Emma Thompson is a newly appointed Dame—but her recently published letter proved (yet again) why she’s long been our feminist #kween.
The British actor revealed this week that she pulled out of her voice-over role in Skydance Animation’s upcoming animated film Luck over concerns about Skydance’s newly hired executive, John Lasseter, who was released from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar in 2018 following sexual harassment allegations. In a letter written to Skydance and released to the Los Angeles Times, Thompson outlined her reasoning for quitting the project, writing, “It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.”
Thompson then posed several mic-drop questions to the company, kicking off her letter with an inquiry that deserved applause IRL: “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, a decorated Hollywood veteran known for bringing unique women to life on screen in films like Harry Potter, Nanny McPhee and Love Actually (#JusticeforKaren) and unofficial president of the DGAF club, has a history of speaking her mind and calling out problematic men, including disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the U.S. President.
Yes, badass activism is all in a days work for the Dame… but TBH Thompson shouldn’t be the one responsible for doing this labour, because it’s always women doing this labour, and it’s about time that changed.
Thompson is still a feminist trailblazer
Don’t get us wrong, Thompson’s statement and stance *is* a significant moment for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
I don't think I am overstating this, but this letter from Emma Thompson on her departure from Luck is one the most significant moments in this movement. pic.twitter.com/RXkr7FXOkL
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) February 26, 2019
What makes her actions so unique and badass is how proactive it is. In the wake of #MeToo, we’ve seen a lot of individuals both in Hollywood and IRL retroactively apologize for their past involvement with problematic figures. In January 2018, Call My By Your Name hottie and everyone’s harness-wearing internet BF, Timothée Chalamet, announced that he was donating his salary for Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, joining an ever-growing list of Hollywood elite who have, in recent years, apologized for working with the director. (Allen has long been accused of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter, Dylan, and grooming his current wife—and ex-step daughter—Soon-Yi Previn.)
While Chalamet’s actions are commendable, what makes Thompson’s response so different is the part where it came before she worked with Lasseter. The Dame made a proactive business decision and said thank u, next to working with a seriously problematic man—and the company that employs him.
As her namesake Emma Watson—and the Time’s Up initiative—tweeted, this is “what it looks like to walk the walk” when it comes to pushing for societal and institutional change. *All of the heart eye emojis*
— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) February 27, 2019
But it feels a *little* like more of the same
But let’s not get too excited. For one thing, it’s *always* women who walk the walk by stepping up and saying, “Meh, maybe not.” Most recently, actor Olivia Munn found herself in a similarly uncomfortable position on the set of her 2018 film The Predator. In September 2018, the Los Angeles Times broke the story that the film’s director, Shane Black, had knowingly hired registered sex offender Steven Wilder Striegel—a long-time friend of his—for a scene in the movie. Upon finding out about his history, Munn reported the situation to Twentieth Century Fox. Striegel was removed from the film, and while Munn should have been applauded for her proactive stance, instead, she says the process was isolating. Her cast mates—who were all notably male—took months to speak out about the situation or even to offer support, either publicly or privately.
Munn wasn’t given the chance to step away from the project—no one informed her of his history, and she ended up sharing three scenes with Striegel. But what’s worse, she was left to bear the brunt of public criticism for speaking out, while her male co-stars, who arguably have more privilege by virtue of being well, male, were able to take their time responding.
Here’s what we need to see next
Don’t get us wrong, we’re happy that people with influence are addressing these issues (and, in the case of Munn, prompting change), but you know what would be *super* revolutionary? If these women weren’t put in these situations in the first place. Munn and Thompson both felt they had to speak up, but the onus really should have been on Black and Skydance Media owner and founder David Ellison to speak up. Or, better yet, step in and stop these problematic AF men from being hired in the first place.
Because real change, as Thompson so brilliantly pointed out in her letter, won’t come until the people who are leading these companies use their power to veto problematic hiring decisions and work to change toxic company cultures. And TBH, more than a year after the #MeToo movement took off, they should have done it by now.
So, let’s stop moving these problematic dudes from prestigious position to prestigious position (*cough* Woody Allen *cough* President Trump *cough*) and instead work to foster better work environments for everyone. Because, just like the Oscars, we’re *pretty* sure there are several un-problematic women (or, okay fine, an un-problematic man) who are just right for the job.
— Busy Philipps (@BusyPhilipps) December 7, 2018
“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,” Thompson wrote in her letter. “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.”
We applaud Thompson and Munn for stepping up. Maybe it’s time the executives in Hollywood did the same.
Olivia Munn Got Support From Her The Predator Co-Stars, and Thanks From Jane Doe
One Tree Hill Showrunner Fired from Royals After Dozens of Harassment Allegations
Years Before #MeToo, Outing a Powerful Man for Bad Behaviour Nearly Ruined My Career