The actress Dame Emma Thompson is tired of Hollywood building walls and policies to protect powerful, sexually violent men. With a simple but instructive letter to the executives at Skydance Media, she explains why she has chosen to leave a beloved project, an animated feature called Luck, to distance herself from their company. And that reason is the involvement of the alleged harasser John Lasseter, the animator and Pixar cofounder, who was hired by Skydance after leaving Pixar.
“I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising,” the Oscar-winning actress wrote in the letter, which was released by the Los Angeles Times today. “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.”
Even before #MeToo hit the Internet, it should have been clear that no one should have to work with a sexual predator, but it’s still not often that a woman has the power and clout to speak up against such situations. In her letter, Thompson supports the film and its director, Alessandro Carloni, however she questions the company’s decision to hire someone with Lasseter’s “pattern of misconduct,” calling it “odd” but also “complicated.”
Thompson has long been outspoken about the grotesque web of sexual predators that haunt the film landscape. In an interview last January with the BBC, she noted, “All women, bar none, from the age of maybe 8 onwards, will have a story to tell you. So if that horrifies you, then open your eyes, because this is a sexist society.”
Lasseter announced in November 2017 that he was leaving the company he cofounded after alleged “missteps” and reports of unwanted kissing and touching of a female co-worker. But Lasseter didn’t have to wait long before being offered a job at Skydance. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the bigwigs at the company sent out an e-mail “noting that Lasseter was contractually obligated to behave professionally, and convened a series of town halls in which Lasseter apologized for past behavior and asked to be given the chance to prove himself to his new staff.” In addition, somewhat oddly, the female president of Paramount Pictures Animation, which has a distribution deal with Skydance, “took the highly unusual step of meeting with female employees to tell them that they could decline to work with Lasseter.”
Thompson called their bluff and lived to talk about it. Her letter includes questions that perhaps the studio and every single damn workplace in the world should be asking when it hires anyone ever.
- 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?
As we said in the ‘90s, triple snap. All valid points by a British dame worthy of a bow.