A new report reveals that a whopping 94 percent of women in the entertainment industry have experienced harassment or assault. And it wasn’t just Harvey; it was Louis. It was Messrs. Hoffman, Lauer, Mario, Tambor and Russell.
Entertainment icons are falling from grace — but what about the work they have created? Is it wrong to be enthralled by Kevin Spacey’s ruthless character in “House of Cards” after learning about his alleged sexual misconduct toward more than a dozen men, including minors? Can we still find Aziz Ansari’s depictions of navigating modern dating insightful after reading about his controversial sexual behavior? After at least eight sexual misconduct accusations, can we still quote Jeremy Piven’s one-liners as super-agent Ari Gold from Entourage? If history is any indication, we probably can. But we shouldn't. (And we should probably stop doing that last one, regardless.) If consumers want art to be ethically created, they must put their financial support behind artists that align with those values.
Consumers have a questionable track record with unethical entertainment consumption. Take musician Chuck Berry, widely considered one of the greatest guitarists in history. Berry was once convicted of transporting a 14-year old girl across state lines for sex. This January, well into the #MeToo and Times Up movements, he was honored posthumously by Jon Batiste and Gary Clark, Jr. in a musical tribute at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Michael Jackson is another example. The "King of Pop" faced a slew of sexual misconduct allegations, including formal charges of child molestation and conspiracy to commit child abduction, among others.
These charges did not end Jackson's career or his legacy. Since his death in 2009, Jackson has received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and released two albums; he earned $825 million in 2016 alone.
Comedian Richard Pryor is no exception. Last year, Rolling Stone ranked Pryor the No. 1 stand-up comedian of all-time — even though he was a violent offender toward women.
And then there's Woody Allen. The filmmaker was accused of molesting his 7-year old adopted daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992. While the presiding judge over the case ruled that it could not be proved that Mr. Allen had indeed sexually assaulted Dylan, he noted, “Mr. Allen’s behavior towards Dylan was grossly inappropriate.” Since then, Mr. Allen has written, directed and acted in nearly 40 feature films. He even received a lifetime achievement award by the Golden Globes in 2014.
We, as consumers, have been incredibly forgiving when it comes to entertainment. We may have even stated as a principle that an artist and their art are two different things. But we should no longer be willing to make that distinction.
This is not an unreasonable demand. Artists can be good people — or, at the very least, not predators.
To achieve this goal, however, we must remember that we are the marketplace. We need to put our dollars, not just our tweets, behind art created ethically.
Take, for example, the film “All The Money in the World,” Ridley Scott’s latest thriller. Following the fall of Kevin Spacey — who played a lead role — Mr. Scott scrapped Mr. Spacey’s scenes and completely reshot them with another actor. The move cost Mr. Scott over $10 million.
While far from a flop, the film opened at a lackluster seventh place and only recently recouped its $50 million budget.
That's a shame. This could have been a tremendous moment for champions of Times Up and related movements to put their support behind the film with their wallets.
There will never be a regulation that mandates that only “good people” can create art.
If consumers believe that entertainment should be created ethically, we should be rewarding those who are doing so, ensuring that there isn’t a place in that market for the Weinsteins of the world. In the meantime, I’ll be re-watching “The Office” for the seventh time and hoping Steve Carrell is as nice as he seems.
Garrett Zink, a Baltimore native, is a graduate of University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. He is a corporate social responsibility strategist.Twitter: @GarrettZink.