Ethics Observations On Actress Emma Thompson’s Resignation Letter

British acting grande dame Emma Thompson dropped out of the voice cast of Skydance Animation’s upcoming film “Luck.” The reason was  ex-Pixar creative force John Lasseter being hired to lead animation at David Ellison’s studio; Ethics Alarms wrote about his new job here. A quote from that post…

The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug?

Thompson’s reps released her letter on last week, first published in the Los Angeles Times, that Thompson had sent to Skydance management. Here it is:

As you know, I have pulled out of the production of “Luck” — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.

I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:

If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?

If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”

Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?

If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Yours most sincerely,

Emma Thompson

Observations: Continue reading

The John Lasseter #MeToo Conundrum

What is the appropriate treatment for a leader, executive or artist who has been dismissed, disgraced, and exiled because of credible or proven instances of workplace sexual misconduct?

John Lasseter, the genius Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints that he engaged in unwanted “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes” suddenly raises the question, because he is all of these, and now is one of the first men facing ruin in the #MeToo era to find a new position as impressive and lucrative—seven figures—as his old one.

David Ellison,  “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a newish production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, announced this week that Lasseter would become Skydance’s head of  animation and will start this month. “John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”

BUT, he  continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

On his own behalf, Lasseter, who was the moving creative force behind multiple Pixar classics like “Toy Story” as well as Disney’s “Frozen,” said that he that he had engaged in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, but with renewed dedication to the need for “safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Good enough? No, #MeToo is not pleased. Time’s Up, the #MeToo-spawned political group founded by Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes among others, protested in response to the announcement that offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to show true remorse, work to reform their behavior and provide restitution to those harmed is condoning abuse.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 3/5/2018: An Oscar Hangover, A Panamanian Mess, An Australian Play, And A 7-11 Moment

Hello!

1 Let’s get the Oscars out of the way. I didn’t watch, choosing instead to finish streaming Netflix’s excellent “Seven Seconds.” I have skimmed the transcript and checked the reporting, however, and these items leap out..

  • On the “red carpet,” Ryan Seacrest was snubbed by the majority of the stars he tried to chat with them. Seacrest was accused of sexual harassment by his ex-personal hair stylist last year. His employer hired an independent counsel to investigate, and could not confirm her allegations, so he kept his job.Never mind: he was snubbed like a leprous skunk at a picnic anyway.

This is a flagrant Golden Rule fail. Not one of the over twenty stars who walked by him while he was trying to do his job would feel fairly treated if they had been in his position. It also is as perfect and example as there is of how the #MeToo movement is a witch hunt, not interested in facts, or fairness, just power and the ability to destroy without due process.

If I was going to watch the Oscars, the treatment of Seacrest in the pre-show would have changed my mind. These are awful people. To hell with them.

  • The disgusting and smug Jimmy Kimmel hosted, because he’s “America’s Conscience of America” despite seeking ratings by encouraging parents to be cruel to their own children for his amusement.

He began the night with a penis joke.

  • As I noted in yesterday’s Warm-Up, the Oscars are now part of the effort to divide the nation. Bigotry is good, as long as it’s trendy bigotry:

…Presenting the best director award, Emma Stone introduced the nominees as “these four men and Greta Gerwig.” Nice. Misandry is funny! (Gerwig lost. GOOD.)

Maya Rudolph assured the presumably racist white viewers, “Don’t worry, there are so many more white people to come.” Bite me, Maya.

…And, of course, “Get Out!,” the racist film that I have already written about more than it deserves, won Best Screenplay, because representing all white people as monsters is award-worthy.

  • In the past I have devoted whole posts to the Academy’s snubs in its “In Memoriam” segment, which is supposedly Hollywood’s final salute to film artists who made their final exits. At this point, I really don’t care what the Academy does, but the loved ones and fans of the snubees care, and that should matter to the Academy. Here is the complete list of omissions that at least someone has complained about. I’ve highlighted the ones who really should have been included:

Bill Paxton
Stephen Furst
Powers Boothe
Juanita Quigley
Ty Hardin
Francine York
Miguel Ferrer
Skip Homeier
Anne Jeffreys
Lola Albright
Lorna Gray
Dina Merrill
Conrad Brooks
Robert Guillaume
John Hillerman
Jim Nabors
Rose Marie
Adam West
David Ogden Stiers
Dorothy Malone
Della Reese
Dick Enberg
Tobe Hooper

The names fall into five categories. Bill Paxton is in one of his own: he was left out of the list due to a silly technicality: he died right before last year’s Oscars, so it was too late to include him in 2017, and some jerk decided that since he was a 2017 death, he couldn’t be honored this year either.  The second category is flat-out mistakes: Dorothy Malone won a Best Actress Oscar; if that isn’t enough to be listed, what is? Director Tobe Hooper was responsible for a film that revolutionized horror movies, “The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre,” and also directed “Poltergeist.” He was an important director. When two of your films launched sequels, remakes, sequels to remakes, and endless knock-offs, Hollywood should show some respect: it made millions because of Tobe Hooper.

Category 3: John Hillerman and Powers Boothe were successful and prolific film actors in some major movies, though both are remembered best for their TV work. There is no good argument for omitting them.  In the fourth category are TV actors who made a few mostly  forgettable films: West, Jeffreys, Merrill, Ferrer and Hardin. I can see the argument: they will be honored at the Emmys.

Stephen Furst deserves a category all his own. He played a memorable character in a classic, iconic film: “Flounder” in “Animal House.” That should have been enough to earn a place in the roll call.

That’s it for the 2018 Academy Awards.

Let us never speak of it again. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-up, 3/4/18: Special Academy Awards I Won’t Be Watching Edition!

Good morning!

1 One more institution falls to partisan poisoning. Tonight is the Academy Awards show, and outside of some suspense as to whether Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway will botch the Best Picture reveal again (whoever had the idea to have them do an encore of their legendary fail is brilliant), I cannot imagine why anyone would waste their time and raise their blood pressure watching the show. I used to love the Oscars because I love movies. Except for periodic embarrassments where infamous jerks like Marlon Brando and Richard Gere defiantly injected politics into the party, it was fun, if usually too long. Now the show is just a platform for presumptuous performers to parade their ignorance and egos, virtue-signalling, grandstanding, lobbying and politicking. At this they are no better, and often worse, than plumbers, teachers and mail-carriers. What they are good at is looking good and making movies, and in most cases, not much else, including critical thought.

I watched a recent interview in which outspoken actress Jennifer Lawrence became visibly uncomfortable when she had to admit that she dropped out of middle school. It’s obvious that Lawrence is intelligent (she is also the most exciting and talented young actress to come along in a long, long time), but all of her noisy opinions are based on gut instincts. She is untrained and not very grounded in history, law or government: there is no reason for her opinions on politics or finance to be newsworthy. This is also true of her colleagues. Yet we have been informed that tonight will be “about” sexual abuse and gun control, so we will have to endure periodic outbursts all night long about “Time’s Up” and  “Never Again.”  There are side political controversies, like whether or not “woke” stars like Lawrence will snub E! red carpet host Ryan Seacrest because he has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former stylist. Never mind that Seacrest may be innocent, or that she decided to reinterpret what happened in order to join the #MeToo club. (“Oh come on!”)

We already know that the Oscar voting is now polluted by an unspoken demand that black actors and artists get their EEOC quota of honors. This year, we have the special treat of cheering for a nominated a movie that represented all white people as conspiring to make mind-controlled slaves out of blacks.

In the most bitter and divisive political climate in more than a century, institutions like Hollywood have a duty to unite us and emphasize what we have in common, which is a lot. The Oscars and the industry has abandoned that mission. Let them suffer the consequences.

2. The return of “Death Wish.”  Critics are already panning Bruce Willis’ “Death Wish” remake, which has  12 percent “Rotten” at RottenTomatoes.com.  Just from the trailer, it is pretty clear that this reboot has to be much better than the incredibly successful original and its progressively worse sequels. Here are some typical critic rants: Continue reading

Trevor Noah’s Critics

Trevor Noah, the current Daily Show host who is more thoughtful than funny, made the same points Ethics Alarms did regarding Hillary Clinton’s weasel-like response to the New York Times exposé revealing that she protected a top adviser of hers, Burns Strider, Clinton’s faith adviser and founder of the American Values Network, when he was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing one of Clinton’s young subordinates during her 2008 campaign.

“Hillary’s Grammy cameo came at a weird moment for her,” Noah said, referring to the “Fire and Fury” skit at the Grammys Sunday that featured  Clinton reading excerpts from the book. “Because last night’s theme was #MeToo, Time’s Up, which is a message Hillary found herself on the wrong side of over the weekend. Look, there’s a few areas where I don’t necessarily expect Hillary Clinton to nail it,” Noah continued, “managing emails, visiting Wisconsin, you know, weaknesses. But I won’t lie, I expected standing up for a woman on her staff to be one of her strengths. So the story is disturbing.”

“It’s possible that Hillary Clinton had a good explanation for why she kept this guy on over the objections of her top campaign advisers but instead of an explanation, all we got was this,” Noah said, regurgitating Hillary’s nauseating tweet,

“A story appeared today about something that happened in 2008. I was dismayed when it occurred, but was heartened the young woman came forward, was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed…I called her today to tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard,”

“Yeah, ‘women deserve to be heard,’ and then quietly reassigned,” Noah said in reaction to this. “‘Thank you for speaking up — now into the closet…It feels like Hillary’s not only trying to dodge all the blame, she wants to present herself as having always been on this woman’s side, which doesn’t fly, because not only did the woman get reassigned, but this guy, Burns Strider, he went on to get another job in Democratic politics, where he got fired for doing the same thing to other women,” Noah said, correctly. “So you could argue that if Hillary had fired him, she would have been protecting many women, instead of just herself.”

I almost gave Noah an Ethics Hero for this, but thought better of it. The fact that none of his All-Trump-Bashing-All-The-Time comic colleagues, like Colbert, Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live lack the integrity to criticize Clinton doesn’t make him a hero. It’s a little like giving a medal to the only soldier who doesn’t run away as soon as the shooting starts. We should respect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

However, the criticism Noah received on Twitter for stating the truth was an education in how people delude themselves and pollute their values with rationalizations to avoid facing uncomfortable facts: Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

Good afternoon.

(Where did the morning go?)

1 Regarding Alexa the Feminist: I had said that I would wait for 20 comment before revealing my own answer to the recent Ethics Quiz, which asked readers whether it was ethical for Amazon to  program its Artificial Intelligence-wielding personal assistant Alexa with the rhetoric and the sensibilities of a feminist. As usual, Ethics Alarms readers covered a full range of considerations, from the fact that consumers weren’t being forced to take a feminist robot into their homes, and could choose a non-woke personal assistant if they pleased, to the pithy,

“My screwdriver should not tell me it is a communist. My toothbrush should not tell me it is a Republican. My lamp should not tell me it is Hindu. My car should not tell me it likes polka music. My sunglasses should not ask me if I’ve heard the good news. My refrigerator should not tell me I should have more meat in my diet, and by no means should it be vegan.”.

I don’t trust the big tech companies, and the more I see them becoming involved in politics and culture, the less I trust them. It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door. If there is a market for communist screwdrivers, however, there is nothing unethical about filling it.

As long as consumers have the power to reject AI-imbued tools with a tendency to proselytize, there seems to be no ethics foul in making them available.  It’s creepy, and since these aren’t women but pieces of plastic and metal, it’s absurd, but in the end, so far at least, Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.

2. If you think that there was nothing wrong with Hillary’s surprise cameo at the Grammys, you’re hopeless. Continue reading

Hillary Clinton Ethics And #MeToo Integrity

But first, a diversion:

I gave my sister “What Happened” as a gift, I hadn’t turned it over, so I saw the alleged photo of the author for the first time when she took off the wrapping. (This was a late Christmas gathering.) Hilarity ensued. Here is what we saw:

Now here’s an up-to-date picture of me:

Not to be petty or anything, but flattering photos are one thing, and extreme misrepresentation is another. Hillary’s book jacket photo is a visual lie, showing vanity and a lack of integrity….just like her book.

But I digress…

Yesterday  Clinton responded to a New York Times story revealing how she handled allegations of sexual harassment within her 2008 presidential campaign. After  her campaign spiritual adviser, Burns Strider, was accused by a young female staffer of repeated sexual misconduct, Hillary refused to fire him, instead docking him several weeks of pay telling  him to seek counseling. The young woman was moved to a new job. Clinton didn’t dispute the facts. She said this (WARNING: HEAD EXPLOSION RISK!) via Twitter: Continue reading