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Robust Identities or Non-Entities? Typecasting in the Feature Film Labor Market


  • Zuckerman, Ezra W.
  • Kim, Tai-Young
  • Ukanwa, Kalinda
  • James, von Rittmann


We provide a framework for reconciling two seemingly incompatible claims regarding identity in social and economic arenas: (a) that complex, multivalent identities are advantageous because they afford greater flexibility; and (b) that simple, generic identities are advantageous because they facilitate interpretation by key audiences. Following Faulkner (1983), we argue that these claims do not conflict with one another but that they apply to different contexts. A generic identity is helpful in gaining the recognition necessary for sustained participation in a social arena. However, as one becomes better established, the limitations entailed by a simple, €ܴypecastÂ€Ý identity increasingly rival the benefits. We test these hypotheses in an analysis of the labor market for actors in the feature film industry. Interviews with key informants and analysis of comprehensive data from the Internet Movie Database support the proposed theoretical framework. In addition, the evidence supports the salience of the hypothesized typecasting processes even in the presence of related processes based on underlying skill differences and social networks. Our results have important implications for research on identity formation in various social arenas, categorical boundaries in external labor markets, and more generally, the interplay between actor and position inherent in market dynamics

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  • Zuckerman, Ezra W. & Kim, Tai-Young & Ukanwa, Kalinda & James, von Rittmann, 2003. "Robust Identities or Non-Entities? Typecasting in the Feature Film Labor Market," Working papers 4291-02, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:3519

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    Cited by:

    1. Eunjung Hyun, 2014. "Going Global? City-Based Status, Mimicry, And Expansion Path Idiosyncrasy In The Diffusion Of A Global Identity Among U.S. Law Firms, 1980-2011," Proceedings of International Academic Conferences 0701865, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences.
    2. Michael Lounsbury & Christine M. Beckman, 2015. "Celebrating Organization Theory," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 288-308, March.
    3. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:8:p:1399-1415 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Tang, Yi & Wezel, Filippo Carlo, 2015. "Up to standard?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 452-466.
    5. Vicentini, Francesca & Boccardelli, Paolo, 2016. "Career diversity and project performance in the Italian television industry," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(7), pages 2380-2387.
    6. repec:pal:jintbs:v:48:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1057_s41267-017-0076-x is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Durand, Rodolphe & Hadida, Allègre L., 2016. "Logic combination and performance across occupational communities: The case of French film directors," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(7), pages 2371-2379.
    8. Joris Ebbers & Nachoem Wijnberg, 2012. "The effects of having more than one good reputation on distributor investments in the film industry," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 36(3), pages 227-248, August.
    9. Lutter, Mark, 2014. "Creative success and network embeddedness: Explaining critical recognition of film directors in Hollywood, 1900-2010," MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/11, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    10. Trapido, Denis, 2015. "How novelty in knowledge earns recognition: The role of consistent identities," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(8), pages 1488-1500.

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