A Question of Ethics


I’m going to write a post, in the next few days, about The Last Samurai.  It is, without question or qualification, one of my top ten, all-time favorite films.  I watch it for my own enjoyment, and I show it to my literature and writing classes.  There is so much about this film that delights and intrigues me, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing that with you here.

Today, though, I’m writing about something else.

Every time I show The Last Samurai to my classes, I feel the need to explain to them that I bought this film long before Tom Cruise outed himself as a self-righteous, misogynistic, more-than-a-little-crazy asshole.  Call me biased if you will, but I like for my actors to either keep me blissfully in the dark about their private lives and personal opinions, or I want them to behave intelligently and morally in the public view (what they choose to do in the privacy of their own homes and away from the cameras is entirely their business).  My point here is that, sometimes, knowing about the real lives of the actors playing my favorite characters ruins the experience for me, and I’ve made it a point to not spend any of my entertainment dollars on people who prove to me that they don’t deserve them,

That being said, I bought The Last Samurai (and Jerry Maguire and A Few Good Men) long before Mr. Cruise lost my respect as a human being, and I feel the need to get that out in the open.  The same is true of Mel Gibson –  it’s true that I own both Gibson’s Hamlet and the first Lethal Weapon film on DVD, and I bought Braveheart as soon as the thing was released, but all of those films came out before Mel went on national t.v. to say how much he was going to miss his wife when they died because he, as a good, conservative, pre-Vatican II Catholic, is going to heaven and she, as a heathen, non-believer Anglican, has a seat reserved for her in hell.  Oh, and that Jews are responsible for “all the wars in the world.”  Let’s not forget that.

Nice, huh?

Now, I should also mention that I’m entirely torn about all of this.  I KNOW that no one is perfect, and that a lot of great artists and humanitarians have been less-than-stellar human beings.  I’m not saying that the personal lives of people who do great work diminish in any way the work that they do (remember the scandal of Dr. King’s extra-marital affairs?  Does that mean we should throw out all the good he did?  I don’t think so).  My point here, though, is that I don’t wish to support that kind of crazy with my entertainment dollars.  I have no problem with the money that I’ve given the likes of Mr. Cruise or Mr. Gibson (or Mr. Travolta or any of a number of other actors and actresses whose beliefs or politics don’t mesh with mine) BEFORE I knew that they were crackpots.  I’m just saying that I’m not interested in giving them any more of my money now that I know what they’re doing with it.

I’m also saying that someone can be the biggest asshole in Hollywood but, as long as I don’t know about it, I’m okay with going to see their films.  I’ve heard rumblings about how difficult Don Cheadle is to work with, for example, but I’ve never heard a word about his being bigoted or homophobic or a woman-hater or any of the other things that would make me not want to ever meet the man, so I am going to see Traitor.  Egos I can handle; determined ignorance and prejudice I cannot.  I really wish that celebrities would just keep their mouths shut most of the time.

Does that make me closed-minded?


14 Responses to “A Question of Ethics”

  1. wordlily Says:

    Off topic, I guess, but I agree with your second-to-last sentence, “I really wish that celebrities would just keep their mouths shut most of the time.”


  2. saintseester Says:

    I see your point completely. I feel the same way; I just hate it when someone acts horrible (not just foolish, but downright horrible as your examples in here) and ruins the movies for me. There are a few actors whose movies I won’t spend money on, now. It seems to be a recent epidemic!

  3. Louise Cannon Says:

    “Call me biased if you will, but I like for my actors to either keep me blissfully in the dark about their private lives and personal opinions, or I want them to behave intelligently and morally in the public view (what they choose to do in the privacy of their own homes and away from the cameras is entirely their business).”

    I love that statement. And I’m with you. I hate seeing my money (or anyone’s) go to support these small-minded people.

    And YOU, close-minded? Come ON!

  4. Becca Says:

    I like what they all said. I think that hollywood types have every right to express what they think, believe, and feel, but when their expression turns into mud slinging and hate-based and intended language, I believe they should be just as quiet as every one else who happens to be inflicted with the disease.

  5. kizzbeth Says:

    When Curt Schilling announced his support of W after that World Series win I was crushed. It colored the entire win badly for me and apparently I wasn’t alone. I wished he’d shut his trap and didn’t he know how offensive that was? Then, of course, I started wondering what if a celeb endorsed Obama? Would I be offended by that? And if I wasn’t how wrong would that be?

    It’s tough because I like to hear about celebs lives but it’s dangerous. Once you see the Wizard you can’t just put the curtain back and pretend you didn’t. I’m finding lately it’s true of bloggers, too. I’ve run across a couple of bloggers who haven’t talked politics at all and I’ve been interested and read them consistently and then they’ve come out and gone TOTALLY against what I believe in and it’s completely rocked my perspective.

  6. saintseester Says:

    I am not usually offended by peoples’ basic political views. If I were, then there are a lot of blogs and other things I would not be able to enjoy reading and learning from. Just because I completely disagree with someone’s politics at this time, does not mean that I cannot learn something from their viewpoint, right? It is when the celebrity in question crosses over into hatred, bigotry, vehemence that it becomes no longer a discourse, but a disturbing cloud on anything associated with them.

  7. mabnyc Says:

    This is a tough one. When we hear something we don’t like from an actor, we wish they would shut up. But when we agree, well, everyone has a right to speak and anybody who boycotts their movie is a jerk.

    I try to leave my opinions about actors/directors/gaffers at the popcorn stand and just judge the “art”. I’m perfectly capable of enjoying a Mel Gibson movie, although the ones I do enjoy are few and far between and always have been. (It pretty much begins and ends with “The Road Warrior”.) Same way with Tom Cruise. (“Magnolia”=love. “Far and Away”=oy!) If the filmmakers have successfully transported you “in a world” then their personal lives and views shouldn’t matter. SHOULDN’T.

    But everybody has a line they won’t cross, and it’s in a different place for everybody. I suppose if Karl Rove ever became a movie star I’d have a hard time even watching, and paying good money for it would be out of the question.

    I’ve always idolized Mr. Stanley Kubrick. One of his best (and most accessible) was “Paths of Glory”, which I’ve seen several times. Until recently it was the only film in which I’d seen Adolphe Menjou. Then I saw an old Harold Lloyd movie called “The Milky Way” and there was a much younger Menjou in it. A good actor with a very distinctive manner of speaking. I decided to find out more about him on IMDB and discovered that he was a serious right-winger who had gleefully named names in front of HUAC in the late 40s and was a member of the John Birch Society. Ugh. How will this change things when I see “Paths of Glory”again or anything else with Menjou in it?

    Of course, Menjou has been dead for a long time. Does it still matter? Is it different when the asshole in question still walks among us? The difference between heroes and villains is simply whether we agree with them.

  8. morgan Says:

    I’m of the opinion that everyone has the choice to boycott any movies that they choose to personally boycott, as long as they aren’t stopping everyone else from seeing them. I made a decision a long time ago that I would not give a single dollar of mine to Woody Allen. I will not see his movies, regardless of how interesting they may seem, how critically acclaimed they may be. However, I do not stand outside of the theater to convince others to to do the same. I share my opinion with those close to me, but they can make their own choices.

    I still watch Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise movies, but I understand and respect the desire to avoid them.

  9. wordlily Says:

    OK, I guess I’ll attempt to say what I refrained from above. Hopefully this is clearly articulated.

    I don’t like giving celebrities a platform to talk on important issues outside their area of expertise with influencing authority. Being a well-paid actor — why does that fact alone make that person’s view on politics, religion, the crisis of the moment, or fill-in-the-blank, any more important than my opinion (or yours)? So I try to ignore such ramblings, even when they’re staged as more than ramblings.

    I recognize that this is somewhat of a side issue, compared to what you all are mainly talking about here. It’s still somewhat related, though. This stance doesn’t help with what to do when they do open their mouths off-script, though. Or when what they say is offensive.

  10. nhfalcon Says:

    Some scattered observations…

    * – I was actually thinking to myself the other day, Kizz, if Schilling’s unrestrained enthusiasm for the Republicans somehow dimmed your view of him. I mean, here he is, the Hero of ’04, Mr Bloody Sock himself, delivering us from “the Curse,” and he’s a an unashamed, vocal, Republican. What’s a Liberal Red Sox fan to do? 🙂

    Reading his blog (38pitches.com) is interesting. People seem to think that it’s somehow THEIR blog, and that if Curt says something they don’t like, he should shut up. If he’s talking about videogaming or politics and not baseball, he’s somehow unqualified to speak and / or violating the rules of the blog, which is, after all, only supposed to be about baseball.

    * – I think I’m woefully out of touch with what some of our biggest celebrities have been doing. I had this conversation with Mrs. Chili once about Mel Gibson. I knew he’d gotten a lot of flack over “Passion of the Christ.” I knew he’d gotten even more flack over his anti-Semitic tirade at a cop after he’d been pulled over for drunken driving. After some (very cursory, to be honest) research, however, I fail to see why some people think he’s such an a-hole.

    Consider the tirade, for instance – did he say what he said because he was drunk and the real him came out (which has happened to all of us at least once, I’m willing to bet), or did he say what he said because he was drunk and didn’t know what he was saying (which has also happened to all of us at least once)? He did apologize to the Jewish community, didn’t he? And they accepted the apology didn’t they? If they could, why can’t you?

    The article about his wife going to hell? Yeah, I read it. And I didn’t see an a-hole saying his wife is going to hell because she’s a non-believer. I saw a guy saying his wife was a better person that he was. “A saint,” he called her, in fact. What I saw was a guy who believed so strongly in his faith that he felt sorry for his wife because of what the dictates of his faith tell him. Is he a bad guy for believing that strongly? Or is his faith just that screwed up? I know a lot of people who frequent here have isues with organized religion. Hell (pun intended 🙂 ), I’m one of them. But are we really calling someone an unmitigated prick just because he’s following the tenets of his faith?

    Or am I missing something (which is entirely possible. Likely, even…)

    * – now, what am I missing with Tom Cruise? Is he a Scientologist? Yes, he is. Unashamedly so. And your point is? I would refer you to my point with Gibson and his belief with his faith. Scientology may be so much insanity and idiocy to you, but to Tom (yes, I know him well enough to be able to call him by his first name. We go way back. 🙂 )it’s his faith. Was he an a-hole to Brooke Shields? Yes he was. And he apologized to her. And she accepted the apology. To the point she accepted an invitation to TomKat’s wedding. If she can forgive Cruise, why can’t you?

    Did he go over the top on Oprah Winfrey’s show? Sure he did. To the point where he came across as perhaps a tad crazy? Sure. But tell me, ladies, that you wouldn’t mind your significant other being more than just a little enthusiastic in public about how much he loves you?

    Has he vehemently denied being gay? Absolutely. To the point of filing lawsuits against people who have called him gay. So what? That doesn’t make him a homophobe. If somebody accused me of being gay, I would deny it – because I’m not. It’s not being homophobic, it’s just stating the truth.

    I’m not sure what Mrs. Chili is referring to when she calls Tom “misogynistic.” I’ve heard rumors that he’s very controlling with Katie Holmes. For example, I’ve heard it’s his fault that she did not reprise her role as Rachel Dawes in “Dark Knight.” However, my sources for these rumors have been rags like the National Enquirer. Knowing her as I do, I have to assume the Mrs Chili is either referring to something I am unaware of and / or has far more reliable sources than I do.

    * – finally, here’s the bottom line: famous human beings are a) famous – they get microphones and cameras stuck in their faces every day. Sometimes they’re asked for their opinions, sometimes they’re not, but in this land of free speech that we live in, they have the right to say whatever they want, and b) they’re human beings. They’re imperfect. They make mistakes. They do things they’re not supposed to do and say things they’re not supposed to say. You know, just like you and I do. So cut them a little slack, huh? Just because they make more money than you doesn’t mean they should be held to a higher standard than you.

  11. Katrina Says:

    I have to say I agree with nhfalcon. Although I may not agree with what these people have to say, and sometimes I do, or what they do they have the right to say them. And for the most part I couldn’t care less on whether I agree with them or not, if I enjoy their movies, tv shows or music I’ll continue to watch and/or listen.

    The only time it bugs me is during the award shows like last night at the Emmy’s. Although the bit with Colbert and Stewart with the prunes was funny, and I did laugh, it’s not needed at an award’s show. I have always loved Tommy Smothers but I could’ve done without his speech. It actually made me sad to hear. They’re being awarded for their work not their beliefs, I wish they’d keep those items separate. Once again, it doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree, there’s a time and place for them to be spoken and an awards show is not one of them.

  12. nhfalcon Says:

    Yes, Katrina, YES! That is a VERY valid point. Nothing pisses me off more than celebrities who rant about their beliefs on somebody else’s time. I didn’t pay an exorbitant fee to see you in concert and instead have to listen to your rants. You weren’t hired to do an award show so you could pimp your candidate in this year’s election. If you’re on your own time, rant away. If you’re on MY time, do what I paid you to do!

  13. wordlily Says:

    I agree, Falcon and Katrina.

  14. Wordy Wednesday: Silence is a War Crime | The Blue Door Says:

    […] seems I’ve been thinking about this for a while; here’s a meditation I did about movie actors back in 2008 which touches on the same ideas I’m wrestling with here* Advertisement […]

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