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There’s no point Netflix protecting women from being harassed behind the scenes


I’ve spent most of my working life in television studios, so the news that Netflix have issued a ban on their staff looking at each other for longer than 5 seconds seems not just laughable, but totally unenforceable.

We have got to the point where signing up to the MeToo movement is seen as a savvy business decision, one that gets a media company (one that’s operating in a cut-throat environment) good headlines.

Can you honestly believe that people working on the Netflix series Black Mirror had to undergo anti-harassment training, which included the following directives:

Am I missing something here? Actors are the most touchy-feely people on the planet. Pictured: House of Cards with Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood

Am I missing something here? Actors are the most touchy-feely people on the planet. Pictured: House of Cards with Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood

  • Don’t look at anyone for more than five seconds. 
  • Don’t give lingering hugs.
  • Don’t ask for a fellow worker’s phone number.
  • Don’t ask anyone out a second time, if they’ve already said no.
  • Don’t flirt.

And, the weirdest of the lot: Shout ‘Stop, don’t do that again’ if someone behaves inappropriately towards you.

Am I missing something here? Actors are the most touchy-feely people on the planet. Every time I have to interview one, I spend the first minute avoiding a hug or a kiss. It’s just in their DNA. The poor darlings just want to be loved, perhaps it’s the end result of years of auditions and casting sessions which ended in rejection.

House of Cards, Black Mirror, Mad Men, Breaking Bad - all series broadcast by Netflix - do not have to go through a censorship procedure before they are aired

House of Cards, Black Mirror, Mad Men, Breaking Bad – all series broadcast by Netflix – do not have to go through a censorship procedure before they are aired

As for not looking at each other, it’s well known that a spot of staring can easily upstage and un-nerve your opponent (ie a fellow cast member). Actors have a gush valve which I seem to lack – they consider themselves all part of the wonderful show business family and the rest of us are dreary humdrum outsiders. We’re not wired to understand their struggles, their inner turmoil and their quest for perfection.

The creepy people on sets are easy to spot, they are usually male technicians of a certain age and there are still far too many of them.

No one wants to condone sexual harrassment, but I’m beginning to feel that the MeToo campaign has gone off the rails, has spun out of control, and morphed into a shrill, self-centred, humourless puritannical movement in danger of demonising all men because of the behaviour of very few.

Netflix conducting anti-harrassment classes to ‘educate’ their highly-paid managerial, technical and performing workers will have no impact on the serious intimidation and bullying of women which takes place routinely every hour of the day in the third world, in sweat shops making cheap clothes for the luvvies of Netflix and their buddies. The women who are trafficked to work in nail bars, brothels and massage parlours all over Europe, offering their ‘services’ for the price of a meal.

So why are Netflix making themselves into an object of derision? They’ve pompously announced that they want ‘every production to be a safe and respectful working environment’. Do they not see a little bit of a contradiction between their ‘zero tolerance of hanky panky’ rules backstage and what appears on screen in series in which women are routinely beaten up, ogled and treated as glamorous set dressing?

House of Cards, Black Mirror, Mad Men, Breaking Bad – all series broadcast by Netflix – do not have to go through a censorship procedure before they are aired.

Their scripts are not vetted for staring, flirting, or bonking. Sex is a major selling point.

No, these highly successful shows are rightly judged as entertainment, even though leading female actors often get smaller salaries than their male counterparts – as did Clare Foy and Robin Wright in the Crown and House of Cards. Naturally, the situation was rectified after the women complained. And that’s more important than a dictat about flirting – the measure of real power and respect lies in your pay packet.

Mad Men is among the series broadcast by Netflix. Their scripts are not vetted for staring, flirting, or bonking. Sex is a major selling point

Mad Men is among the series broadcast by Netflix. Their scripts are not vetted for staring, flirting, or bonking. Sex is a major selling point

Has the modern world become so dangerous that we need to make ourselves ‘safe’ every moment of the day? Pictured: Mad Men with Jessica Paré as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Has the modern world become so dangerous that we need to make ourselves ‘safe’ every moment of the day? Pictured: Mad Men with Jessica Paré as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Apart from the bonkers idea that staring at someone for longer than five seconds is akin to an act of visual masturbation, the use of the word ‘safe’ to describe a workplace drives me crazy. Has the modern world become so dangerous that we need to make ourselves ‘safe’ every moment of the day?

What started out as a controversial movement on university campuses has now spread to every aspect of our lives. Safe spaces were originally places where minority groups could discuss stuff without fear of reprisals or being shouted down. Now, they’re everywhere. Even the bloody weather women on the radio is telling me to ‘be safe and take care’ if the wind speed exceeds 5km an hour. It’s all designed to infantilise us, to make us cautious and fearful.

There is a huge raft of health and safety legislation (some would say too much) designed to make the workplace safe. That applies to the film sets and TV studios used by Netflix and every other broadcaster. But, post MeToo, that’s not enough – now we are being asked to make sure we are ‘safe’ from each other – a ludicrous concept, which implies that every other person we encounter is capable of inflicting harm and unwanted sexual acts.

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman and Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman and Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Most women are robust enough to deal with the office creep, the person who is a little too friendly. Pictured: Anna Gunn as Skyler White and Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Most women are robust enough to deal with the office creep, the person who is a little too friendly. Pictured: Anna Gunn as Skyler White and Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Most people go to work to get on with the job, they don’t expect their line manager or fellow clerk to have a grope, stare at them provocatively and ask them out every five minutes.

Most women are robust enough to deal with the office creep, the person who is a little too friendly. We don’t need anti-harrassment seminars to add to the list of pointless meetings dreamt up by box-ticking managers.

The BBC has just installed gender-neutral toilets, presumably so that the small percentage of staff who are confused about their sexuality or ‘fluid’ have a ‘safe space’ in which to urinate. It can only be a matter of time, before the BBC follow Netflix and bans staring on their film sets.

Luckily that doesn’t apply to viewers (yet), so we can still enjoy the perfectly toned Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark without any fear of reprisals.



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