a call back audition for the fictional soap opera Days of our lives, and among other things he complained to his agent Estelle, that the casting agent was willing to get him the part if he sleeps with her.

He eventually rejects her indecent proposal (much to the surprise of his friends) and even more shockingly- that rejection gets him the part of Drake Ramoray. Now, I’m fully aware that Joey Tribbiani is a fictional character and Drake Ramoray is even more fictional, but the Casting couch is shockingly accepted by Estelle as a normal thing to do. Sleeping with the casting agent in order to get the role. And in Joey’s case it wasn’t even about a lead role. At first it was the role of cab driver number 2.

Yeah, you’re going to have to sleep with her, says Estelle to Joey and the talk with Chandler (Matthew Perry) back home didn’t help much.  You’ll get a great job and sex, said Chandler but I’m just paraphrasing here. The sad truth is that the casting couch was always in this business and it applies to men too. Yes women are more vulnerable but male actors are put in the same position too. To provide sexual favors in order to get the job.

And Joey Tribbiani just reminded us of that.

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