Tag Archives: Hollywood

Harvey, Lena And Hillary

Now that Hillary has become an embarrassment to the Democratic Party, the Times is practicing journalism again when the truth is ugly.

From yesterday’s New York Times follow-up on its initial Harvey Weinstein report documenting how his sexula predator ways were enabled and facilitated by  Hollywood stars, agents, prominent feminists and progressives and former victims, as Weinstein’s abuse and crimes continued:

Mr. Weinstein was a fund-raiser and informal adviser during Mrs. Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, a guest in her hotel suite when she won and a host of an A-list victory party. He was an early backer of both her presidential bids.

Mr. Weinstein’s political activity — he provided consistent support for Mr. Obama as well — boosted his image as a man with friends in high places and close ties to the country’s leading female politician. It is not clear if rumors of his record of sexual misconduct had ever reached them.

But two prominent women said they warned Mrs. Clinton’s team. In 2016, Lena Dunham, the writer and actress, said she was troubled by the producer’s visible presence during Mrs. Clinton’s presidential run, hosting fund-raisers and appearing at campaign events. She had heard stories, both directly and secondhand from other actresses, about disturbing encounters with him, she said. So in March last year, Ms. Dunham, a vocal Clinton supporter, said she warned the campaign.

 “I just want you to let you know that Harvey’s a rapist and this is going to come out at some point,” Ms. Dunham said she told Kristina Schake, the campaign’s deputy communications director. She recalled adding, “I think it’s a really bad idea for him to host fund-raisers and be involved because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that he has a problem with sexual assault.”

Then, the “Girls” creator told the paper, she tried  one more time: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Branding Ethics And The Weinstein Scandal [Updated]

I’m lounging in Richmond’s wonderful Jefferson Hotel, watching the hilarious and despicable parade of actors, actresses and Democrats—Hillary, the Obamas–rushing to condemn Harvey Weinstein now that his use to them is probably ended, and they see safety in numbers. Many of their statements—I was just listening to Mira Sorvino—mouth the same platitudes about how “this is no longer conduct that can be tolerated”—pssst: It was never tolerable behavior; your industry and colleagues just tolerated it anyway—and how it is essential that such sexual predators be stopped—pssst again: why didnt YOU do anything to stop it?– while saluting the courage of victims who come forward, without any adequate explanation in many cases of why they, or others, didn’t come forward for years and even decades while  other actresses were victimized and even raped. (The alleged rape total is now up to three.)

Angelina Jolie said today that she was harassed by Weinstein a decade ago, decided not to work with him, and “warned other actresses she knew not to do so as well.” This dovetails nicely with another harassed non-reporting actress’s tale, that of Gwyneth Paltrow—years late, of course, that she was attacked by Weinstein, and her boy friend at the time, Brad Pitt, confronted him. Presumably Pitt also later  knew about Jolie’s experience,being married to her and all. Brad Pitt was afraid to expose Harvey Weinstein? Sorry, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe George Clooney’s statement either, or long-time stars like Glenn Close. I also don’t understand Paltrow, whose father was himself an influencial producer. Her father wasn’t willing to stop Weinstein? Why not?

[CORRECTION: an earlier version of the post conflated Sorvino with Paltrow. Thanks to Spartan for the alert.]

This was a conspiracy of silence, abetted by Weinstein’s wallet. As long as he was a useful ally to ambitious actresses willing to exchange their ethical duties as citizens and human beings for parts and pay-offs, and liberal politicians employing wilful ignorance to keep money flowing to their campaigns and causes, Weinstein had a free pass to molest and abuse, and knew that he had a free pass.

The posturing by so many powerful people who could have made Weinstein a pariah at any time—but just not during the current campaign at the time, or while the latest promising Miramax project was being produced—is nauseating.  Even if one excuses the struggling starlet—and I don’t, not when she’s struggling and afraid, and definitely not years later, when she knows what happened to her is still going on but she’s now a Hollywood power herself—there is no way to excuse the community. This isn’t sort of like inner cities that have a “no snitch” culture that allows crime, drugs and murder to rot everything while innocent victims are terrorized, it is exactly like them. Victims still have ethical duties as citizens and human beings. Of course it’s hard. If being ethical was easy, we wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.

Of course, the most complicit of all may have been Harvey Weinstein’s business partners, including his brother. There is no reasonable possibility that some, most, or all of them didn’t know that their meal-ticket was a sick, sexual predator. Certainly Weinstein’s brother, now running The Weinstein Company. Now I read in the Wall Street Journal before me that the company is planning on rebranding, taking the Weinstein name off of the company. The idea is that after a few successes and maybe some convenient amnesia,  people will begin trusting the company again. Hey, let’s call it “Trust Entertainment”! (That’s my idea, not theirs.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is this ethical? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 10, 2017: Post-Columbus Day Edition

Good Morning.

1 The rhetoric against celebrating Columbus Day is at bottom an attack on American values and the nation itself,  making the case that the culture should bask in eternal guilt and shame for the crime of existing. It has always been thus: I heard the counter-Columbus claims when I was a kid and living in Boston, where you can’t throw a spitball without hitting an Italian or a Catholic. Then, however, there were sufficient numbers of responsible elected officials who put those ignorant and warped arguments in their place—the trash. Now, the path of least resistance reigns.

We celebrate Columbus because he brought European culture and civilization to the New World, making our nation possible. He was the butterfly flapping his wings in the Amazon, in Chaos terms: without Columbus, everything might be different. One thing that would not be different, however, is that the stone age cultures that lived in the Americas would not have prevailed, thrived and survived. Blaming Chis for the inevitable destruction of primitive cultures when more advanced and ambitious ones arrived, as they were going to with or without Columbus, is scapegoating of the worst kind.

We also celebrate Columbus because of the good and important things his first voyage symbolizes: mankind’s constant search for knowledge; the bravery of explorers; the visionary who dares to challenge conventional wisdom.

We have not, so far at least, renamed Martin Luther King Day as Victims of Adultery Day. Columbus was a man of his time, working for a brutal regime. He did many things that were wrong even by the standards of the time. Irrelevant. He opened the door  from the Old World to the New, and made the United States of America possible.

That’s worth celebrating.

2. Robert E. Lee  High School in San Antonio wins some kind of weasel award for responding to pressure to de-honor that racist slave-owner Robert E. Lee by renaming it LEE High School, with LEE being an acronym meaning Legacy of Educational Excellence High School. Pretty impressive, that: managing to be cowardly, irresponsible, and deceitful, all at once. Capitulating to the Left’s statue-toppling, historical airbrushing mania is wrong; doing so while not really doing it is worse. Keep recognizing the General, or don’t.

Who wants people like this teaching their children?

3.  ESPN  didn’t think it was necessary to suspend  anchor Jemele Hill  for tweeting that the President of the United States was a white supremacist, but when she dared to suggest that advertisers boycott NFL teams that forbade the kneeling stunt currently killing NFL  fan loyalty, ratings, ticket sales and popularity, that really crossed some lines. The network suspended Weeks after she expressed outrage at the ownership of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins for making a “No-knee” policy for its players.

“Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines,” ESPN said in a statement. “In the aftermath all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”

Ethics Alarms is on record as holding that Hill should have been disciplined for the anti-Trump tweet, but I sympathize with her here. She had every reason to believe that she had received special dispensation to air her progressive, resistance, Black Lives Matter advocacy using her ESPN visibility as a platform, especially after Disney’s CEO admitted that she hadn’t been disciplined because she was black.

ESPN’s standards are as incoherent as the cause of the kneeling players. They send mixed signals to employees and viewers, satisfying no one, and creating a chaotic culture undermining their own business, which is, remember, covering sports. Continue reading

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Lessons And Notes From The Harvey Weinstein Fiasco

The latest development in the rapid fall of Hollywood independent film mogul and lionized Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein: The board of his own company, The Weinstein Company, just fired him.

You should read the New York Times’ damning story, following an investigation, about the extent of Weinstein’s long reign of misogynist terror in Hollywood. I don’t care to re-hash it. Note, as you read, that as disgusting as it is, more disgusting stories have come out since it was published. For example, a TV journalist now says that Weinstein once trapped her in the hallway of a restaurant that was closed to the public and masturbated in front of her until he ejaculated.  She says she told friends about the episode, but remained quiet because “she was in a long-term relationship” and was “fearful of the power that Weinstein wielded in the media.”

  • WHAT? She withheld this story for a decade because she was fearful, thus allowing Weinstein to abuse how many other women? Hundreds? I’d love to ask her if a powerful individual, in her opinion, could have done anything that would have caused her to make the effort to overcome her fear and self-interest. Someone who would act as she describes is pathological. What she endured was a criminal act. This is signature significance, is it not? Does a civilized, trustworthy, non-sociopath sicko ever do such a thing even once, on the worst day of his life? “I’m sorry I trapped you and masturbated in front of you; it wasn’t the best choice, and anyone can make a mistake.”

The man is and was dangerous. The woman had a citizen’s duty to report this to the police; I don’t care how powerful he was.

  • And, apparently, dozens of actresses had experiences, if not quite that horrifying, horrifying enough. In the Times report, we learn that Weinstein invited Angry Progressive Feminist Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel 20 years ago for what she thought would be a breakfast meeting about her career. Weinstein had her sent to his hotel suite, where he greeted the actress in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage. She told The Times that he then proposed that she watch him shower. Now she tells us this? Now, after she excoriated the President on the Mall, using obscene terms to cheer on  “resistance” “pussy- hat marchers  in January and speculate about the President’s Trump’s wet dreams about his own daughter?  Judd  said she kept quiet to avoid alienating Harvey Weinstein because she was just at the beginning of her career—you know, like all of those Cosby victims. What’s her excuse for the rest of the 20 years, allowing more young actresses to be extorted into sexual submission? Larry O’Connor has the (revolting) answer, I think. In a piece for Mediaite, he writes of Judd,

Has she channeled that anger and humiliation and fear at the industry that allowed it? Or at the man and his multi-million dollar corporation that enabled it? No. Her real enemies are Republicans. Don’t you get it?

So the not-so-hidden message in Weinstein’s non-apology statement was “Hey, remember, I supported Hillary and Obama and I raise millions for Democrats and I’ll help destroy the NRA and Trump. I may treat you like shit, but my heart is in the right place. Now get your knee pads on.”

In Hollywood, being liberal means never having to say you’re sorry.

Judd has been praised for having the courage to tell her story now…when Weinstein is elderly and his power is waning, knowing the he was about to be exposed. No, this is an example of Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” Yes, Judd is not as bad as the many, many actresses who kept quiet about this sexual predator, endangering others, who still are mum. Whoopie! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/6/17: Pigs And Hypocrites

Good Morning!

(and thank heaven THAT week is over with…)

1 There will be a full post on the Harvey Weinstein matter later today, but let’s get his vomit-inducing statement to the Times out of the way. If you are late to this party, Weinstein has been a powerful Hollywood producer and power-broker for decades, as well as a high profile supporter of the Democratic party, the Clintons, and Barack Obama. In a New York Times exposé yesterday, he was also revealed as a serial sexual abuser and harasser, whose conduct and cover-ups his industry and the politicians who received and accepted his checks were almost certainly aware of. More of that later; let’s look at the mogul’s response to the Times story. You can read the whole nauseating thing here. I’ll focus on these lowlights…

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone.

Sexual harassment has been unambiguously condemned in our law and culture for more than 30 years.  This is a weak “Everybody used to do it” excuse. When did he “learn” it’s not an excuse? If he knows it’s not an excuse, why is he offering it as an excuse?

My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words and that one day we will all be able to earn their trust and sit down together with Lisa to learn more.

I don’t even know how to describe this, except that more blatant BS I have seldom read in my life.  Who is supposed to be convinced by such transparent “Damn! I’m caught! How can I pretend I’m sorry?” blather?

Here’s the pièce de résistance, though: Continue reading

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Hollywood’s Unethical Aging Leading Man Tradition

[Let’s see, I tried to get everyone off the silly NFL kneeling protests (just because I write a lot about something doesn’t mean I don’t think its that important), and a simple pro-civility post turned into a donnybrook. Hmmm...how far can I get from both issues? Maybe this will work…]

The Business Insider has an article about something that has bothered me for decades: Hollywood’s embarrassing addiction to pairing young actresses with aging male stars, even when it’s ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with a 60 year old man romancing a 25 year-old woman, just as there was nothing wrong about the romance between an elderly woman and a twenty-something male in “Harold and Maude.” However, the appearance of such pairings is unavoidably sexist, and cuts hard against Hollywood’s posture that it is a force for liberalizing the culture.

The article, by Meg Shields, says in part…

“American Made” premieres this week, bringing two reunions with it: Tom Cruise and “Edge of Tomorrow” director Doug Liman, and Tom Cruise and his ever-growing age gap with his female co-stars. Sarah Wright (who plays Cruise’s wife in the film) was born in 1983 just a couple months after the premiere of Risky Business, making her 22 years Cruise’s junior. 

…It’s a well-known fact that Hollywood likes to pair older men with younger women. And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with an age gap between two consenting adults. According to the 2013 US Census, 4.8 percent of heterosexual married couples included a husband 10-15 years his wife’s senior. The problem, rather, is that Hollywood doesn’t really care about showcasing the stories of that 4.8 percent so much as normalizing the expectation that women are only romance material when they’re in their mid-20s/early-30s, whereas men are free to age and remain conceivably f—able.

… I crunched the numbers for every single Tom Cruise movie, comparing his age relative to that of the actresses playing his love interests over time. All told, Cruise’s age gap mirrors, and indeed confirms, the larger critique of Hollywood’s bias against older actresses. This isn’t just anecdotally-sourced rhetoric, by the way. There’s more and more statistical evidence showing how women age out of Hollywood. Time and The Pudding, for instance, do a great job at visualizing how more roles and dialogue are available to men as they age, where the opposite is true for women.

I was intrigued by this article because I just saw Cruise’s remake of “The Mummy” (and a more ludicrous spectacle it would be hard to find). Tom looks great for his age, at least a decade younger than he is, and he is inherently youthful, so it is a bit unfair to use him to make this point. How about the oogy pairing of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery (above), looking every inch of his 69 years in “Entrapment”? When Cary Grant at 60 was paired with the gamin Audrey Hepburn in “Charade,” Cary’s fans weren’t bothered, but he was: he said that he felt uncomfortable playing the romantic lead at an advanced age, and began planning his retirement. John Wayne was never a comfortable romantic lead, and while Howard Hawks made the by-play between the Duke at 52 with 28 year-old Angie Dickinson in the great “Rio Bravo” work, teaming Wayne with much younger women didn’t seem right; a few movies later, he was back with Maureen O’Hara. Continue reading

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