Critical Engagement

The problem is certainly nothing new, but the recent sexual assault and harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and a host of other Hollywood heavyweights has energized the conversation. In this installment of Point/Counterpoint, Sam Mossman and Dan Stoffel politely and civilly discuss whether to boycott the works of the (alleged) perpetrators.

Dan Stoffel: These recent events have shown me that I can certainly do a better job of watching my own actions, and speaking out when I see or hear somebody behaving badly. But the only way to have some effect on these individuals who are using their power and influence to hurt people is to stop buying tickets to see their movies, and to stop watching their shows on satellite and streaming. Money talks, and if their box office and ratings suffer, it’s the least I can do.

Sam Mossman: I agree, money talks, and as Americans, voting with our pocketbooks is one of our most powerful voices. But honestly, in most cases it is already too late. I’ve already spent money on movie tickets and DVDs well ahead of the accusations. I certainly don’t want to endorse sexual assault in any way, but a boycott feels like something that happens after the fact, and for someone who is already sitting on a fortune like Weinstein, is a slightly less extravagant income really much of a deterrent?

So hypothetically, if that next Star Wars or Marvel movie was to star Kevin Spacey, or was produced by Weinstein... now that you know of the allegations, would you stay home? Or would you be comfortable saying to yourself that one more ticket one way or the other really won’t make much difference, so what’s the harm?

Touché right in the heart of my fandom. In a world without grey areas I’d have to say yes, but there’s more going on here than just me keeping my ticket money out of Weinstein's hands. There are literally hundreds of people that put their effort into any given movie, and many more involved in all the ancillary jobs that get that movie to the consumer. The idea of punishing any of those people for the actions of their despicable boss doesn’t appeal to me. It just seems like a very roundabout way to crack down on this kind of unacceptable behavior.

Sammo, you’ve raised one of the most problematic issues of boycott-as-protest: who does it really hurt? Cancellation of House of Cards won’t rock Spacey’s bank account as proportionally as that of the gaffer or costumer. And with so many people involved, it may be necessary to make that tough choice to separate the art from the artist. Perhaps just seeing their sorry butts shamed and fired will have to be enough for now.

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