Emma Thompson’s #TimesUp Moment Was Brilliant, but We Cannot Place These Responsibilities on Women Alone
Emma Thompson said #TimesUp and walked away from a major movie role when she discovered a new problematic hire.
Emma Thompson abandoned her role in the upcoming animated film, Luck, last month while it was still in production. John Lasseter had just been appointed as the new head of the film’s production company, Skydance Animation. Lasseter, who was once dubbed as the “most powerful man in animation” was fired from his position as chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar after sexual harassment allegations in 2018. In an article published last year by Variety, it was reported that “Lasseter had a reputation for touching women inappropriately in the office, including rubbing their legs and kissing them on the lips. Lasseter was also reprimanded for making out with a subordinate at an Oscar party in 2010.”
“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’?” Thompson wrote in her exit letter, published Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times with her permission.
Thompson has always been a supporter of the #MeToo movement, quoted by the Guardian saying “Hollywood is definitely changing. #MeToo has been a wonderful moment of clarity. When I was a young woman, older men in the industry would constantly try it on. I was always able to say no, and they took that for an answer. What younger women have to encounter terrifies me.”
But what remains concerning about Thompson’s contribution to both the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements is the fact that she was doing all the work to address a problem that she didn’t create nor should she hold the burden of responsibility for. In a letter to his staff announcing Lasseter’s hire, Skydance Media CEO David Ellison praised Lasseter as an “industry visionary,” and explained the rationale behind the decision to give him a second chance.
In a similar chain of events, actress Olivia Munn reported a problematic hire on the set of the film The Predator after director, Shane Black, had hired registered sex offender (and longtime friend) Steven Wilder Striegel for a scene in the movie. It was only because of Munn’s report that Twentieth Century Fox eventually removed Striegel from the film, despite the fact that Munn’s male cast mates had known about the situation all along. “I encouraged them to put out a statement once the L.A. Times reached out to us,” Munn told Variety. “I was surprised that none of them did. Again that’s their prerogative. […] Getting a convicted sex offender out of a movie that has global reach is extremely important, but the reality of what I’ve had to go through in this process of just finding out, it’s a crazy thing,“ Munn explained. “It’s like I stumbled upon something and now I’m being chased by everyone and isolated.”
While Thompson’s exit move has the potential to pave the way for other actresses to follow in her bold footsteps, why is it that women are the ones stepping up and refusing to work with problematic men? Why aren’t men approaching these situations with the same sense of integrity and moral decency that women are? We cannot place this responsibility on women alone. It is not a women’s issue. It is a societal one.