Ethics Quiz: Are Fake Dwarves Unethical?

Remember, Disney didn’t cast little people as the dwarfs either…he cast ink.

The advocacy group “Little People of America” is crying foul because the seven dwarves (or dwarfs, if you’re Walt Disney) in “Snow White and the Huntsman” were played not by real little people (who don’t like being called dwarves, just playing them for money) but by digitally-altered normal-sized actors.

A representative of the group told the gossip web site TMZ that the studios should be “casting people with dwarfism as characters that were specifically written to be played by little people … and other roles that would be open to people of short stature.”

Your Ethics Quiz of the Day: Do movie makers have an obligation to cast small people in small people’s roles? Is it unethical to use special effects to do avoid casting them? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: CBS

"That's Entertainment!"

It took a few days, but Boston viewers finally figured out that CBS’s broadcast of the city’s famous Fourth of July fireworks display was digitally altered to present a spectacular view of the display that is geographically impossible. Yes, CBS, network of Murrow and Cronkite, presented a phony, enhanced version of the fireworks without bothering to disclose to viewers what they were really seeing.

Yesterday Boston bloggers and observers began pointing out that it was  impossible to see the fireworks above and behind such famous locales as the State House, Quincy Market, and home plate at Fenway Park, because the display, as always,  was launched from a barge in the Charles River, located where it could not be seen from those places.

“According to CBS, you can see the fireworks from the right side of Quincy Market, even though Beacon Hill is in the way,’’ wrote Karl Clodfelter, a research scientist and a commenter on the Boston blog “Also, they come up behind the State House when you’re standing across the road . . . which means the barge must have been parked on the Zakim* this year.’’ Continue reading

More Zombie Ethics: George Lucas, Re-Animator

It seems that cinema innovator and mega-mogul George Lucas is using a large chunk of his “Star Wars” merchandising lucre to purchase the rights to screen images of dead movie stars. His plan is to give his tech-magicians at LucasArt the opportunity to perfect the process of re-animating and manipulating them to appear in new roles in new films. Imagine Humphrey Bogart in “Pirates of the Caribbean 5”! Imagine Marilyn Monroe joining the girls in “Sex and the City 2”!  Imagine Cary Grant in a buddy picture with Adam Sandler! Or Jar Jar Binks.

Undoubtedly there are many movie fans who would enjoy having digitally resurrected Hollywood legends appearing side-by-side current idols, and there is probably a lot of money to be made by giving them what they want. Turning deceased stars into computer-generated images and making them do and say anything the programmers choose, with the pace, volume and inflection the directors desire, would represent a significant technological advance. Another obvious benefit is that Lucas’s method is preferable to just digging up the carcasses of the acting greats, hanging them on wires, and using machinery to parade them through movie sets like marionettes.

But not much. Continue reading

Legal Advertising Ethics: The Public’s Not THAT Gullible, 2nd Circuit Rules

The fact that lawyers are prohibited by their professional ethics standards from engaging in conduct that is misleading or dishonest has caused many state bars to hold the profession to restrictions on advertising that would ban most of the TV commercials we see every day for any other product or service. For example, lawyers cannot engage in self-praising hyperbole and say, for instance, that the Firm of Slash and Burn is “the best real estate law firm in Miami,” because the statement is not objectively true or cannot be proven to be accurate.

While many states have gradually surrendered in the battle to keep lawyer advertising unusually forthright and dignified (you can see what monstrosities this has wrought here) New York actually toughened its lawyer advertising rules a few years ago, decreeing.. Continue reading