Robust Identities or Non-Entities? Typecasting in the Feature Film Labor Market
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, Â€Ü´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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