Ethics Quote Of The Week: Actor Richard Dreyfuss

“Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a black man? Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play the Merchant of Venice? Are we crazy? Do we not know that art is art?…This is so patronizing. It’s so thoughtless and treating people like children.”

—-Actor Richard Dreyfuss, Academy Award-winner, lamenting the successful invasion of “diversity, equity and inclusion” into his profession and the movie industry.

Dreyfuss’s outburst was provoked when he was asked in an interview with PBS’s Firing Line about his opinion of the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences’ new DEI mandates, which will kick in for the 2025 Oscars. “They make me vomit,” the famously outspoken Hollywood liberal said. “No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. You have to let life be life and I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”

The answers to Dreyfuss’s queries are, in order,

  • “No, you can never play a black man in a play or movie;”
  • “Yes, actors are being told that that if they aren’t Jewish they can’t play Shylock, and many would insist that an actor who isn’t a gay hunchback shouldn’t play Richard III, as your character did in “The Goodbye Girl;”
  • “Art isn’t just art, it is a primary tool of political propaganda and cultural indoctrination, and don’t pretend you don’t know it;”
  • “What? As a vocal and obnoxiously insistent progressive, you have been advocating a political ideology that demands that everyone ‘give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is!’ I suppose it never occurred to you that you might be on the dictated-to end of the equation rather than one of the dictators.”
  • “Yes you can legislate that, or try; your own industry is legislating it, and the party you undoubtedly helped vote into power for is determined to legislate it.”
  • “What? The entire underlying philosophy of the political ideology you have enthusiastically and noisily embraced your entire adult life is precisely that life isn’t life (as in, say, living unborn children), and that it can and should be micromanaged into utopian form by an all-knowing, beneficent government;”
  • “Wait, how did we miss your statements during the George Floyd Freakout that a non-racial incident involving a lifetime petty hood and a equal-opportunity brutal cop shouldn’t lead to anti-white discrimination in appointments, promotions, criminal prosecutions and employment?”

Dreyfuss’s objections are valid and true, but he is among the last people I care to hear them from. Ethics estoppel applies. On the other hand, it is mordantly satisfying to hear a knee-jerk leftist squeal when the very same principles he has advocated in the abstract for decades become concrete in their application to him.

18 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Actor Richard Dreyfuss

  1. My husband and I encountered Dreyfuss at a convention last July. He was selling his book, “One Thought Scares Me…: We Teach Our Children What We Wish Them to Know; We Don’t Teach Our Children What We Don’t Wish Them to Know”.

    My husband loves buying books and having them signed by authors, especially celebrity authors. He chose to buy the book and we were given a passionate response by Dreyfuss who told us about his foundation (The Dreyfuss Foundation) to increase awareness and understanding of Civics which he believes was deliberately changed and removed from schools about 50 years ago.

    The book is interesting. I’d recommend it even if you don’t agree with his conclusions.

  2. Forgive me for my poor attempt at humor on Monday morning. I was referring to his character in American Graffiti. One of my all time favorite movies.

  3. You reminded me of the brouhaha that arose when Miss Saigon was about to open on Broadway. I believe Actors Equity insisted that the Eurasian character (the Engineer?) had to be portrayed by an Asian actor. Cameron Macintosh, the producer immediately pulled the show and the union backed down.
    I’m thinking that was a harbinger of things that’s happening now.

    • I remember that incident well. Exactly how I ended up being interviewed by a reporter for a second-tier national news magazine, I don’t know, but I did have a 10-15 minute phone conversation about the brouhaha. Apparently they didn’t like what I said, though, and my commentary never made it to print.

  4. Hi, Jack,

    Did you see this article? (I also included a reader comment about predatory women – which no-doubt exist.)

    Chris Chrisman

  5. Great take down of Dreyfus. I think “Hoist by his own petard” applies. Can we roll the Thomas of Becket clip?

  6. Oh ok… but a cast of black people can play star in “Hamilton?” how on earth does that make sense?

    I’ll wait…

    • I would bet because it was a deliberate artistic decision that is central to the work. It is not some play about Hamilton with creative casting; it is about a certain portrayal of historical characters.

      It probably falls under legitimate artistic license, just as the description of Russian history was done through the use of animals in Animal Farm.


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