Ethics Observations On Actress Emma Thompson’s Resignation Letter

British acting grande dame Emma Thompson dropped out of the voice cast of Skydance Animation’s upcoming film “Luck.” The reason was  ex-Pixar creative force John Lasseter being hired to lead animation at David Ellison’s studio; Ethics Alarms wrote about his new job here. A quote from that post…

The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug?

Thompson’s reps released her letter on last week, first published in the Los Angeles Times, that Thompson had sent to Skydance management. Here it is:

As you know, I have pulled out of the production of “Luck” — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.

I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:

If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?

If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”

Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?

If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Yours most sincerely,

Emma Thompson

Observations:

  • I’ll believe this isn’t grandstanding when Thompson pulls out of a real movie role, and not just a voice job.
  • Thompson starred in several Weinstein-produced movies, then became one of the fallen mogul’s most outspoken and unrestrained attackers once he was exposed. Many, many Hollywood insiders have stated without reservation that “everyone” in the film industry knew that Weinstein was a predator, and that those who worked with him could not avoid knowing. To be blunt, I don’t believe Thompson’s claim that she was unaware of Weinstein’s harassment and sexual assault pattern, and refusing to voice a cartoon character to assail John Lasseter, whose misconduct was on a completely different scale, seems like a cynical and self-serving decision.

Now let’s answer her questions, shall we?

  • If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?

MEN have been touching women for centuries, and consensus that such touching in the workplace is inappropriate is relatively recent development. Lasseter is evidently a clueless dork, like a lot of artists, and he missed the memo—but then, it is questionable whether most of the movie industry and show business generally got the memo. Performance artists hug and kiss colleagues, and sometime strangers, in the workplace in ways and circumstances that would sent normal workers to the HR office. Believe me, I know…and so does Thompson. Thompson also knows that men—many men, most men, a lot of men—WANT to touch women inappropriately all the time, and don’t for any number of reason, professional penalties being one of them. What matters is that they don’t touch, not why they don’t touch. Ethics is based on actions, not thought, desires and feelings.

  • If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement?

Why? Because ethical people give others the benefit of the doubt, that’s why. Because we meet and learn to like and trust new associates based on how they treat us, not based on rumors, past mistakes, and vendettas. Because everyone has made mistakes, and thus society has to develop a fair way to treat those who acknowledge their mistakes and who want to move forward along a more ethical path. Thompson is proposing a system in which rebuilt trust is impossible.

  • “Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?”

That’s gibberish! Lasseter isn’t being paid to receive a second chance. He’s being paid because the studio believes that he has unique talents that it can profit from. Employees benefit from Lasseter making their employer successful—that’s how they are paid.

  • If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Ah. So Emma has never encountered or heard of the situation in which an artist is hired for a production and that production subsequently hires another artist who has a questionable reputation? Here’s how it works: if the employee has the power and financial independence, they say, “Either he goes, or I go!” Except for very rare super-stars, the choice is almost always, “Ok, YOU go.” Thompson knows this , too. She cannot name an artistic product in which a major artistic contributor was hired and the producers said to every actor, extra and key grip, “OK, let’s take a vote. Do we want a successful movie, or do we want to punish this guy for behaving like a creep the last place he worked?”

  • Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

If no women received settlements, it means that there was insufficient evidence of damages to justify a settlement. The remedy for harassment is often removing the harasser. If nobody lost their job, or quit, or was punished for complaining, then that means that the harassment may have been real, but did not require financial compensation. I have not seen evidence that any woman career was “derailed,” and it is not Thmpson’s business or responsibility to involve herself in workplace disputes that don’t involve her.

  • I will fully expect Emma Thompson, as a show of integrity, to similarly resign from any project in which an executive of the producing company, a director, a backer, a script-writer, a fellow actor or other artistic staff has been disciplined, accused or rumored of engaging in sexual harassment, sexual assault, or “inappropriate touching.”

And I hope she enjoys her retirement

 

13 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Actress Emma Thompson’s Resignation Letter

    • Exactly.

      But like almost all progressives and socialists, when it impacts their pocketbook, their family or their community, the rules they apply to all others no longer count.

  1. Perhaps she feels she hasn’t been in the headlines enough to her liking. What better way than to get that ink by the barrel than by writing some boilerplate social justice essay. That’s a guaranteed two days of coverage! If you can make a new accusation, could be three days.

  2. Love the picture of darling but age-progressed Emma. That look of earnest concern is the only expression she has in her repertoire. I’ve always found it hilarious. Funny she’s still using it but not surprising, actually.

    Remember when Hillary Clinton thought she could BE Emma Thompson by having her and her then husband to the White House for ego fests? There are times I wonder if Emma would have any career at all without having slept with Kenneth Branagh (until he grew tired of her). I’ve yet to see a movie worse than “Nanny McPhee.” It’s inexplicable.

      • There’s only so much Merchant & Ivory I can handle. Usually about five minutes. Great name for an trading house in India or Hong Kong though. I see from the publicity picture Emma is making her usual face. As for the plot, it makes me want to scream at Anthony Hopkins’ character–

  3. I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year.

    Is there any evidence that such entitlement exists?

    I know that there are people who feel entitled to a living wage, or feel entitled to contraceptive coverage without co-pay, but what about this particular entitlement?

    • The feminist argument (which I do not endorse) is that men have seen women as a prize, feeling that if they women would sleep with them, and if they did the correct things no women offered them sex they had cause to complain.

      While it’s clearly true that some men have always felt (and continue to feel) this way, I question how widespread it is, even leaving aside that there are some women who will reinforce the idea.

      • Used bad formatting. That should say:

        feeling that if they took her to an expensive resturant/got her the role/joined the army/made a lot of money/saved the day then women would sleep with them,

  4. I find I am most bothered by them NOT having a path to forgiveness or redemption after their offenses. And what would be a compensation for an unwanted hug, anyway? In a town where far more sleazy unwanted actions happened. That’s why I suspect there were no compensations, someone asked in supreme doubt: “What? You think a hundred k will show contrition for a hug?”

    There is no end to this shame and hard-wrought agony they seem to want from these men. And a lot of these are not much of a crime and/or far to OLD to pursue. If someone commits manslaughter there are standards for capture, trial, imprisonment, and rejoining society. For these offenses, these steps are cut and there are no procedures for redemption/rejoining society. Apparently rotting in some abattoir for all time is fair? What about family who depends on them? If the goal is unending misery for the miscreant for all time, (for a freaking hug) maybe it would be kinder to the family to execute them? But aren’t both too much?

    Wasn’t it Lady Macbeth who scoffed at the milk of human kindness? I would have thought an actress like Emma would remember Lady M was the villain.

  5. Bravo! Another fill-in-the-blanks copy of a Jack Marshall Original I have already redirected to people who need to see it or to (only one other, unfortunately: they are rare) those who will fill in their own to distribute free to the ethically poor.

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