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Overworked and underpaid: Hollywood gatekeeping in assistant labor and discourse




Bennett, Kiah E., author
Marx, Nick, advisor
Black, Ray, committee member
Faw, Meara, committee member
Hughes, Kit, committee member

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Ubiquitous, yet unseen, exploited assistants' unseen labor hems the fabric of Hollywood and entertainment industries. In this dissertation, I interrogate the unseen cultural discourses of Hollywood that obfuscate the exploitation of the overworked, underpaid underclass of future creatives and executives: assistants. I argue that the position of an "assistant" – as an entry-level position for Hollywood executive and creative professions – materially, discursively, and socially acts as a gatekeeping mechanism against workers based on class, ability, race, and gender. Meanwhile, Hollywood production and hiring practices must adapt to contemporary demands for accurate representation of diverse positions on-screen and behind-the-scenes diversity. However, Hollywood is inherently white, masculine, middle-to-upper class, and able-bodyminded in its expectations and values. Therefore, I demonstrate how Hollywood uses the position of assistantship to appear diverse, meanwhile the material and cultural conditions of this position gatekeep difference out of Hollywood's creative and executive decision-making roles.


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paying dues
girlboss feminism
critical media industry


Associated Publications