With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continuing to gain momentum, Starz has slated a half-hour prime time special highlighting a series of six short films depicting sexual harassment in the workplace.
The #ThatsHarassment videos, originally released online last spring, were written and directed by Sigal Avin (The Ex List, Irreversible, Michaela) and executive produced by actor/producer David Schwimmer (American Crime Story, Friends, Feed the Beast) and Milk Studios creative director Mazdack Rassi (Outlaws).
The filmmakers partnered with the Ad Council; the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN); and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) to create a PSA campaign around the videos "to empower victims and bystanders to speak out against sexual harassment and provide tools for employers to create a safe work environment," according to a post on the #ThatsHarassment Facebook page.
In addition to Starz, the campaign is getting support from other major programmers, including Freeform, Amazon, CBS, The CW, Fox Networks Group, FX, Hulu and Showtime, the Facebook post said.
Based on 'real incidents,' the #ThatsHarassment videos dramatize various scenarios of men in positions of power crossing the line with younger female colleagues.
For example, The Boss, starring Schwimmer and Zazie Beetz (FX’s Atlanta), shows a female worker and her boss working late one night. It starts very innocently, with the boss asking for help from his recently hired assistant. The two get to talking, and it seems almost as if they're having a bonding moment and he's sincere in making sure she's comfortable in her new job -- until he kisses her without permission. Afterward, he continues to push her, asking her if she's OK and saying he doesn't want “things to be uncomfortable” between them. When she leaves, it's visible that things are not OK.
Actor Harry Lennix (Blacklist) is the title character in The Politician, while Emmy Rossum (Showtime’s Shameless) plays a reporter meeting him alone. The two have not gotten very far into their interview before he asks her if they can continue over dinner. Again, it seems to start off innocently before he invites himself closer, touching her inappropriately without consent. It's a matter of time before Rossum's character gets the situation back on track.
In The Photographer, Anna Van Patten portrays a model, approximately 18 or 19 years old, in a photo shoot with a photographer played by Bobby Cannavale (USA’s Mr. Robot, Netflix’s Master of None). He's very explicit as he compliments on her body, her clothing, giving her instructions. It gets to a point where the model can tell he's not giving her compliments, he's being demanding. Then, the camera angle turns and it's revealed that the photo shoot session is in front of numerous people. The model is left feeling violated as the photographer is proud that he got what he wanted.
What these three particular films had in common was that all three of the young women tried to refuse their harassers so politely. Each, for example, mentions that she has a significant other, a tactic that in turn doesn’t deter the men.
All six of the films are very compelling and the emotions are very palpable. Viewers may feel uncomfortable but more aware and, hopefully, left wondering what they can do to help.
The #ThatsHarassment special airs Friday, Jan. 26, at 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Starz, Starz on Demand and the Starz app.
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