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What is an SA scene? Meaning explored following podcaster's viral tweet

Bruno Cooke August 31, 2021
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A recent thread on Twitter discussing SA scenes in the media has got people wondering about what the acronym means – as it apparently means different things in different contexts.

What is the meaning of an ‘SA scene’?

For actors, a casting call bearing the letters “SA” indicates that the role they are applying for is one of “Supporting Artist”. 

In other words, the part likely comes without lines. Incidentally, some actors have written about the apparent stigma that surrounds SA work. The perception is that putting SA – or “Extra” – work on your CV makes you look “amateurish”.

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But a recent thread on Twitter, liked over 50K times in less than 24 hours, attaches a very different meaning to the phrase “SA scene”.

‘Never necessary or good’

Arizonian podcaster Michaela Okland tweeted yesterday that “no piece of media has ever been made better by having a SA scene”.

Those googling the phrase and finding it to mean “Supporting Artist” may be confused, however. The meaning of the phrase “SA scene”, at least in the context of Michaela Okland’s tweet, is a scene involving sexual assault.

Such can be inferred from the numerous comments on the original tweet. Several users have cited and compared films and television shows that contain scenes involving sexual assault. Some depictions have earned praise, while others have been subjected to criticism. 

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Is omitting SA scenes from films the right way to go?

Netflix announced in 2019 that it would not include depictions of smoking in new programming aimed at younger audiences. French cinephiles, meanwhile, reportedly “fumed” at the notion that on-screen smoking might become a thing of the past.

Injecting morality into films is “like pouring cola into a Château Lafite”, the Guardian quotes one critic of the idea as saying.

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New York Times writer Lisa Damour, meanwhile, commends efforts to “protect the physical and mental health of young people”.

Yet, she cites several staples as examples of mainstream televisual output that contain “graphic portrayal” of sexual assault. Her examples include Game Of Thrones, 13 Reasons Why and Euphoria.

“There are things you can’t unsee”, she argues, “so think about whether you want to put yourself in that position.”

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.