From ‘Coco’ to ‘House of Cards,’ celebrity scandal has left us conflicted about our favorite movies and shows. Here’s why we should keep watching.
You can learn a great deal about filmmaking from Director Roman Polanski (e.g., Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown). When he won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Pianist, the not-present director received a standing ovation. That was controversial because Polanski is guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl (he fled the U.S. in 1978). And there are other accusations of sexual assault against the now-84-year-old director. It seems Polanski knows how to survive a celebrity scandal and have a successful career.
You could say Hollywood had its own moral code. Or it was forgiving of members’ transgressions for the sake of artistic excellence.
That was, until the fall of 2017.
With the wave of outing alleged sexual predators and harassers, the rise of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up initiative, the industry is changing. Accused entertainment professionals, whether proven guilty or not, are losing their jobs and being ostracized. And it’s creating a predicament for fans: Can we still be entertained by or applaud work associated with celebrity scandal?
Here are five instances where we can and should.
1. Toy Story (and Every Other Pixar Film)
As the first feature-length computer-animated film and first Pixar Animation Studios feature, Toy Story holds an important place in film history. It was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay — a then-first for an animated film — and holds a spot on AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time. It’s massively popular with children and adults, but now that Director John Lasseter is accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, fans may think twice before adventuring with Woody and Buzz — and any other Pixar character.
Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, has been involved in the production of every Pixar film, such as Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, WALL-E, The Incredibles, Up and Coco. He admits to committing “missteps” that made employees feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.” Lasseter’s celebrity scandal aside, there’s no denying his role in creating exemplary animated films that often speak to life’s challenges with humor and poise, while providing more emotional depth than most live-action offerings. Pixar films are consistently original and ambitious with gentle truths and guidance that make them treasures which cannot be lost. So keep watching and singing their praises — meaningful entertainment is hard to come by.
2. House of Cards
There’s an irony to Kevin Spacey being fired from the award-winning House of Cards after allegations of sexual harassment/misconduct were made against the actor: his character Frank Underwood needed to go anyway. House of Cards is smart, topical, twisted, tinged with dark humor, and its success has rested on the stellar performances of its cast — Spacey, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly, to name just a few — and top-notch writing. Crediting House of Cards as one of the great modern TV shows won’t be easy now because of Spacey’s strong hold over the success of the series — without his slimy, mischievous performance as Frank, it would never have been bingeworthy. But that was pre–season five.
Wright’s cool and calculating Claire Underwood has always been present, stealing scene after scene from Frank, and she dominated season five; Frank was just getting in the way. And the show’s sixth and final season is going to be all about Commander in Chief Claire. Spacey’s performance may have laid the foundation for the success of House of Cards, but what everyone should be talking about going forward is how Claire deservingly stole the show and made it stronger than ever for its curtain call.
3. The Usual Suspects
In 1995 a little movie called The Usual Suspects hit theaters. This manipulative mystery brought criminal mastermind Keyser Söze into the filmic world and features one of the best twists in film history. It’s no stranger to best-of lists and won two Academy Awards and a host of other accolades. Directed by Bryan Singer, it launched the filmmaker’s career (he’d later be at the helm of the X-Men franchise). And Singer being accused of raping a 17-year-old boy is just one celebrity scandal plaguing this film-noirish achievement in filmmaking.
It’d be easy to ignore or not even know the scandal surrounding The Usual Suspects director, but there’s a bigger problem: Kevin Spacey plays the seminal character and even took home an Oscar for his performance. While every performance in the film is great, you watch The Usual Suspects for Spacey’s Verbal. It’s such a phenomenal film, though, that you’ve got to get past the negative stigma now attached to Spacey and revel in his exceptional performance (it is truly unforgettable and mesmerizing). As is Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie’s twist — it alone makes The Usual Suspects a must-see.
Amazon’s Transparent is groundbreaking for its portrayal of a transgender parent. GLAAD has sung its praises for featuring LGBTQ characters. It’s won numerous awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Television Series Musical or Comedy, and its star Jeffrey Tambor has taken home statues for his performance as Maura Pfefferman (born Morton Pfefferman). Transparent is a crowd-pleaser and has the perfect mix of comedy and drama with a great deal of heart. It’s unfortunate, though, Tambor’s alleged sexual harassment of members of the series’ team will now taint this progressive program.
Tambor denies any wrongdoing but still quit the show, stating, “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have affected our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.” He also asserts that he has “never been a predator — ever.” Regardless of the dark cloud that now hovers over Transparent, its originality and daring acknowledgment of the need for acceptance and tolerance make it an important series to watch and celebrate.
5. The Weinstein Film Library
Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob are responsible for more movies than you probably realize. Some of the more well-known are Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Silver Linings Playbook, The King’s Speech, Sin City, Chicago, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare in Love, The Lord of the Rings, Scream, Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction and The Hateful Eight. They were the powerhouse Hollywood producing duo, until allegations of sexual assault and harassment surfaced against Harvey and it all came toppling down.
At least 84 women have come forward, accusing the producer of everything from inappropriate behavior to rape. Many of these women starred in Weinstein-produced films, and Harvey held power over their careers. And that’s exactly why their movies cannot be banished and forgotten, even as Harvey’s celebrity scandal marks him as the biggest sexual predator in Hollywood history. The women who allegedly endured his abuse deserve to have their work appreciated for its worth and because of the strength they displayed in dealing with a potential monster in return for a career.
Coming to terms with the fact that a creative professional’s work can be seen separately from their private life isn’t easy. As you reconcile how to appreciate entertainment now plagued by celebrity scandal, remember it takes an army to make entertainment and one person’s actions shouldn’t ruin it.