Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/18: Movie Ethics Edition

Good morning from Ft. Lauderdale!

1. Good question! Referring to yesterday’s post about an actor being excised from a film because he was revealed to be a registered sex offender, trenchant commenter Zanshin asks,

Is it possible to define something like the Ethics Alarms Distracting Actor Principle corresponding with the Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle? The Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states: A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

I suppose one could argue that anyone who has a criminal record of any substantive variety cannot complain about the lifetime consequences of his own action. I don’t think the principle, as Zanshin implies it would, should apply to a movie actor in a small part unrelated to the offense. Distracting to who, exactly? How many movie-goers are going to say, “I wanted to see the film, but I hear that the guy who plays “Third guard” is a registered sex offender, and I’m outraged.” The actor who created the distraction was the meddlesome bigot who complained to the studio.

The NTP exists because secondary school students should not have to cope with naked images of their teachers, as this may interfere with their respect and concentration. No such justification exists in the case discussed yesterday. I might well apply in a situation like that of Kevin Spacey, whose personal conduct might well constitute a tangible distraction from any film he appears in.

2. Academy Awards ethics. The foundering Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now postponing the introduction of the  the new award it had announced, which would recognize “outstanding achievement in popular film.” The award was immediately criticized for either being too vague or for relegating less serious films to the “kid’s table,” and creating a secondary award that would prevent a “popular film” from ever being named “Best Picture.” The word “best,” of course, is clear as a bell.

A film’s popularity with the public should be a substantial factor in determining what is “best,” and the proposed new category is a tacit admission that the “Best Picture” determination has been too often steered by politics, snobbery, and other hypocritical factors that are unrelated to what Hollywood is supposed to do: make good, creative, popular entertainment.

I have long advocated that instead of “Best Picture,” the ultimate Oscar should be recast as “Movie of the Year.” This would clarify the award considerably, and eliminate future grandstanding and virtue-signaling by the Academy.

Yikes! Gotta run…as Arnold says, “I’ll be back.”

17 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/18: Movie Ethics Edition

  1. I consider the sex offender registry as it is presently used as the modern day equivalent to the scarlet letter emblazoned on a womans forehead for the crime of adultery. We would never have considered creating a publically accessed file of images of people convicted of violating sodomy laws.

    I understand the rationale such that a registry gives law enforcement tools to maintain a local inventory of released sex offenders but by giving the public easy access to such information it opens the door to vigilantism and harrassment.

    For me the issue is not the registry per se but the fact that any person can access it for free without needing to show any cause other than wanting to know. If I am hiring a person and need to know whether the person in question deserves my trust, I can pay to do a criminal background search.

    The registry gives no information regarding the offense so we assume that everyone on the registry is a pedophile or rapist when in fact you can get placed on the list if you are convicted of indecent exposure, consensual sex with a minor, even solicitation.

    Being compelled to be on the registry is not uniformly applied.

    Lets assume the metoo movement demands that civil sex harrassment villans be placed on the sexual offender list. Should we do so?

    The push to create the rape culture narrative could under the right circumstances give rise to such inclusion. I would bet the many in the womens march would love to put Donald Trump on such a list. Moreover, there are websites designed to smear men when dates go sour.

    I ask for what purpose did this person have to look up this actor? I say malice motivated that person.

    Finally, which is worse a guy that offended and did time or actors that portray sex workers, predators, or just overly sexed people. What is on the screen is the message not that which is secured in a file cabinet.

    • This comment was supposed to be for yesterday’s morning post. I pulled up this morning’s post and saw the reference so I posted it here. I suppose it is appropriate in either.

    • Chris M., I agree with your points about scarlet-lettering cruelty and enabling vigilantism. However, there are cases like I read about in the Houston Chronicle this morning. A female teacher, age 24, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old student. She was spared having to register as a sex offender.

      I call that “harmful mercy.” It’s a different kind of enabling through the judicial system that will practically guarantee that that deranged, predatory woman will have uninhibited future opportunities to have sex with minors – perhaps as soon as six months after she begins to serve her sentence (per the article).

      • Lucky, you just pointed out the capriciousness of the registry. Would that same judge spare the teacher if the genders were reversed? Again, my issue is with the general public access not the registry that can be accessed either by physically going to the local PD or paying a fee for a background check. This gives those with a need to know the ability to know without giving the local busybody the ability to pass time finding dirt on people for purposes of harrassing them

        • Chris, I agree with the need for a registry, despite any real or perceived capriciousness about such. I also agree with making such a registry accessible on a NTK (Need-To-Know), “vetted public,” basis. For his own safety, a person who knows he is listed in such a registry (and everyone who is listed should know they are listed!), should be empowered to some extent to block certain persons from access to some or all details in the record.

  2. It appears that the issue of Best Picture and Popular Film is coalescing around the movie “Black Panther”. It is unlikely to be crowed Best Picture. If it’s not even nominated for Best Picture, there will be accusations of racism. If it’s nominated and doesn’t win, the Academy will be accused of racism. The separate category appears to be a bone thrown toward the film to give it a chance at a major nomination and possible win.

    Some people still don’t like that strategy. I’ve seen tweets calling the Academy cowards and telling them to just give “Black Panther” Best Picture.

    Which, of course, brings us back to your previous entries about the Oscars pandering to diversity advocates in order to make the awards less about merit and more about quotas. If it was “time” for “Twelve Years A Slave”, it had better be time for “Black Panther” this year. I just don’t see the Academy winning this one with the Popular Film strategy.

    • “Black Panther” was incredibly popular and successful, which I would say give it at least a fair claim at saying it’s the Best Picture of the year, but almost certainly won’t win because it’s not artsy and pretentious enough. The Dark Knight got a nomination but not a win, even though it was incredibly popular and successful. The consensus at the time was that the Academy was just to snobbish to let a comic book movie win, oh well, them’s the breaks.

      If “Black Panther” doesn’t win, though, it won’t be portrayed as another verse of the cinema snob song- it will be ONLY because it’s full of black actors, and ONLY because the Academy is racist. I predict an outcry that would lead you to believe that every other year the Best Picture winner is a summer blockbuster tentpole flick, pure crowd-pleasing popcorn fodder, and they changed course this year just to screw over black people.

      • I dunno, none of the Marvel movies have particularly great acting performances (the quick edits make it impossible,) or intelligent/clever scripts, or evoke any serious emotion other than, “whoa, that was cool.” The Dark Knight really did transcend the genre more than the average comic book movie. I love the Marvel movies but I wouldn’t consider any of them Oscar material, Black Panther included.

        Then again I just don’t care what some creepy Hollywood types think about movies anyway. The Oscars have outlived any usefulness they ever had. And the entire “awards season” (with what, like 47 different ceremonies awarding the easiest possible form of acting?) is beyond parody. Most professions that are actually HARD don’t give out trophies.

      • Popularity has nothing to do with quality. Quality is often rewarded with awards. Popularity is rewarded with money. Quality is often sacrificed for popularity, you can’t pay your rent with award statues.

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