Fake or Real, “I’m Still Here” is Unethical

Now, having had his film reviewed by most major critics as a genuine documentary and being widely assailed as an exploitive creep (including here), Casey Affleck is telling the media that the film is a put-on. If it is (and why anyone should believe a liar when he admits he is lying is an unanswerable question), then he exploited the audience and defrauded them into seeing a film under false pretenses. The movie isn’t funny, like “Borat,” and there is no legitimate entertainment purpose in staging a fake portrayal of a drugged out,  self-absorbed jerk, who is really only a lying, self-absorbed jerk. Just as James Frey’s  A Thousand Little Pieces was a lousy novel that attracted interest because he falsely represented it as non-fiction, “I’m Still Here” only could attract an audience if they were lied to—because nobody would care about Juaquin Phoenix’s idea of satire. Andy Kauffman he’s not. They will, however, pay to watch a human train wreck. Is Affleck trying to make the audience feel foolish? They are only foolish for trusting him. They won’t do it again.

I still think it’s 50-50 whether the hoax admission is another hoax, as a desperate effort to gin up box office. But it really doesn’t matter. Whether the film is truth or fabrication, Phoenix and his pal Affleck are despicable…just for different reasons.

3 thoughts on “Fake or Real, “I’m Still Here” is Unethical

  1. Pingback: Casey Affleck, Worst Brother-in-Law of the Year « Ethics Alarms

  2. Jack,
    Without further ingraining myself as a perpetual gadfly on your comments section, I would like to present the following:

    No one I know who’s seem it assumed the film to be real, nor did Casey Affleck ever state that it was. Rather, he simply refused to comment. Speaking frankly, the whole project was geared towards a younger audience who, trust me, got the joke. Moreover, the movie wasn’t meant to be “funny,” per se, as it’s simply Juaquinn Phoenix playing yet another character (this one just happens to be a parody of himself).

    I realize none of this isn’t likely to change your take on the matter, but that’s just the point. Disliking a movie or finding it to be in bad taste doesn’t make it “unethical” as creative mediums fall outside the normal rules of ethics. Perhaps you should consider giving entertainment projects a wider berth before passing judgment as to the moral implications of what it or does not represent.


  3. Neil, virtually all reviewers of the film, on and off the web, dismissed the idea that it was a hoax. Not to be snide, but really: the demographic you are discussing don’t believe in anything. That really doesn’t settle the issue. I don’t believe that an an otherwise sane and successful actor, for no appreciable reason, decides to spend a year pretending to be a drugged out mental case, touring as a lousy hip-hop artist, and showing himself to be a complete jerk on film, especially since there was ample evidence that he was a jerk before the “charade.” Add to this the fact that his older brother famously ended his life with a drug overdose, and you have a scenario about as likely as Plan 9 from Outer Space.

    It was sold as a documentary, the press packet for the movie represents it as true. Presenting fake documentaries as true (the presumption is that a documentary is true, by the way) is a lie, and lies are unethical. Afflect was either lying then, or lying now. If this really is a one year effort by a non-comedian to engage in pointless performance art that signifies nothing, debases his image, wrecks his career, costs him millions of dollars and, true or false, the permanent trust of any future employers, it is epically stupid, and violated the Natural Law, that is especially valid in Hollywood, that human beings act in their own perceived best interest (often forgetting that it usually in their long-term interest to be ethical, but never mind.) If that seem plausible to you and others, go for it. If I had to pick one, I’d still guess that Phoenix is ill, the Affleck exploited him, and that they have lied to us, one way or the other.

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