Tag Archives: Hollywood

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/7/2018: Back in the USSR

Good Morning!

1. Self-Promotion Dept. I’m heading off to New Jersey today, to present one of my musical legal ethics seminars—3 hours!—for the New Jersey Bar Association. The real star is my long-time partner in these shows, New York-based singer/musician Mike Messer, who channels Freddie Mercury, Bob Dylan (with harmonica!), Paul Simon, even Johnny Cash in the various song parodies.  This one is called Ethics Rock Extreme, and ends, like all of my musical seminars, with a sing-along. Yes, we get lawyers to sing the chorus of the “Piano Man Parody”…

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man
Sing us the Rules tonight!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
So tell us what’s wrong and what’s right!

(No, “Back in the USSR” is not one of the songs we do.)

2. First Amendment for me, but not for thee: In an embarrassing episode that is also telling, the Newseum has capitulated to a storm of protests from journalists and will no longer sell its popular “Fake News” mercahndise…like this shirt…

online or in its gift shop. “We made a mistake and we apologize. A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people,” the Newseum announced Saturday in a groveling blog post. “Questions have also been raised regarding other merchandise. As an organization that celebrates the rights of people from all political spectrums to express themselves freely, we’ve historically made all types of political merchandise available for our guests to purchase. That has included former and current presidential slogans and imagery and merchandise from all political parties. We continue to do so in celebration of freedom of speech.”

Translation: “In celebration of free speech, we will acquiesce in the censoring of a particular expression of opinion on a humorous T-shirt, because it hurts journalists’ feelings.”

Again, I ask: why does anyone trust journalists and the organizations they represent? Continue reading

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A Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Special: Roman Polanski’s Wife Authors An Unethical Quote For The Ages!

The feminist and her husband

Some background is in order.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences invited 928 artists  to join the Academy in a rough equivalent of packing the Supreme Court. The idea is to get nominees and winners of Academy Awards that will be sufficiently “diverse”—merit is not the primary concern here—to avoid criticism from minority activist groups of all kinds, colors and agendas, as future Academy Awards honor tribes and agendas, rather than, you know, movies. What fun.

The Academy also kicked director Roman Polanski out, only a few decades after he was convicted of raping a juvenile actress and fled the country, as it installed (in December)  a new code of conduct for its members now that sexual harassment is officially (but not actually) taboo in the film industry, thanks to Harvey. We are told that the Academy consulted experts and ethicists. Really? For this is boilerplate junk:

“The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. If any member is found by the Board of Governors to have violated these standards or to have compromised the integrity of the Academy by their actions, the Board of Governors may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy’s bylaws, including suspension or expulsion.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson emailed all members last week, reiterating:

“Academy membership is a privilege offered to only a select few within the global community of filmmakers. In addition to achieving excellence in the field of motion picture arts and sciences, members must also behave ethically by upholding the academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity. There is no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”

All 8,427 members will be expected to abide by the new guidelines with “will be” the key phrase. Obviously many, many of the current members have violated—are violating, probably will violate—these ill-defined standards. Why has Polanski been singled out for expulsion, and not, for example, Casey Affleck? Where was due process? Why was Polanski punished for conduct that occurred long, long before the standards were announced? How is that fair?

Forget it, Jake..it’s Hollywood. Still, Polanski is suing the Academy, and he has a good case.

Then, inexplicably, or perhaps too explicably, the Academy invited French actress Emmanuelle Seigner to join its membership. She is Polanski’s wife. Is she a major artist, a significant artist, a worthy member? Hardly. Is there any good reason she should have been invited, other than the fact that she is female, and Men Bad/Women Good is the current motto in Progressive Land, and that she would provide the fugitive director of “Rosemary’s Baby” a way to have influence in the Academy without embarrassing it? Continue reading

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BREAKING NEWS: Hollywood And Broadway Declare War On The Presidency, Elections, Democracy, Decency And Civility. NOW What?

“I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

—Actor Robert De Niro on live TV at the Tonys last night.

Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.

I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.

What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.

Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling  of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,

“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”

Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of  conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President. Continue reading

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“Bombshell,” Hedy Lamarr, And The Duty To Remember

I alluded to Hedy Lamarr in an earlier post about my favorite celebrities, those who manage to be outstanding in multiple diverse fields at once. The glamorous cult actress is a prime example, being known publicly for her pulchritude and in much more rarefied circles as a brilliant inventor. I had been waiting for the release of the documentary–produced by Susan Sarandon!—about Lamarr, called “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” ever since a friend and commenter here told me that it was in the works. Now it is on Netflix, and I watched it. You should too. I’ll just jot down some loosely connected thoughts about the ethics lessons of Lamarr’s life.

  • The sexual exploitation of young women in films may have been worse in the past than it is now, but Lamarr’s life is a reminder of how excruciatingly slowly cultures change. She was made infamous as the star of a sensational sex film in  Germany, shown naked, and also in an apparently explicit sex scene when she was too young (19) and naive to know what the director was doing.

The episode literally shadowed her life. Yet half a century later, very young actresses like Drew Barrymore and Dakota Fanning were similarly abused by directors, the main difference being that public attitudes now make the resulting stigma less permanent.

  • Antisemitism was sufficiently pervasive in the U.S. that Lamarr denied her Jewish heritage for much of her life.

Living a lie is not an ethically healthy existence, but Lamarr had few reasons to trust that she would be accepted for who she was….fewer than most, on fact.

  • There are few more vivid examples than Lamarr of a brilliant woman who rapidly learned that she had to rely on the favor of men based on her physical charms to have any chance of succeeding. Yet it is a bargain with the devil, for the price is not being taken seriously. The suppressed resentment and anger Lamarr reveals in interviews is palpable.

Sometimes I think it’s a mircale that women didn’t rise up and slaughter millions of men while they slept. They deserved it.

  • Hedy Lamarr is primarily remembered now as a running joke in “Blazing Saddles.”

Think about that. Continue reading

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Unethical (And Stupid) Quote Of The Month: Harvey Weinstein Defense Attorney Benjamin Brafman

“Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood”

—–Benjamin Brafman, Harvey Weinstein’s defense counsel, as Weinstein surrendered to authorities yesterday in Manhattan.

The whole quote, as Brafman addressed reporters:  “My job is not to defend behavior. My job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. To the extent that there’s bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about. Bad behavior is not on trial in this case.”

Good luck with this boob, Harvey. To begin with, his job isn’t to defend any kind of behavior; his job is to defend his client.  The way the English language works is that “defending” criminal behavior means arguing that criminal behavior is just fine, thank you. Defending against charges of criminal behavior, in contrast, means that a lawyer is making a case that there was none. If a lawyer can’t speak with more care and precision than this, when addressing reporters he shouldn’t say anything at all.. He essentially just admitted that his client committed criminal behavior and bad behavior, while also leaving doubt as to whether he understood that criminal behavior was also bad.

That’s just the stupid and incompetent part of the statement. The stupid and unethical part, the Unethical Quote of the Month, is an invitation to play, “Name that rationalization!” What difference does it make whether or not Harvey invented the practice of using power over young women’s careers and aspiration to extort them into being their sex toys? Have you ever heard of a defense attorney arguing to jury, “Come on! My client didn’t invent serial killing! What’s everyone so upset about?”  This is a blatant “Everybody does it” excuse, and an especially offensive one. Weinstein’s lawyer just made his first impression on te public—you never get a second chance to make one, you know—and he presented himself as a man who shrugs off coerced sexual submissiveness in the workplace as just one of those quirky Tinseltown traditions. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/2018: Another Rushing Around In A Hotel Room Getting Ready For A Seminar Edition…

Good morning from Boston...

…where I always feel at home! I’m here for the morning, talking to young, newly minted Massachusetts lawyers about ethics.

1. This is a big deal, though only lawyers will care. Finally, California has ditched its confusing, multi-source (some ethics rules were laws, some were regulations), antiquated legal ethics rules, and became the last of the jurisdictions, including D.C., to adopt the American Bar Association’s template for legal ethics guidance. Yes, in one area, if not the most important ones, California is moving closer to the rest of the country! There is hope!

2. Ally’s lament. Ally Sheedy, whom you might recall from “War Games” and “The Breakfast Club,” is one of Hollywood’s more articulate and thoughtful performers. She recently penned a post condemning Hollywood sexism, and its effect on her career. Essentially the essay amounts to a complaint that Hollywood is obsessed with appearances and, with women, sex appeal.

I like Sheedy, and I was pre-inclined to respect her observations (which are certainly accurate), but I have to admit that unsympathetic blogger Amy Alkon has a point. She writes,

“..professional actress Ally Sheedy takes it upon herself to lament the looks-driven reality of Hollywood — which is kind of like lamenting how in professional baseball, somebody’s always throwing a ball your way. …This is the movies, dear, not the genetics lab. Her entire essay is an example of intrasexual competition — criticizing and trying to change the standards of female competition by one who falls a bit short of them.Because so many people are so ignorant of our evolved psychology and in denial of biological sex differences (and the psychological sex differences that come out of them), they don’t get that there is pressure on men, too, to meet women’s differing mating priorities.As for those differing priorities, well…you don’t see men writing essays about how rotten it is that you can’t get a hot girlfriend (or probably any girlfriend) while unemployed and sleeping on a couch in your grandma’s basement.”

Yikes. And they say I’m tough… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/17/2018: Blacklisting, Boycotts, And A Fox News Ethics Breach

Good Morning, all.

1 The blacklisting of R. Lee Ermey. Ermey, the ex-Marine turned actor who gained fame playing a Marine drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket,” died this week. I had thought he might already be dead, since I hadn’t seen him show up in movies or TV shows for quite a while. No, it appears that he was blackballed by Hollywood after he criticized President Obama in 2010, while he was being hired with some regularity. Speaking at a Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots rally, he said it was difficult to raise money for the charity because “the economy sucks” and went on to blame the Obama Administration, saying,

“We should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they’re doing because they’re destroying this country. They’re driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us, and that’s exactly what they’re doing, and I’m sick and damn tired of it and I know you are too.”

Ermey’s agent and the sudden reduction in his offers persuaded the tough Marine to beg for forgiveness with an abject apology for daring to critique Obama so harshly. Never mind:  His contract as a GEICO character was terminated, and the company removed Ermey’s commercial from their official YouTube channel. He later told interviewers that he had been blacklisted by Hollywood, and that he never had major film offer after he criticized Obama.

Observations:

a) I wonder when fair, decent, ethical Americans who believe in freedom of thought and expression will become sufficiently alarmed about progressives and Democrats using blacklists and boycotts  to enforce ideological conformity. This increasingly totalitarian end of the political spectrum needs to be informed that its ethics alarms are seriously malfunctioning.

b) Actors identified with products and companies cannot complain when they lose those jobs after making divisive political comments. If Ermey wanted to do commercials for anyone other than the NRA, his comments about Obama were just plain stupid.

c) As an actor in films, however, Ermey played villains and parodies of military characters.  His political views in those contexts should have been irrelevant, and certainly wouldn’t harm receipts for movies he was in. If he really was blacklisted, it was an act of punishment for refusing to accept the Hollywood community’s lockstep worship of a weak and divisive President.

d) In contrast, recall this public rant from actor Robert DeNiro in January regarding the current President of the United States:

“This fucking idiot is the President. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes – the guy is a fucking fool. The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a proud moment for American journalism. The Times and the Post challenged the government over critical First Amendment issues. And the press prevailed. Our government today, with the propping-up of our baby-in-chief – the jerkoff-in-chief I call him – has put the press under siege, trying to discredit it through outrageous attacks and lies.’

I don’t think Bobby has lost any roles over this. To be fair, if there is a place where The King’s Pass, aka “The Star Syndrome,” rules supreme, it’s Hollywood. A major star like DeNiro obviously has more leeway than a narrow-range character actor like Ermey, and Ermey had to know that. Still, the double standard is striking. Continue reading

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