Tag Archives: Kevin Spacey

Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading

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THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!

Does he still seem like God to you?

“Cultural vandalism”!

Perfect! That’s the ideal description of what artists, especially performing artists, do when they engage in such revolting conduct that it becomes difficult or impossible for us to enjoy their work the way we could before we knew they were disgusting human beings.

We owe Vulture writer a debt of gratitude, not only for identifying the conduct as cultural vandalism (a term usually reserved for acts like stealing the Elgin Marbles), but also for explaining, in his article The Cultural Vandalism of Jeffrey Tambor, clearly and powerfully, why it is a serious ethical breach beyond the misconduct itself.

He writes in part,

Once I know something like this, it makes it impossible for me to look at the actor and not think of the horrible things they’ve allegedly done. I don’t care to argue whether this is rational or not (I think it is), or whether I hold inconsistent opinions of works that are problematic for whatever reason (everyone does). The repulsed feeling is still there, and it makes a difference in how I react as a spectator…This sort of thing seems categorically different from, say, watching a film starring an actor whose political beliefs are different from yours (though there, too, a line could be irrevocably crossed). Once you believe that a particular actor or filmmaker or screenwriter is a predator or abuser, you’re aware that the environment that produced your entertainment — the film set — was engaged in a conscious or reflexive cover-up, in the name of protecting an investment. You can still be passionately interested in the thing as a historical or aesthetic document — seeing it through the eyes of, say, an art historian who can contextualize Paul Gauguin within the totality of 19th-century painting, or an African-American studies professor who’s fascinated by Gone With the Wind — but you can’t lose yourself in it anymore. You can’t be in love with it. You can’t really enjoy it in the most basic sense, not without playing dumb.

You didn’t do that to the artist. The artist did that to himself…

And it’s awful. People’s lives get ruined, their careers get interrupted or destroyed. The emotional, physical, and financial damage that problematic artists inflict on people in their orbit should always be the first and main subject of discussion…On top of all that, we also have the collateral damage of cultural vandalism. Fun, meaningful, even great works that dozens or hundreds of people labored over, that built careers and fortunes and whole industries, become emotionally contaminated to the point where you can’t watch them anymore…. in recent years, an entire wing of African-American cultural history has been vaporized by the Bill Cosby allegations and his recent felony sexual-assault trial, including the most popular sitcom of the ’80s (The Cosby Show), some of the top-selling comedy albums of all time, the precursor to the R-rated buddy comedy genre (Uptown Saturday Night and its sequels), and the first Saturday morning cartoon with a predominantly black cast (Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids). Predators’ careers are getting raptured, as well they should be. But unfortunately — perhaps inevitably — their work is getting raptured along with it, imploding into dust as the culture moves on to things that aren’t as problematic (or that might have skeezy stuff going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about yet)….

…Nobody is stopping anyone from watching these works (though they’re no longer as easy to find, and you probably have to own a DVD player). We can still talk about them, study them, write about them, contextualize them. But the emotional connection has been severed. The work becomes archival. It loses its present-tense potency, something that significant or great works have always had the privilege of claiming in the past.

That’s all on the predators. It’s not on you. None of us asked for this.

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2018: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Gooooood Morning!

1. From the Moral Luck files:

What you just saw is a bald eagle landing on Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton’s shoulder during the National Anthem before yesterday’s Mariners-Twins game.  Here’s a closer look…

The eagle got confused: it is supposed to go to his trainer, in one of the more spectacular Anthem displays that has ever been devised: I’ve seen this performance several times.  After the game, Paxton was asked why he didn’t try to escape. His answer:

“I’m not gonna outrun an eagle, so just thought, we’ll see what happens.”

Heck, he had already endured the horror of Dessa’s incredibly off-key rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” what’s a mere bald eagle attack? Seriously, Paxton’s quote is an ethics guide: Don’t panic, don’t act on emotion, assess the situation, see what happens, and act accordingly. Of course, the fact that this strategy worked out well helps: if the eagle had ripped his eyes out, everyone would be saying Paxton was an idiot not to run.

How I would have loved to see this happen to Colin Kaepernick!

2. How the President gets himself into ethics trouble. I just watched a clip of Trump speaking yesterday about California’s sanctuary cities. “The thing is that these cities are protecting bad people,” he said, with emphasis. Naturally, this will be characterized as racism. It’s not racism, however. The statement is just overly simplistic, and exacerbated in its inflammatory elements by the President’s rudimentary vocabulary, in which the only operable adjectives appear to be great, bad, horrible, wonderful, terrible, sad, and a few more. It is impossible to communicate about complex issues competently and fairly with such meager tools. Illegal immigrants have broken our laws and willfully so. That is not good, but it does not make all of them bad people….though many are. 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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Was Charlie Rose’s “Apology” The Worst Of All?

I’m thinking about it.

Harvey Weinstein, you recall, announced that he would devote himself to crushing the NRA. Analysis: Desperate deflection and virtue-signalling.

Kevin Spacey decided to finally announce that he was gay. Analysis: Appeal for support and sympathy from a minority group he had spurned for decades

Bill O’Reilly continues to insist that he never did anything wrong, and that it was all a partisan hit job. Analysis: Deny, deny, deny.

Louis C.K. explained that he misread signals—as if there is any signal from a woman that says, “I want to see a chubby, homely, middles aged guy masturbate nude.” Analysis: Ridiculous and pathetic.

George H.W. Bush sought sympathy—he’s old and in a wheelchair—and anyway, it was all in good fun. Analysis: Generational ignorance

Al Franken gave an apology that said that female accusers should be believed, though he didn’t agree with his female accusers account, and that there was no excuse for his conduct, though he was just joking and jokes sometimes look bad in retrospect. Analysis: Cynical double-talk

One common thread that cannot be missed is that all of these men are assholes. Their words brand them as such. This figures, since only assholes harass women in the workplace, or anywhere else. I think this is why Charlie Rose’s statement angers me so much, specifically when he said,

“I have learned a great deal as a result of these events, and I hope others will too. All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and have come to a profound new respect for women and their lives.”

Don’t drag me into this, Rose, or any of the millions of men who always treat women as equals, respectfully, and fairly, both socially and professionally. I don’t need any “newer and deeper” recognition, you fecal creep, that putting hands on women’s upper thighs uninvited, parading naked, groping butts, making lewd phone calls  to co-workers and making young interns watch sexually explicit films are all unambiguously wrong and intolerable. I didn’t need it 40 years ago, and I don’t now. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Sort-of Veterans Day, 2017:

Good Morning!

1 I had to fix the title: today is being observed as Veterans Day by banks and other institutions, but it isn’t Veterans Day. Phooey. If a holiday is observed on a certain date, then in my terms, that is the holiday. No wonder the country is fatally confused all the time.

2. Well that was fast! I see that I have to write a “Stop Making Me Defend Roy Moore!” post. Yechhh.  The Left’s shameless virtue signalers are out in force representing a slug who repeatedly failed in efforts to date teens 40 years ago as a menace to womankind. Oddly, many of these same white knights dismissed Bill Clinton using an intern half his age as a sex toy in the Oval Office as “just sex.”  How can these people stand to be in the same room with themselves?

3. Former Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he believes he was the most qualified person to be president in 2016.

Yechhh. This is right up there with a losing team saying it was really the best team, but even worse. It’s like defaulting the decisive game because it’;s chilly outside, and making that claim.

“Oprah, no woman or man should announce they’re running for president unless they can answer two questions,” Biden told O. “One, do you truly believe you’re the most qualified person at the moment — I believed I was.” He did? That in itself disqualifies him. Joe Biden has never held an executive position in his life. Being Vice-President is relevant experience, for sure, although Biden hardly covered himself with glory during his tenure. Joe is also not the sharpest knife in the cutlery set, to be nice about it. He’s been caught plagiarizing speeches. He says jaw-droppingly dumb things almost daily. Is self-delusion a qualification?

Sure, Joe was preferable to Trump or Hillary: I would have held my nose and voted for him. He’s right to say he was better qualified than those two, simply because he’s not corrupt and has at least a rudimentary concept of right and wrong. Being better than those too doesn’t make him “the most qualified” that’s Biden’s weak mind at work. Jim Webb, to name one of many, had (and has) far stronger leadership qualifications. One of those qualifications is courage, which in Biden’s case meant having the guts to step in a try to take the nomination from Hillary Clinton. Biden had a duty to do this, but when it came down to action, he ducked.

Disqualified.

4.  Can there be any more blatant Ethics Dunces than LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, the three freshmen on the UCLA men’s basketball team who apparently shoplifted Louis Vuitton sunglasses  in the Chinese city of Hangzhou? UCLA is in China for a week-long visit as it was scheduled to open its season in Shanghai this weekend against Georgia Tech. The three players are now out of that game, and it is even in doubt whether the game will take place at all, since the UCLA team is confined to its hotel. The Three Dunces could be months away from returning home as the legal process in their case plays out. If they were Chinese citizens, they would be facing prison.

<gag!><ACK!><arghhh!> This is embarrassing to the whole country, not to mention UCLA and its basketball program. Of course, Big Time college sports breed and nurture such  arrogant, entitled, sociopathic conduct. Is it possible that all the players were not instructed in the dos and don’ts of traveling in not just a foreign nation, but in a Communist power looking for ammunition to wield against the U.S. in the diplomacy wars? Oh, sure it’s possible. I wonder if the players were also told not to take a knee when they played the Chinese national anthem.

Shoplifting? Do the players shoplift at home, or is this just something they think is appropriate in China? My guess is that there will be some deal-making to get the players home, and then let’s watch carefully what happens to Ball, Riley and Hill. This will be an integrity test for the NCAA and the school.

If they don’t flunk it, I will be stunned. Continue reading

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A Kevin Spacey Update, The Sexual Harassment Feeding Frenzy, And A Guide To Sexual Harassers In The Workplace

This photo seemed appropriate somehow…

Kevin Spacey, it is now fair to say, has been a habitual sexual harasser.

We did not know that when Anthony Rapp made his accusation against the actor in a Buzzfeed interview. I would be very interested in knowing whether Rapp knew that. The posts here (this, and this) began with the assumption that Rapp’s motivations were as he stated them, and he did not say or suggest that Spacey was, like Harvey Weinstein, an active predator.

But in the ensuing days,  the pattern typical of accused harassers who really are harassers has emerged regarding Spacey. Other alleged victims came forward with their accounts.  Next  the employees on Spacey’s hit Netflix series “House of Cards” expanded the narrative…from CNNMoney:

Spacey made the set of Netflix’s “House of Cards” into a “toxic” work environment through a pattern of sexual harassment, eight people who currently work on the show or worked on it in the past tell CNN. One former employee told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him.

That, as they say, is the ball game for Spacey. He has even followed the hackneyed script for so many celebrities caught in misconduct: he’s getting “treatment.” Well, he doesn’t have many options. His show has been cancelled; his agency has dropped him. Spacey is very talented, but it will take him a long, long time to even partially recover from this, if he can.

I am going to write this anyway even though it won’t register on most people: the fact that Spacey turned out to be a lot more than a guy who got drunk and treated a 14-year old actor inappropriately at a party three decades ago doesn’t retroactively make the way Rapp’s ambush accusation fair or right. If he knew that Spacey was a present day harasser and made the accusation to break the dam, that’s something else, but again, he didn’t suggest that.

I’d guess that he’ll say that now, whether it is true or not.

Since Spacey was accused, several other celebrities, including Dustin Hoffman, have been fingered. The latest development is that several female members of Congress have said that they have been sexually harassed by their male colleagues, and of that I have no doubts whatsoever. Nonetheless, we are still in the witch hunt yellow zone, creeping into the red.

Here is part of a cautionary LA Times op-ed  by Cathy Young:

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandals and the ripples from the “#MeToo” movement are having indubitably positive effects — above all, exposing and bringing to account predators who have enjoyed impunity due to their power and status. But there are some pitfalls. Many people — not just men with skeletons in the closet — fear that careers may be destroyed over minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions. Troubling rhetoric abounds, condemning all sexually tinged dynamics in the workplace, stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.…Concerns that the post-Weinstein climate may lead to witch hunts against any man who flirts with a female colleague have been met with angry comments along the lines of “flirting in the workplace IS HARASSMENT.” A tweet by singer/songwriter Marian Call that got more than 2,000 retweets and nearly 6,500 “likes” asked, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want.”

But is it? It’s certainly not the world I want: Except in college, nearly every man I have ever dated was either a co-worker or, once I switched entirely to free-lancing, someone I met through work. This is not unusual, even in the age of dating websites and apps.

This has always been the aspect of sexual harassment law that renders it inherently unfair and to many, incomprehensible. In many cases the exact same conduct is harassment if unwelcome, and successful mating strategy if welcome.  Don’t bite my head off, but this was what Donal Trump was alluding to in his repulsive conversation with Billy Bush. He was claiming  that women like being sexually assaulted by the rich and powerful. In many cases, he may be right. Legally, when he’s right, it may not be sexual harassment. Ethically, it is still wrong. If the women feels compelled not to object to the sexual overtures because of an inequality of power, it is very wrong, and illegal. Continue reading

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