Until last week, Emma Thompson had been due to voice a role in Luck, a big budget family film produced by Skydance Animation. However, after the studio hired controversial former Pixar head John Lasseter to join the production, Thompson abruptly left the project despite having begun recording the voiceover for her part. Presumably, this was as a result of the past sexual misconduct –or “missteps”, in his own words – admitted by Lasseter shortly before taking a leave of absence from his previous job at Walt Disney Company which soon extended to a resignation.
Well, plaudits to Emma Thompson, I say. If there were any doubts that, as one of the most outspoken critics of Hollywood’s gender inequality, her unwavering principles were earnest, this bold show of courage certainly dispels them. By having the courage of her convictions and walking away from a potentially lucrative project in favour of tackling sexism in cinema, Thompson has shown how crucial it is for those with any power or leverage to take responsibility for protecting women in the industry and has provided a noble example for others to follow.
But what about those who claim that predatory men deserve a second chance? Well, before redemption can be earned, retribution must be undergone. Despite reports of “grabbing, kissing and making comments about physical attributes”, Lasseter walked out of one job and into another without so much as a slap on the wrist. Far too often in creative fields, talent and the preservation of reputation trumps the protection of individuals, especially those found lower down the ladder. The recent wave of abusive men facing the consequences of their actions has empowered and propelled the #metoo movement forward and without the threat of adequate punishment, victims’ experiences are made trivial and the acceptance workplace harassment is normalised.
What strikes me most about Thompson’s move is the boldness and efficacy of her actions. Imagine if more professionals were to follow her lead; employers would be forced to create safe workplaces or else face widespread walk-outs. Wearing black gowns on red carpets now seems vapid and insincere. Seeing the stars who critique the broken system continue to work with confirmed abusers is infuriating.
Waiting for change to come from the top-down is futile. Skydance’s decision makes it clear that the patriarchy is alive and kicking in Tinseltown. What we need are more women like Thompson who are willing to sacrifice personal gain to challenge institutions who put dangerous men in positions of power. For the #metoo movement to have any lasting impact, Hollywood needs to get its act together, so to speak.
Image credit: yorkpress.co.uk