Showtime is currently in a legal battle with an actress who was fired from her body double role on The Affair after complaining about what she alleges to be sexual harassment. Naturally, at a time of unprecedented scrutiny into the way Hollywood treats women, the company has decided to treat the situation with immense condescension.
Some background: In September of 2015, Ashlynn Alexander showed up to work to be the body double for Affair star Ruth Wilson. She then says she found that assistant director Travis Rehwaldt had listed her role on that day’s call sheet as “Alison Sexytime Double” instead of “Alison Body Double,” which is what was usually used. As the Hollywood Reporter reported back in July:
“Ms. Alexander was humiliated,” writes attorney Troy Kessler in the complaint filed Thursday in New York state court. “She takes her career seriously and knew that everyone working on The Affair read the call sheet and would see her reduced to a sexual object.”
But it was when she confronted the assistant director, her direct supervisor, that shit apparently hit the fan.
The actress says she complained to Rehwaldt the next day and he admitted the language was inappropriate, but also belittled her and told her she could be easily replaced. A week later she was fired.
At the time, Alexander was allegedly told that she was let go because her hair didn’t match that of Ruth Wilson, even though she’d been wearing a wig. Alexander decided to sue Showtime, Possible Productions—which produces The Affair—and Rehwaldt for retaliation and discrimination.
Earlier this week, in a motion to either move the lawsuit to arbitration or have it dismissed, Showtime and Possible’s legal representation argued that “Sexytime Double” was actually an accurate and instructional term to make sure the production team knew how to make her up. They argued, via THR:
“To the extent the Call Sheet refers to ‘Alison sexy time’ at all, that reference appears in the ‘Instructions’ portion of the Call Sheet, which contains detailed instructions on props, sound, set dress, location, hair, and makeup, the purpose of which is to ensure that the set and actors are made up appropriately for the scene about to be filmed.”
And then came out with this bizarre analogy:
“It would make no sense, for instance, for an actor portraying a dying soldier on the beaches of Dunkirk to be dressed up for a fashion show, freshly showered, clean shaven and coiffed.”
The problem here isn’t that call sheets provide information about how to style actors. It’s that the language was unnecessary and inappropriate. Perhaps a more accurate Dunkirk analogy would be if the actor portraying a dying British soldier on the beaches of Dunkirk was listed as a “Limey Carcass” (or something actually humiliating).
Showtime then adds that Alexander “can therefore scarcely complain that the hair and makeup instructions in question provided that the Alison character be made up for ‘sexy time’ when the scene in question involved intimate close-up shots of Alison engaged in simulated sexual intercourse, particularly when that was precisely the scene for which Plaintiff was hired.”
Again, up until that point, it seems Alexander’s role was referred to as “Alison Body Double,” and the instructions managed to get the specifics of her location, hair, makeup, etc., without using “Sexytime.” Also, the lawsuit is more about Alexander allegedly getting fired for expressing that she was uncomfortable with the language.
It goes without saying that sexual harassment takes a number of forms, and it’s of utmost importance that we don’t sideline some experiences because they aren’t as high-profile or don’t have anything to do with Harvey Weinstein. The underlying sexism is the same in every case.
I suppose Showtime’s lawyers are just doing their job. But while undermining a woman for expressing that she was harassed and then fired because she spoke up is always a shitty thing to do, doing it at a time when there is so much attention on the importance of believing women in Hollywood is a particularly bad look.