Would You Blacklist A Movie Because Of The Director's Personal Life?

Last night, I caught a preview screening of X-Men: Days Of Future Past. It's a boisterously fun time-travel movie that funnels the best elements of The Terminator and The Matrix through Marvel's universe to deliver the best X-Men movie to date. And yet, while queuing outside the cinema, I couldn't help but feel slightly conflicted. (Anyone who keeps abreast of celebrity news will know exactly what I'm talking about.)

Without getting into the grimy details, X-Men: Days Of Future Past director Bryan Singer is currently embroiled in a legal battle of the worst kind (it involves a locked bedroom and an unwilling teenage associate — we'll let you connect the dots.) Like Woody Allen, Singer has vehemently denied the allegations and should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Nevertheless, it made me contemplate my moral obligations as a moviegoer in these types of situations. Is it wrong to support a movie made by an allegedly reprehensible human being? Or should a commercial product (I hesitate to call most Hollywood movies 'art') be judged on its own merits?

The history of cinema is filled with great movie makers whose personal lives leave a sour taste in the mouth. Some are guilty of outrageous political views, others of outspoken bigotry and some have even been convicted of serious crimes.

A few examples off the top of my head include Chinatown director Roman Polanski (who fled the US after being charged with raping a minor), Pulp Fiction co-creator Roger Avary (jailed for killing a passenger in a DUI offense), Powder director Victor Salva (convicted for sexually molesting a 12-year old boy) and Olympia director Leni Riefenstahl (that whole Nazi thing).

All of the above creators continued to make movies after their crimes were committed, which presents the aforementioned dilemma. On one hand, a movie has absolutely nothing to do with the personal life of its creator and shouldn't affect one's judgement. But on the other hand, we're sometimes talking about truly terrible crimes here — is it really okay to just sweep this under the carpet so you can enjoy a night at the movies? Often, a percentage of profits go directly into the director's pocket which makes the situation even murkier.

I can't help but feel that our willingness to turn a blind eye to this stuff sets a precedence where Hollywood types are given a free pass by society. But that's just my two cents. You can cast your own vote in the poll below. We're also keen to hear your opinions in the comments section below. Have at it!


    Often, a percentage of profits go directly into the director’s pocket which makes the situation even murkier.

    Pirate it. Problem solved :)

    Last edited 20/05/14 2:58 pm

      Was about to say the same thing.

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    For centuries Art and Scandal have walked hand in hand.

    Honestly, who cares if Michelangelo had a teenage boyfriend or Polanski liked young girls or Woody Allen has a boatload of luggage. Honestly, even Michael Jackson and Rolf Harris' issues haven't changed my view of their music either.

    The art is still art despite the obscene levels of Victorianesque shock and horror that seems to permeate our society on this issue right now.

      I think sexually molesting a 12-year old boy (as was the case with Victor Salva) goes beyond "Victorianesque shock". Polanski was also guilty of a lot more than liking young girls. Obviously there are degrees of criminality to consider when judging these things.

        In the case of this director, the teenager was 17 at the time of the alleged offence.

        But either way, you pay your royalty to the artist in recognition of the film/painting/song NOT in approval of his private life. Their private sex life has little to zero bearing on the art as far as I am concerned.

        I didn't boycott Ender's Game because Orson Scott Wells is a Mormon and I wouldn't boycott a movie because the director allegedly drugged and "molested" a 17 year old.

          The victim was definitely 12: http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jun/11/entertainment/ca-salva11

          Not sure where you're getting 17 from.

            I'm guessing Jayd is referring to Singer rather than Salva in his post.

            The major part of your article is about Singer, Chris. His accuser was 17 at the time he allegedly willing took a quaalude then sat on Singer's lap to masturbate.

              My bad; our wires were crossed there. Singer was just a spring board for the article -- I was really talking about directors who have been convicted of serious crimes.

                You've got to cut Polanski some slack his wife got brutally murdered by the Manson family AND he's a Holocaust survivor.

          I don't think people were boycotting Ender's Game because he's a Mormon, rather than for his vociferous homophobia (notably a board member of NOM) and cash support for politically active homophobic groups.

      Art doesn't exist in a vacuum. You can enjoy the art and condemn the artist, but people have to make the decision as to whether or not they're happy to continue to support someone who has done something completely vile. I choose no, but that's my choice.

        I'm very skeptical on saying no. It seems like an unsound decision for one to boycott a film because of an act the director's done. The director is not the only person making a film, a film is a huge, elaborate creative process made up by many people. To say "NO I will not watch this film because one person who helped make it was screwing around with an underage girl", and yes while it is a vile act, it seems like a very hypocritical statement. If you're going to boycott a film because of that, why not boycott the tech companies that make your phone, your computer, your TV? What about the vile acts the companies have done? Ruining the environment, the taxes they've dodged, the underpaid labour, the slave labour used to extract the materials to make the products you use. These acts have been a LOT worse than just 1 person screwing around with a minor.

        Last edited 23/05/14 10:24 pm

    There are many people who make a movie. Boycotting the hard work of others isnt really fair.

      True, but boycotting a movie doesn't really affect the wider crew -- they all got paid upfront and aren't penalised if the movie bombs. By contrast, a director's reputation is often only as good as their last movie. So the boycott is still appropriately targeted.

        Actors get royalty. The composer gets royalty. The bands whose music is used get royalty. In addition CGI and such can get royalty too.

        You boycott the movie because of this alleged molesting of a 17 year old and you punish each and every actor, the composer and more.

          You obviously don't know what 'royalty' means if you think it's something actors get. Even if you're thinking of residuals, the overwhelming majority of actors get upfront payments and only a precious handful can negotiate a percentage/gross contract e.g. Robert Downey Jr and the latter Marvel movies. Even when presented with the option, most actors still prefer upfront payment, especially when the commercial success is not guaranteed e.g. Donald Sutherland and Animal House.

          Ditto for composers, CGI people, etc. There's a case to be made that a poor showing for a film means fewer are willing to purchase or stream an album, but that's a different problem entirely. No one's livelihood is severely affected here except maybe Bryan Singer.

        What you also fail to take into account is sequels, if the first movie in a series bombs purely because of allegations not proven then you also hurt everyone who would have worked on the future films. If X-men bombs (hypothetical will never happen) because of allegations do you really think they would make apocalypse.

        Personally I would only boycott a movie if allegations are proven to be true, without punishment and the movie was made after this has happened. This only punishes those that did the crime and those that don't care about working with them. On the other hand if they have served their time then it is no longer an issue for me.

        Last edited 20/05/14 4:25 pm

        A good movie is a good movie. Many artists have had troubling pasts with drugs/addiction/crime. A movie bombing out would spell trouble for many of the people involved for future endevors. Let the criminal justice system take care of the criminal aspects. If the guy is found guilty he will be punished regardless of how great his movie legacy.

    The Polanski case is slightly more complicated than you describe (though still thoroughly disgusting).

    For me, it depends on the director, the crime, whether or not they've been actually convicted of anything, and how much of a sacrifice boycotting their films represents.

    Moral realtivism is much easier to apply when you realise that Hollywood has always been a cesspit when it comes to morals and ethics - similar to the realisation that that doping in sports is the rule, not the exception - and that the "real" crime is being exposed for the bad things you do. Not being willing to do depraved things - or have depraved things done to you - can be very career limiting. So boycotting a single director because of a single act really doesn't achieve much - it's the system, rather than any individual.

    The other thing to consider is the case of Kevin Clash, as a reason boycotting at this stage might be premature.

    A movie is not a product of one person. How many do you think worked on this? From the Actors, Producers, Directors to the guy sweeping up the trash?

    Should they all be judged by one mans ALLEGED actions?

    A movie is not made by one person, it is made also by writers, actors, crew, the list goes on.

    Should you boycott the Beverly Hills hotel chain, just because the owner has implemented Sharia law in the country he runs?
    Or refuse to buy Shell petrol products, because your money goes to Brunei?

      If you're willing to inconvenience yourself for your convictions? Yes. I don't consume meat because it indirectly condones barbaric industry practices. There are plenty of hotel chains for me to spend my money, that I don't have to pick the one whose owner might be a scumbag, etc. It's less about boycott, more about rewarding those who do business in a more ethical manner.

    I was a big fan of Gary Glitter's music, but now I do not listen to his music, I got rid of my collection because he is a convicted paedophile (no one should ever be blase with this crime) . I make my personal decisions based off a conviction. Rolf Harris is pending. I will boycott any directors / actors / musicians / artists if they are convicted of that crime or other heinous acts such as murder and rape . Hearsay and page 3 rumours are not enough to boycott.

    Nah, you could be a mad d-bag and still make something amazing, I can't really speak for this film. But meh.

    Jayd - rape is rape regardless of age ... and the abuse reportedly started at age 15. To accept it because the the accuser (or victim depending on how you pre-judge the situation) is old enough is baseless.

    This isn't the first time Singer has been in this situation either. Art is not above the law. Artists, I mean a Holywood directors, are not above the law.

    However he is innocent until proven guilty, so boycott away should he be convicted he's convicted! To those working with a potentially child molester - its your career the mud will stick to as well.

    With Singer, he is still innocent until proven guilty. Punishing him, the film and everyone involved because of allegations isn't the right thing to do.

    It's different when you know what someone did. When people chose to knowingly work with the actor knowing what they had done.

    I would never pay for a polanski film. He drugged and raped a child with premeditation. He was grooming her and everything. So he's a no.

    Woody Allen is a grey area. What he did to Mia Farrow, running off with the daughter is a scumbag act. However we don't actually know if he did anything illegal. I think you can question it, question him and make your own decision. Personally I will see the occasional film of his. Never excuse his scumbag act though.

    Leni Riefenstahl, oh please she was in a country and this is what was happening. Lets boycott John Wayne and George Takai for their Vietnam propaganda film 'Green Berets'. And every other film maker that was involved in American films promoting bullshit wars where atrocities happened. It's just silly to do that, this is what is going on in the country they are in. Leni was a prominent film maker in that country.

    They should have clauses put in their contracts stating, if you do something that generates negative PR for the movie, any shares of the profits will be held until the matter is settled and if guilty the proceeds will go to victim support organisations.

    Bryan Singer should probably do something like that himself if he is innocent (not to say if he doesn't he is guilty, it would just be good business sense).

    To an extent?

    Singer hasn't been convicted yet, and the evidence presented to the public hasn't been overly damning.

    Poloaski on the other hand has been convicted. I will also point out that there is a large amount of celebrities that have signed a petition saying that he should be allowed into the US, which is frankly pretty disgusting.

    Ender's game for example I didn't see because he views can't be questioned

    But with xmen, the director has also chosen to step away from the film completely as well.

    So I would say that I don't see movies based on my morals, but I wouldn't currently not see this movie.

    Would you blacklist a movie based on the producer's personal life?
    What about one of the lead actors?
    What about one of the supporting actors? Or a minor actor?
    Or the writer? The stunt double? The Gopher for the assistant to the second cameraman?

    I can understand blacklisting a movie because of the director's crimes, but where would you draw the line?

    Like Woody Allen, Singer has vehemently denied the allegations and should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

    This is one of my current bugbears - 'innocent until proven guilty' is a (important) (quasi)legal concept, not an epistemic one. Consider: Man comes up to you, says "hey, watch this, I'm going to shoot someone for no reason whatsoever" and then puts a bullet in the head of the next passer by. Is that person entitled to your presumption of innocence just because a court hasn't proved them guilty? Likewise, if he then pressed the gun into your hand and fled the scene, leaving you to be arrested and convicted of the crime, are you 'guilty' in anything more than a legal sense? Remember also that courts don't determine if someone is 'innocent' merely that they are 'not guilty', meaning not provably so sufficient to meet some threshold of doubt.

    Obviously the world is never as cut and dry as that example, but in the case of Woody Allen for example, a sensible response is not "well a court never convicted him so I have to assume it didn't happen" so much as "well based on what I understand to be true about the situation, I think it's reasonable to believe he probably did and is therefore morally culpable and should be treated accordingly". With all the necessary caveats around "I'll never know the whole story" and "later facts may come to light that make me change my mind".

    Anyway this is all a very long winded plea for people to stop saying "innocent until proven guilty" as if the outcome of a trial retrospectively alters reality.

    Last edited 21/05/14 2:43 pm

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