The Assistant | Third Space

The Assistant

How should we respond to sexual harassment?
Fri 26 Jun 2020

3.5 out of 5 stars

With all that is going on in the world, it would be easy to think that the #MeToo movement is a distant memory. Yet the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace is not something that should be pushed aside for the latest social media discussion. This subject matter continues to be an issue today and one that is the focal point of Kitty Green’s character study.

The life of an assistant to a media executive can be a gruelling slog as the first person into the office and the last to leave. These entry-level positions are used to see if these individuals have the abilities to make it in the brutal world of this business. Jane (Julia Garner) has been in her position for a couple of months and has begun to see the highs and lows of her role. From cleaning up after executive meetings to buying lunch for the staff to managing her boss’ medications, she has managed to discover the inner workings of her chosen field of work.

As every subtle detail becomes more apparent, the one element that does not sit well with the young intern was the realities of the casting couch. Jane had not been harassed by anyone in the workplace. Still, she was able to piece together the activities of her superior. The various actresses that had come into his office seem to be exchanging sexual favours for roles and work. Even though Jane had not seen any actual incidents, she was able to put together the evidence to support her theory. The challenge was trying to figure out how to make the human resources department listen to her concerns and address the practices of her boss.

What is evident about this film from the opening sequence was the personal nature of this story to the creator of it. Kitty Green entered the industry to do work that exposed the issues of sexual harassment that plague the industry. The tight angles and close framing force the viewer to see into the life and heart of this young worker. Even though the top executive is never shown, his presence is ever-present and oppressive to everyone in the organisation. A style that will make many uneasy and frustrated with the lack of overt drama and minimal support for the intern.

The footage is all shown in tones of grey and the pace captures the bizarre mix of intense monotony of office work. Showing how office politics can be a terrifying and discombobulating atmosphere to navigate, especially when the scariest elements are initiated by the person who is at the head of the organisation. This is a depiction that will leave many either bored or inexplicably horrified by this reality. Kitty Green’s film exposes the vicious atmosphere of this business without really providing any solutions for fixing it. The Assistant proves to be more of an educational tour of this world than an entertaining one. Still making the world aware of the fact that these behaviours need to be fixed and eliminated from all work atmospheres.

Reel Dialogue: Sexual harassment is never acceptable (Mature content)

The legal definition of sexual harassment: Any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.* In the workplace, sexual harassment typically involves unwelcome advances offered as a condition of employment or that create a hostile work environment.

There are a multitude of articles and books written on the subject. Still, regardless of how it is defined, sexual harassment is a violation of the biblical principles of modesty, purity, and respect for others.

Those who follow the biblical expression of sex know that God intended human sexuality to be expressed in monogamous, heterosexual marriages. The biblical mandate is for our sexual attention to be only for our spouse. Godly marriages aren’t built on sex or coercion; they’re built on respect, sacrificial love, and dedication to Christ. This impacts the discussion of sexual harassment, because if this mandate is followed, harassment would not be an issue.

These illegal and non-biblical actions of provocation are never excusable or justified.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Galatians 5:14

*Law Council of Australia