Tag Archives: Hollywood

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/1918: It’s Incompetence Friday!

Good Mronign!

Competence is often not regarded as an ethical value, but it is one of the most important of them all. It is also one of the most commonly breached, usually with the rationalization that “everyone makes mistakes.”

1 “The Nip” Redux  In a legendary “Seinfeld” episode, Elaine’s Christmas card features a photo, taken by amateur photographer and inveterate screw-up Kramer, in which one of her nipples is exposed. Kramer, however, was an admitted amateur. What is Vanity Fair’s alleged professionals’ excuse for its current cover (I’m not talking about the nauseating pandering to Hollywood it represents, for which there is no excuse), which shows actress Reese Witherspoon with three legs?

Vanity Fair may have been too focused on photoshopping out actor James Franco, who was in the original photo but became model-non-grata when he was accused of sexual harassment, and as #MeToo has taught us, an accusation is all the due process these male scum deserve.

2. Segue Alert! And speaking of Hollywood, there has been much ballyhoo over the fact that the nominated Best Actresses this year play feisty, unglamorous, tough, in several cases outright repulsive women. Question: Who likes watching such characters (and more are on the way)? The Academy snubbed the most popular film with a female star, Gail Gadot in “Wonder Woman,” who probably is still too politically incorrect because men—ick!—find her attractive. 2017 was a catastrophically bad year at the box office, meaning that Hollywood proved incompetent at its job, with is making movies people want to see. It also displayed incompetence—not to mention arrogance, bias, condescension, hypocrisy and stupidity–by shooting off its various mouths on political matters, making the entire film industry, which should be a unifying force in the culture, polarizing, like everything else in 2018.

The Hollywood Reporter has a report about the role politics plays in the Academy Award voting; this has always been true, but never more than now. I cannot imagine who would care what or who wins the statuettes when it is all transparent political grandstanding, virtue-signalling and an attempt to meet quotas. Next crisis on the horizon: Hispanic artists are gearing up to show how they have been statistically insufficiently represented in nominations and awards. I presume Asians will do likewise. Why are there not more roles and awards for the differently-abled? Trans performers? Hollywood is committed to the Left, the Left is committed to tribalism, and tribalism has nothing to do with popular entertainment.

Or democracy. But I digress. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/19/2018: Three Tests!

Good Morning, All!

1 Derangement test! As I write this, Washington, D.C. is on high anxiety alert over whether there will be a government shutdown due to Senate Democrats staging a tantrum over DACA. Previous shutdowns, stupid all, and all ultimately a disaster for the party that triggered them, the Republicans, at least involved a dispute over the budget, which we call a “nexus.” In this one, however, the triggering party is the Democrats, who are grandstanding to their increasingly radical base, declaring the interests of about 800,000 illegal immigrants as a higher priority than the interests of the law-abiding citizens of this country who are not obsessed with “Think of the children!” and the imaginary right of foreigners to cross into the country illegally and stay here as long as they don’t rape someone and blow  their “good illegal immigrant” status.

Essentially the Democratic leadership has decided to test the question of how many Americans have had their brains and values scrambled by the emotion-based pro-illegal immigration argument battered into their heads by the progressive/maintsteam news media coalition. Oh…there’s also their collateral justification of “We can’t make a deal with the President because he used a bad word in a private meeting, or so some say.”

Since both Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have their unequivocal condemnation of the very same tactic they are now engaging in on videotape, they must really be convinced that social justice warrior cant now infests the population. Well, maybe they are right. Maybe they aren’t as incompetent as I think they are, and their flip-flop won’t strike anyone else as cynical and proof of an integrity deficit.

If a party is successful, even once, using this extortion tactic to pass legislation, then the legislative process will have officially collapsed. Democrats—this shut-down is a unilateral offense, not another “everyone is to blame” fiasco—signaled their emergence as a protest organization rather than a responsible party in 2016 when they held a sit-down strike in the House to try to force the unconstitutional measure of banning gun ownership for citizens placed without due process on FBI no-fly lists. If Republicans allow such a tactic to succeed now, however, they will share the Ethics Dunce honors.

And, of course, will use the tactic themselves when the time is ripe.

Let’s see if sufficient numbers of Democrats have their brain cells and values in sufficient good health to tell their representative that those DACA kids have their sentimental support, but not THAT much support, you idiots, don’t be ridiculous!

It should be interesting. Continue reading

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Discrimination Or Negotiation? The Phony “All The Money In The World” Pay Controversy

As usual, the headlines are misleading, and the reporting is soaked with emotion.. Michelle Williams Is Reportedly Worth 1500% Less Than Mark Walberg To Sony…

is a typical example. Fake news. Mark Wahlberg reportedly made 1500 times what Michelle Williams did for All the Money reshoots. True, but misleading. Here is what happened:

“All the Money in the World” is the film that had to be substantially re-shot after tyhe decision was made to make Kevin Spacey, in a major role, disappear, with his part taken by Christopher Plummer. This required far more re-shooting than a typical finished film requires. Most movie contracts require a certain number of reshoot days as a routine stipulation for the actors, who must make themselves available as needed. If more than the usual additional filming is needed, however, actors are not obligated to work beyond what they reasonably expected.  Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg had agreed to appear in “All the Money in the World” for less than their standard fee, but when they had to go an extra mile to let the film be completed, they each took a different tack.

Williams was nice, and quickly agreed to return, believing, without being told so,that other participants had made the same decision. She even worked over Thanksgiving,  arranging for her 12-year-old daughter, Matilda, to spend the holiday without her. “They could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted,” she Told the New York Times. “Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.” (…to get rid of Kevin Spacey!)

Her co-star Mark Wahlberg, however, realized that he had leverage over the production team. He was the only major cast member with no commitment to reshoot his scenes. The finished film was set to be released in theaters in about a month, on December 25, so he had terrific leverage. In Hollywood, leverage equals big bucks. He told his primary agent, Doug Lucterhand, to play hardball, and negotiate for as much money as he could get.

The production company ultimately agreed to a $1.5 million payment.

Is this gender discrimination? No. Is it an example of bias? No. Is it unfair? Well, only in that life is unfair, some people are more shrewd than others, Hollywood isn’t kindergarten, and nice guys finish last, as Leo Durocher said. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/2018: Plan O, Bad Punditry, Racist Trash Talk, And Disrespecting a 101 Year Old Star

Good morning, World!

1 Golden Globes hangover I. Following up on a point made in yesterday’s Golden Globes post, presenter Natalie Portman’s much-praised but unfair innuendo that the directors nominated in the “best director” category were there because of gender bias rather than the quality of their work was an example of shooting the bystander rather than the villain. The fact that women don’t get the opportunities to direct major films that men do–as a result of many factors, none of which relate to the relative directing abilities of the two pools–is not the fault of the male directors who get the jobs, nor does the fact of discrimination make the films that women do get to direct inherently better and more award-worthy than they are.

That said, the bias against female directors is real, and dumb. Here is an excellent article about it.

2. A Nation of Silly People. I warned that electing Donald Trump as President would eventually turn us into a Nation of Assholes, and that has come to pass with unexpected rapidity. I did not see the development resulting in the US becoming a nation of silly people, though that process was well underway already. The rush to anoint Oprah Winfrey as the savior of the Republic based on a speech at an entertainment awards show, however, is new evidence of the damage done to the nation’s values by the Trump trauma. Oprah is a cult, pop culture figure; a democracy deteriorating into a society where celebrities and cult leaders become political leaders was one of the fears expressed by our Founders. For the Left to embrace Oprah is stunning hypocrisy, after more than a year of (correctly) accusing Republicans of nominating a Presidential candidate with none of the qualifications traditionally required to be taken seriously as a contender for the office. Many unhealthy trends of long standing pointed to this eventuality,it is true: celebrity obsession, poor civic education, ignorance of history, and new age gibberish, plus the stunning absence of legitimate leaders in both political parties. Having followed O for a long time, since her days in Baltimore as a rising lief-style reporter, I recognize a lot of warning signs regarding her ethical instincts, such as her addiction to talking about “personal truths,” which is just a sneaky way of endorsing “alternate facts,” her troubling anti-vaxx statements, her promotion of fake experts like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, her race-baiting, and more. There will be plenty of time to elaborate on these if and when her candidacy becomes more than a twinkle in E!’s eye. I doubt that we’ll get there, but as President Trump proved, you never know in the United States of America.

3. A “Nah, there’s no media bias against Trump” note: During the Golden Globes broadcast, NBC, that paragon of journalism integrity, tweeted this:

4. Fake news in irresponsible punditry.  I have been meaning to write about this op-ed by New York Times “contributing opinion writer” Kashana Cauley for more than a week now, and the task has seemed so odious that I have avoided it. It is as bad an op-ed as I have ever seen, full of false assertions, misrepresentations , rationalizations and racial hate. I wonder when the New York Times editors reached the point where they would regard such trash as fit to be published under its banner. Rather than dissect the ugly thing as I originally intended, I’ll let you do the work, with me just pointing out some, but far from all, of the features that make this such unethical op-ed page content. Continue reading

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As Expected, The Golden Globes Were Ethically Incoherent

It is not surprising that last night’s Golden Globes award, pre-hyped as some kind of virtuous purging of the old, bad Hollywood culture where men used their power to sexually abuse women, and women submitted–and stayed silent—to achieve power and wealth of their own, was self-contradictory, hypocritical and incoherent.

What, for example, did the all-black outfits mean? Here is B-list actress Amber Tamblyn trying to explain in the New York Times:

“We actresses are not just modeling clothing when we walk a red carpet on award show night. We are modeling a kind of behavior. We are speaking in a coded language to other women — even young girls — that says: The way I look and what I wear and how I wear it is the standard for women. What is being worn is not an exception. It is the rule. You must dress a certain way and look a certain way if you want to be valued as a woman, no matter what you do for a living or who you are. We never intend for this to be the message we are sending with what we wear, but often it is the perceived one, whether we like it or not…Tonight, you will see just such an experiment as myself and hundreds of women from the Time’s Up movement will reject colorful gowns for black ones on the Golden Globes’ red carpet and at related events across the country. Wearing black is not all we will be doing. We will be doing away with the old spoken codes in favor of communicating boldly and directly: What we are wearing is not a statement of fashion. It is a statement of action. It is a direct message of resistance. Black because we are powerful when we stand together with all women across industry lines. Black because we’re starting over, resetting the standard. Black because we’re done being silenced and we’re done with the silencers. Tonight is not a mourning. Tonight is an awakening.”

Oh. What? This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish. I sincerely doubt that what actresses wear on the red carpet has as much influence, or even close to it, on young women as what the actresses wear in films and TV. The black is a statement of action? What action? Resistance to what? Anyone who thinks that now, suddenly, a hundred years of a corrupt culture has been erased, and that if a message is sent by a male director, producer or star that an ambitious young actress can prevail over her competition by acceding to a date, a grope, or a night of sex, that won’t get essentially the same results it always has is naive. Tamblyn doesn’t think that, and I guarantee that  Meryl Streep doesn’t think that. This means that the all-black stunt was just grandstanding, and a mass deception upon the public.

If this was genuinely turning the page, why didn’t any of the actors—not one–mention Harvey Weinstein? They didn’t because they are afraid that he might come back, that’s why. Mel Gibson came back. David Begelman came back. Hollywood has a cruel, venal, ethics free,culture, and all of these women and actors know it. They won’t burn bridges, not completely. This is why Rose McGowan, who was the most vocal and audacious of the abused actresses, one who took grave personal risks to accuse Weinstein of raping her and then paying her off, as well as Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek, who both went public with the abuse before other stars felt secure enough to come forward–Hayek wrote that Weinstein threatened to have her killed —were completely ignored during the ceremony. Nobody saluted them. Nobody thanked them. Harvey might take it personally.

When host Seth Meyers, in his opening monologue, mentioned Weinstein, it was with this  jibe “Harvey Weinstein can’t be here tonight because, well, I’ve heard rumors that he’s crazy and difficult to work with.”  (That was an anti-Trump shot, of course) “But don’t worry — he’ll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person ever booed during the ‘In Memoriam’ segment.”

The crowd, supposedly there explicitly rejecting the Weinstein culture,  moaned and booed. What bad taste for Myers! Imagine, being mean to a rapist! (“See Harvey? I didn’t laugh! Can I read for that part?”) Continue reading

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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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