Sexism in Hollywood: Casting Calls


“Females applying for this role must be between 18 and 25. Males can be much older.”

 A while back this video came up on my Facebook timeline. Intrigued I opened it, unsure what to expect. At first the tone of the music was lighthearted, suggesting that this was just a bit of fun, nothing too serious. However, it soon became clear that the subject of this short video is far from fun and lighthearted. What it highlights is the fundamentally outdated and frankly sinister expectations of the film and television industries for their female stars.

The video was put together by Casting Call The Project, a group made up of three New Yorkers, actors Julie Asriyan and Jenna Ciralli and writer Laura E. Bray. Inspired by a blog, Casting Call Woe, they decided it was time to share their experiences and raise awareness of the blatant discrimination faced by artists.

“She should be wearing an apron with maybe a floral pattern on it to underline femininity.”

It is no real surprise to me that sexism exists in Hollywood and beyond. We all watch the films and television shows and see the types of roles women are cast in. The Sony email hack in 2014 revealed that actresses often fail to be awarded parity in their pay with their male costars, with Jennifer Lawrence being a notable example.

I may have even laughed at a couple of the examples of casting calls featured in this video. I thought, this must be a joke - they couldn’t be this ridiculous. Yet as the tone of the music changed I began to understand the seriousness of the situation and before too long I was looking at my computer, seething rather than laughing.

These are real casting calls, representing the genuine attempts of casting companies to recruit actresses. This sheer fact is what really shocks me. That casting companies truly believe that they can get away with posting adverts that are so blatantly sexist and offensive is shocking and, more than anything, worrying.

Nerdy type of girl. Nevertheless she has a boyfriend who loves her.”

From binary and outdated definitions of femininity to age discrimination these casting calls feature every damaging stereotype about women one can think of. In one particularly awful statement it is suggested that only slender girls need apply because performance space is limited. Where on earth could they possibly be shooting that couldn’t take a few extra pounds? A cardboard box?

The underlying problem here is that Hollywood and the movie industry is still only interested in portraying women as a couple of fixed stereotypes that far from represent the wide variety of women in the world. How is it that we live in the twenty-first century and yet some still find it surprising that a “nerdy” girl has a boyfriend?

“Her cleavage is her best feature.”

I suppose it is not that shocking that these stereotypes are being used when the casting companies clearly demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of feminism. Indeed it is recommended in one casting call that a feminist would be great for a role requiring an overweight actress.

Perhaps the most sinister casting call of all assures the applying actress that she isn’t being exploited because the director will be naked on set at the same time. We can only guess at the underlying motive here, but it seems clear to me that this is blatant exploitation. It demonstrates that the industry is not only interested in propping up outdated and harmful stereotypes but also doesn’t seem to have much respect for the women portraying them.

“Just so you know, you aren’t being exploited. The director gets naked in all of his films so you won’t be alone.”

It’s high time these inflated, unrealistic standards were forgotten. It’s time female actresses were valued for their acting skills and not just their appearance. I sincerely hope I never have to come across a video like this on Facebook or anywhere else ever again - not because it is hidden, but because the world has finally recognised that women come in all shapes and sizes, that their beauty lasts beyond age 35 and that they deserve just as much respect as their male counterparts.