As atrocities against women in the entertainment industry come to light, “Rocking the Couch” offers a sobering look at a problem as old as cinema itself.
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Rocking the Couch is a 2018 documentary made in the light of the #metoo movement.
It references the casting couch and what women were forced to do to get roles in the industry. While, unfortunately, there are issues like this in every line of work, the documentary focuses solely on the film industry.
As stars like Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey and studio execs like Harvey Weinstein are finally being brought down after decades of criminal behavior, Rocking the Couch examines cases that preceded these well-known cases and shows just how deeply this behavior has been ingrained within the entertainment industry right from the very beginning.
A popular famous comedic actor is accused of raping and accidentally killing an actress. After three trials (the first two had hung juries), the actor is acquitted, though his career is derailed. Sound like a recent headline? The year was 1922, and the actor was a pioneering comedian known as Fatty Arbuckle, who in addition to being one of the highest paid actors at the time also discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope. Despite initially seeing his career fall apart, Arbuckle was actually making a comeback when he died of a heart attack in 1933.
Another case focuses on an agent in Hollywood named Wallace Kaye, who in the early 90s went to jail for sexual battery, but not until many complaints had been filed and largely ignored by the Screen Actor’s Guild.
Kaye’s charges included an attack on an undercover police officer. Kay was sentenced to five years for attacks on eleven women, but according to news reports at the time, there were at least a dozen other women who did not press charges. Kaye’s attorney, Peter Scalisi said at the time, “He has a clean record and has been punished in terms of losing his job and his assets. He’s been through an awful lot. There are victims on both sides.” Sound familiar?
Interspersed with these are numerous stories from women who suffered horrible instances of misogyny, sexual harassment, and rape.
The documentary does attempt to offer a look at both sides, as actor/comedian/producer Pritesh Shaw discusses how he has experienced women throwing themselves at him in hopes of getting a part or simply because of his moderate fame. His concern is that women willing to do this “muddy the water” for those who are real victims.
Rocking the Couch is difficult to watch, and it is a truly horrifying look at what it is like to be a woman in the film industry. It also left me ashamed to be a part of the male species.