Déjà Vu Ethics Dunce: Steve Martin (Coward, Too)


Comedian Steve Martin posted the heartfelt tweet above after the announcement of the death of “Star Wars” star Carrie Fisher yesterday. Some internet Political Correctness Furies were lying in wait, however, eager to find someone to bully for thoughtcrime, and pounced. In addition to the shaming tweets Martin’s reflection generated—Objectification! Objectification!—a New York Magazine writer named Claire Lansbaum scolded Martin on its affiliated website, The Cut. Martin, compliant progressive weenie that he is, deleted the tweet.

He’s pathetic. Martin is a skilled and literate writer and should stand up for the words he uses. “Creature” includes human beings among its accepted and traditional definitions. There was nothing inappropriate or in any way condescending about his use of the word, accept to those looking to be offended and to bend a victim to their will. Nor was an honest memory about how Fisher made Martin feel as “a young man” anything but truth—though we know that fanatics believe that truth they don’t like should be hidden and distorted. When young Martin saw Fisher, she was dressed like this…


…which was an appearance designed to make young men see her as a “beautiful creature,” to use one of the more restrained descriptions. Landsbaum writes about how Fisher fought against her image as a sex symbol. Well, of Carrie’s many admirable and provocative public positions, that was the least credible. The reason Fisher was an icon, the reason anybody cared about what she thought, and the only reason her death is being publicized like she was Katherine Hepburn, was in part because she excited young men as Princess Leia.

Martin’s tweet concluded by stating that Fisher was more than just beautiful, and that was basically what Fisher wanted people to recognize. Yet he pulled the tweet.

In 2013, Steve Martin tweeted a joke that was too nuanced for the Political Correctness Furies, who called it, and him, racist. He backed down then, too. What I wrote in response applies to this re-run exactly:

Martin, a novelist, a playwright, a TV writer, a comic and an actor, should have the integrity to stand up to this suffocating and unethical phenomenon. He has the stature to make a difference. He doesn’t have that integrity. He took the path of least resistance. He is a coward….What he had to do was show some principle and strength of character when being manipulated and unfairly attacked, and he wasn’t up to the task.

By giving them what they crave, Steve Martin made the censors, bullies, cyber mobs and political correctness dictators more powerful, and hungrier still.

Without champions who will fight for free thought and expression, we will lose them. Martin and people of his intelligence and credibility have an obligation to be such champions, and he failed us all.

A tangential aside for consideration: I am not using the “This will help elect Donald Trump” tag any more, but I keep seeing news items that would have deserved it had the unimaginable not already happened. Maybe I should launch a tag called “This is what helped elect Donald Trump.” I’m tempted to add to it “…and should have.” The problem is that while somebody should have been elected who had the courage and the commitment to American values like free expression to begin to reverse this oppressive cultural indoctrination, the process fingered the wrong man for the job. He, like his supporters, can’t distinguish between words and thoughts that public figures should avoid making public in the interests of respect, dignity and comity, and the legitimate expression of ideas that the Left wants to crush like bugs. Still, I’m beginning to wonder if Trump’s vulgarity and gratuitous nastiness isn’t preferable to the free speech-corroding cowardice of the Steve Martins in our midst.


46 thoughts on “Déjà Vu Ethics Dunce: Steve Martin (Coward, Too)

  1. These people are really too much. How about this? “When I was a young man, I did not find Carrie Fisher attractive at all. Later, I learned however, she was bright and witty.” Or, “When I was a young man, I drew no conclusions about Carrie Fisher’s looks. She was bright and witty however.” That last one might make them happy.

    I guess her point is we shouldn’t objectify people by their looks. That’s why the only reason that Brad Pitt is a movie star and I’m not, is his superior acting.

  2. I’m going to defend Martin here, and I’ll explain why.

    First, though, let me offer a few thoughts on his career. He broke through as a standup comic. He next moved to film, both as an actor and as a screenwriter; he progressed into more serious writing for journals like the New Yorker. In his sixties, he became extremely serious about an old love – music – and reinvented himself yet again as a serious musician focusing on an instrument many do NOT take seriously – the banjo – and he is equally skilled in two of its major styles.

    If one looks through Martin’s body of work, one almost NEVER sees cruelty aimed at others. One sees kindness – and in the non-musical fields in which he’s so amazingly adept (saw him a few years back – he’s still got it as a standup) any barbs are aimed at himself (or, more specifically, the character he plays when working). Ditto for his movies; when he’s taking aim at something, it’s almost invariably at flaws in the character he’s playing.

    Despite many of his over-the-top characters, off-stage, Martin is a reserved, thoughtful and very introverted guy who craves his privacy.

    I look at the gentleness of his work, especially towards others, and I’m convinced that he’s a genuinely nice chap who really doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I look at the other stuff and suspect that he really doesn’t want to be drawn into online pissing contests. Why would he? He’s got more important stuff to do.

    Would it be nice if he’d stand up to the Congenitally Aggrieved and tell them to go take a suck pill? Sure would. But I don’t think he has any obligation to do so, and having followed his work for decades – in all its phases – I just plain don’t think he’s wired that way. And I don’t think this is comparable to, say, baseball players having an obligation to present a clean image in public, however sordid their private lives might be.

    Maybe all of this is an argument that he should stay off Twitter. For people in showbiz, however, Twitter is a pretty important promotional tool.

    Besides which, we’ve already established here that Twitter was developed in the bowels of Hell, right?

    • Yes, he’s a nice guy. Yes, he doesn’t want to make waves. But all you are saying is that he didn’t pick this fight, it picked him.

      By backing down, he validates the bullies and undermines freedom of expression by others who are less able to defend themselves. Nice people are often weenies. Those who stand up for their rights generally are less nice than combative.

    • I have to with Arthur. Give the guy a break. He doesn’t want to be castrated before he’s hung, drawn and quartered. He said what he had to say — I think no more, no less. It was his (and obviously a lot of other guys’) subjective truth. No way to “defend” a subjective truth, especially a past one — unless he was apologizing for it which I gather he did not, and surely that in itself is heroic.

      The easiest targets of the Personally Corrosive these days are those with character whose most egregious errors are expressing their feelings. Lansbaum and her ilk don’t gain any points for shooting Martin-in-a-barrell, but they can be shut up (if not shut down) by the likes of Cindi Lauper who led the successful “Stop Using Our Songs” campaign against the DNC (and politicians in general) and won. Girls* like Cindi and boys like Boy George may not be the John Wayne’s and Shirley Black’s, all business and above reproach, but unlike Martin they fight PC-ness in their own strong ways, if only by shouting that they just want to have fun : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A
      *girls. Yeah!

  3. I think the problem with Martin’s statements is that it is very clear that Fisher explicitly would not want to have been remembered in that way. She was an outspoken feminist, and often talked about how much she regretted and hated that iconic gold bikini scene. As a supposed friend of Fisher’s, Martin should have known that much.


    If she had to do it all over again, though, Fisher — who said she never identified as a sex symbol and was not interested in being one, according to People — might have decided against wearing the skimpy outfit. In fact, she told Interview magazine that her advice to young actress Daisy Ridley, who stars in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was “not to settle for simply being a sex symbol. You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was.”

    And co-star Harrison Ford agrees. According to Movie Pilot, when asked his opinion on Leia’s slave bikini, he replied, “I didn’t even think it was going to be in the movie. She’s a princess. What the hell is she doing walking around in a bikini?”

      • It is if he is doing it publicly, and if he was her friend, as he claims to be.

        What if he said instead, “Hey, my fondest memory is that time she had diarrhea on herself, and even though I know she hated when that happened, and hated being reminded of it, I thought this would be the time to share this specific memory with millions of people?” Ethical?

        • I really think your analysis is flawed because you are trapped in analysis. It’s like the picture of Bikini Leia has put blinders on you.

          Steve Martin could EASILY come to an objective conclusion that Carrie Fisher was “the most beautiful creature” he’d ever seen.

          Also, hyper-feminists: THERE. IS. NOTHING. WRONG. WITH. THAT.

          Martin can easily compliment her for her attractiveness without it actually a situation where he is sexually objectifying her. Sorry. It’s the hyper-sensitive ones that think that way.

          And, even better: I think Martin was ACTIVELY SUMMARIZING an opinion that meshes perfectly with his opinion of her and how she would have hoped to be viewed: She bemoaned being viewed only for her looks, but then HE MATURED and recognized she had greater talent than just her appearance (but guess what, she was still attractive!)


          (I know! And it’s part of why they are increasingly less relevant and unattractive themselves!)

          • “Steve Martin could EASILY come to an objective conclusion that Carrie Fisher was “the most beautiful creature” he’d ever seen without bikini Leia ever existing.”</

          • And, even better: I think Martin was ACTIVELY SUMMARIZING an opinion that meshes perfectly with his opinion of her and how she would have hoped to be viewed: She bemoaned being viewed only for her looks, but then HE MATURED and recognized she had greater talent than just her appearance (but guess what, she was still attractive!)

            Perhaps. And that is the trap of the 140 character limitation of the tweet, that it could so easily be read in a way that the author did not intend. So Martin, recognizing that his words were perhaps inartful, and came out in a way that he did not intend, simply erased the tweet. I don’t see that as cowardly, unethical, “giving in to the pc police”, etc. Just recognizing that he hadn’t quite hit the mark in the way that he intended.

            • The only people mis-reading a graceful and gentle compliment of a woman’s beauty are those LOOKING or PRE-CONDITIONED to be offended… not anyone passively reading the comment like a rational person.

              • The only people mis-reading a graceful and gentle compliment of a woman’s beauty are those LOOKING or PRE-CONDITIONED to be offended… not anyone passively reading the comment like a rational person.

                Well what was obvious was that Fisher hated the focus on her looks, and preferred to have the focus on her personality and brains. As a friend, Martin would have been familiar with her position on this.

                So your comment about “rational people” is certainly subjective and open to interpretation. But if you’ve ever had someone call you out on something you’ve written or said, had enough honesty within yourself to look at it critically and think, “huh, that’s not how I intended for that to come out at all, but I can see how someone could interpret that way,” and revise or erase what you wrote/said, then you should know where Martin might be coming from.

                Of course others can never admit fault or carelessness, it is a source of deep shame and a huge loss of pride to them, so they will simply dig in their heels and scream all the louder. That type of person will see Martin erasing the tweet as the ultimate defeat for him, and “caving in”, rather than just being graceful.

                • From someone I rate much, much higher than I do Steve Martin — Frank Zappa:

                  “What’s the ugliest
                  Part of your body?
                  Some say your nose,
                  Some say your toes,
                  I think it’s your mind,
                  Your mind, your mind.”

                  So what are guys supposed to think of scantily clad women making a career of being scantily clad women? If Carrie Fischer wanted to be highly regarded for her intellect, why didn’t she go to UC Berkeley or Stanford and get a degree or two or three? I’m sure they’d have let her in given her fame and breeding lines. People get taken seriously by acting as if they’re serious. Sorry, you can’t be cheesecake and eat it too.

                  • Bill, I put it more bluntly: Carrie Fisher would have been a footnote in her mom’s biography if she did not look the way she did. She certainly did not have great acting skills, and her list of acting credits backs that opinion.

                    She used her looks gain notoriety, and cannot then bemoan how she gained her fame ethically (as she did)

          • And, even better: I think Martin was ACTIVELY SUMMARIZING an opinion that meshes perfectly with his opinion of her and how she would have hoped to be viewed: She bemoaned being viewed only for her looks, but then HE MATURED and recognized she had greater talent than just her appearance (but guess what, she was still attractive!)

            Yes, that’s how I read the tweet.


            Well, to paraphrase Twitter, #notallfeminists.

  4. A propos of absolutely nothing, and forgive me for being a Philistine, but I never understood how Princess Leia came to wear that outfit, anyway, especially as it related to the Star Wars story line. I remember scratching my head thinking, “why is she in that outfit?”

    Having said . . . erm . . . written . . . that, Martin’s comment was not offensive and he should not have caved to the social justice warriors. He did; that says a lot about him.


    • Because Lucas sold out to base marketing.

      Semi naked hotty? Increase the male viewership. $$$$$

      I mean look at the absolutely stupid concept of the Ewoks? Teddy Bears defeat universe’s premier military! Sales of Star Wars toys to younger children…. $$$$$

      In ROTJ, Lucas quit telling a story and started selling merchandise.

      • What are you two talking about? She was wearing that outfit because Jabba the Hutt forced her to.

        In a 2015 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Fisher was asked about the two piece from Return of the Jedi. Specifically, what her opinion was on banning merchandise that featured Leia in the get-up. Her response was a take back on the incessant critiquing of Leia’s clothes — or lack thereof. She said, “To the father who flipped out about it, ‘What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?’ Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.”

  5. Jack,

    I know we’ll never agree on this, but private censorship doesn’t violate the letter nor the spirit of the First Amendment. If there were a law, or a even bureaucrat screaming there should be a law (in this case, not in general), then I would agree.

    As it stands, Martin made speech that overly-sensitive others disapproved of and expressed their displeasure with more speech. Martin (either to avoid controversy or because he agreed) decided to retract and thus made more speech (silence has been deemed speech, too). From where I sit, the First Amendment is as strong as ever.

    Your argument seems to be: if enough people whine about unpopular speech and enough other people give in, it makes it harder for the next person to make unpopular speech. Perhaps, but 1) speech is guaranteed to be popular or go unanswered (even vehemently so) 2) I don’t recall anyone having an ethical obligation to anyone else to make their lives or speech easier. No one MADE Martin do anything, he made a choice as a rational, consenting adult.

    To say something and live with the consequences takes courage, but it doesn’t make someone a coward simply because they don’t want to get caught in the fray.

    • Neil, please point me to any part of the post that references the First Amendment. Free speech and free expression, however, is still a core American value, which is why the First Amendment exists. People are free to try to bully people into retracting completely fair and legitimate thoughts, and people who care about preserving free expression should tell them to go to hell. Simple as that.

      • I think Neil is reacting to the idea–popular on the right–that free speech and free expression are being reduced in American society. In reality, there have always been topics and ideas that have been considered verboten in American society; it’s just that what those topics and ideas are have changed.

        In 1916, if you stood up at a town meeting or gave a speech at a college campus and said “Men should be allowed to marry other men,” your speech would very likely be shut down in most places in America, either through people shouting you down, the meeting hall or campus refusing to allow you to speak, or even possible legal action (indecency laws have been around about as long as the First Amendment, and have been abused for as long as well). There would definitely be social consequences. In 2016, if you stand up at a town meeting or college campus and say “Men should not be allowed to marry other men,” you will likely face similar consequences.

        It is true that social media has been it easier for people to have their speech shouted down, but only because it’s easier for those same people to have their speech amplified in the first place.

        This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be vigilant about preserving free speech. We should aspire to encourage more freedom of speech and expression, not simply coast on how things have always been. And the SJWs who targeted Martin here were obviously wrong, and should be opposed. But the overall idea that we as a nation are less tolerant of free speech today than in the past doesn’t hold up to me.

  6. I would agree, he was a weenie plain and simple. He ought to talk to James Woods about not wimping out when criticized by some feminist scold.

  7. I look at this whole issue of political correctness versus the freedom of speech as a war on and for the soul of our nation. A very serious war in which there will be a winner and a loser. The loser will see their way of thinking and speak harshly go the way of the dodo bird. When an average person or celebrity takes to social media and makes a statement, they have just fired a shot at the other side in one of the many battles in this war. They need to be prepared to defend what they have had to say, stand their ground, or stay out of the conflict completely. It is a shame it has come down to such a contentious situation, but it has. We on the free speech side of this war don’t need a bunch of Cowards, who won’t defend their statements, Deserters, who withdraw their statements, and MIA’s, who are missing or that require the defense of another, in our army shooting off their mouths and muddying the conflict. The politically correct folks are a formidable challenge. They are always on duty, and in most cases, they are a whole lot tougher, meaner, and better equipped than we at defending themselves. This is a war we on the side of free speech can’t afford to lose because the stakes are so high. It’s hell out here. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen by keeping your mouth in check and not making loaded comments on social media. Otherwise, you’re in the Army now. So, be prepared to fight.

    • I declare myself a conscientious objector. But I’ll gladly serve in the medical corps. Being wounded in battle when you didn’t know you were in one should be grounds for an honorable discharge, professional care, and exemption from further service.

  8. Martin’s comments don’t appear to have anything to do with the bikini scene anyway. That was three movies in. Unless he waiting until Return of the Jedi to decide that she was beautiful, it’s a complete red herring, which makes so many of the feminists’ complaints (deery’s in particular) exceptionally dim.

    As for “beautiful creature” people who READ are well aware that “creature” is an artful word for person. It’s all over Shakespeare and also in the King James Bible, which says “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” It comes form the word “creation” and essentially means “created being.” It is common in probably thousands if not millions of books to refer to a person as a “beautiful creature” in some variation or another. Essentially, these feminists are angry solely because Steve Martin is smarter than they are and uses language that they are too dumb to understand. They are embarrassing themselves, not for the first time.

    (As an aside, Leia wore the bikini because Jabba the Hut was a pervert and apparently demanded that she wear it on penalty of death. And later she killed him. Taken all around, that’s pretty empowering. She’s a much better role model than the horrible Padme from the prequels, who abdicated her political duties to run off with a guy who was basically supposed to be a celibate priest, then hid in a secret house to have his baby while her galaxy got destroyed due to her negligence…)

  9. Boy, Ann Althouse and I have been on the same wavelength all year. Who would have thought my closest blogging twin would be a female, liberal law professor from Wisconsin? Actually, it’s a little annoying: sometimes she beats me to a post. Then again, sometimes I beat her, like on this topic. She just posted:

    Because a man like Steve Martin won’t fight for himself in a situation like this:

    On Tuesday, the comic wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.”

    Media outlets and fans immediately turned on the comedian saying Martin’s tweet had a sexist undertone.

    Does Martin think this one appeasement will end the insane, pointless bullying? How could it? It doesn’t even save his ass today. By deleting, he confesses to a nonexistent political crime. Now, it is what we will remember him for. What a sexist! That awful man! He called Carrie Fisher a “beautiful creature” and marveled that she was also smart and funny. Imagine the first thing you notice about a person being how they look! Unless you’re meeting people by telephone or blind, it’s always the first thing you notice.

    Her post is titled, “Why Trump Won”—she’s being facetious, sort of.

  10. I know Steve Martin is — in his way — a thought leader, and that he had wimped out before when the PC Mongols went after him. But in the overall, how important is this? Make your statement if you must, but your readership does not necessarily need to parse your post and discuss this ad nauseum. So Martin is a wimp. Too bad. But at least he’s not a general purveryor of lies, political correctness, and ideology-driven commentary. Find other targets. They are legion. (Reference intended, at least humorously…)

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