Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Fall of John Lasseter? Hell, no!

Until now John Lasseter was one of the luckiest man in the world. Beloved by Disney and Pixar fans for his contribution to animation and all the great PIXAR classics, Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, and recipient of so many awards and honors that i've stopped to count them - he's probably not far to have received as many awards as did his hero Walt Disney.

But today, the list of famous people in trouble because of past sexual harassment or wrong behavior with their employees seems to never end. Yesterday it was the turn of famous interviewer Charlie Rose and today the unthinkable is happening as John Lasseter announced he's on leave after report of misconduct and apologizes "for making some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable". Let's try to understand what really happened and start by the memo that was sent by John Lasseter to Pixar employees, and then i have more to say after it. The Hollywood Reporter article who posted Lasseter memo is HERE.

John Lasseter memo to PIXAR employees:

"I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers. This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain. It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.

I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be. It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable. That was never my intent. Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.

In my conversations with Disney, we are united in our commitment to always treat any concerns you have with the seriousness they deserve, and to address them in an appropriate manner. We also share a desire to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture that has been the foundation of our studios’ success since the beginning. And we agree the first step in that direction is for me to take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here. As hard as it is for me to step away from a job I am so passionate about and a team I hold in the highest regard, not just as artists but as people, I know it’s the best thing for all of us right now. My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.

I’m immensely proud of this team, and I know you will continue to wow the world in my absence. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working together again in the new year.


Disney also posted a statement regarding John Lasseter:

"We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical."

The Hollywood Reporter is adding in another article that "one longtime Pixar employee says Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes." Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings."

Okay. Now, did John Lasseter behaved badly with women? According to the facts reported by The Hollywood Reporter, and even according to Lasseter himself, yes he did. And he's of course right to apologize and to leave Pixar for a few months to think about all this. But, wait a minute, as we live in a world where people react so emotionally and are always fast to make a judgment on  what is reported and mix everything with other things that did not happen, let's say it clearly: as far as we know at the time i write this article John Lasseter did not raped anyone, he didn't walked naked around Pixar Studios and he didn't forced any Pixar employee to any sexual acts. It doesn't mean that what Lasseter did is nothing, it just mean that he's been "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes" - and that's all he did. "That's all" doesn't mean of course that it's not reprehensible. But does it mean that Lasseter deserves to have his career at Pixar ended and his public image destroyed because of what he did? My opinion is no, it doesn't. It certainly deserves a strong explanation and apologies from Lasseter to the women who were embarrassed by  John behavior, but to go up to the point he must be fired from Pixar looks a bit exagerrated to me, simply because it is forgetting all the rest - the good side of John Lasseter and what he brought to Animation during the last thirty years. In two words, if you want to judge John Lasseter, as long as there is no real crime - and there is is not here - judge him with everything that makes him John Lasseter and not only the small part of him belonging to the "dark side of the force".

But there is more that i want to add: as famous French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu once said: " There is no power, there is only abuse of power". What happen to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein prove that Bourdieu is right. One month ago Weinstein was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood and in less than a month he lost all is power and is now virtually nothing. That said, what John Lasseter is blamed for looks minor in comparison of what Weinstein did and if Weinstein fully deserved to fall i think that it would be really unfair to put John Lasseter in the same bag. In my opinion, what's happening currently to all of these men accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate attitude towards women, what they're paying for, is for some moments, as short as they were, during which they did "abuse of power".

Now, remember the famous book titled "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"?  Well, it couldn't be more right, men are from Mars indeed, and Mars is an energy which rules the force, sexual power, animality, and - as it was the God of war in ancient mythologies - it also rules agressive behavior. It doesn't justify, of course, that men abuse of this power to assault women and i'll be the first to applaud all these women who have the courage to come out to say the truth about what happened to them, but i'm just asking for a fair judgment here and to don't put a gentle tap on the ass or a hug a bit too warm - as inappropriate as they can be - in the same bag than a rape or a sexual attack. In two words, i ask everyone to keep his common sense and to don't see suddenly John Lasseter as a creep or a monster because it wouldn't have any sense, and it's not the case here. John may have to take some sabbatical months to think about his past behavior, but does he deserves to "fall" for this? Hell, no!


Anonymous said...

And you, another white middle aged male is to decide he cannot fall from this and his punishment is "too much"? It is time white male privilege is OVER WITH.
Ask the women he groped they would tell you to FIRE HIM.
Think this thru and stay away from political and ethical posts like this, It is supposed to be a theme park blog. Not this topic which clearly you should be educated about.
Hope you allow this comment and it makes you rethink your statement.

Al said...

The women working at Pixar and who had to put up with John's behaviour should judge if they would feel comfortable working with John again.

The comment on the great legacy from Lasseter is not relevant when judging John's ability to properly behave in front of women. Two different things that should be considered separately.

Alain Littaye said...

To Anonymous: All what i'm saying is that the "punishment" must be in proportion of what happened. That's all. And it looks to me, and the fact that i'm a male has nothing to see in my opinion, believe me, that what happened ( and if it happened for the reasons it is said, because it could be for some very different reasons ) don't deserve to stop John Lasseter career. I repeat that it's a very very different case than the one of Harvey Weinstein.
And by the way, this is MY website, and if i want to be political ( which was not the case here ) and you don't like it, get the hell out of here!

xavier said...

There is a lot of great artists that were horrible personns at different levels in their private life. And sometimes it spoils your appreciation of their art.

Personnaly I was shocked to discover that sexual aggressions were so wide spread.
But now everything is spiraling out of control with actual rapes/bullying/groping/slopy words are all pu in the same bag of "sexual aggression". And it is wrong. Because Weinstein/Spacey/Lasseter are very different cases.

At Anonymous (anonym of course...) what the point of "It is time white male privilege is OVER WITH." ???!!!
Regarding Bill Cosby, would you said : "It is time *black* male privilege is OVER WITH." ? It's just irrelevant.

At Alain : just love your rent toward the troll. It reminds me of TV Leon Zitronne who forbid a silly viewer to watch again his programm ! :-)

Jones said...

Abuse of power is everywhere in companies - I have friends (men, by the way) who were fired for speaking their mind in a meeting. Now is that more or less repulsive than an insensitive comment about physical attributes? Disney´s response is a crying shame, imo. 2 short sentences? The man earned them an insane amount of money, could they not at least have issued a statement that does not directly imply that he´s the Antichrist?

We should be very careful when judging people we do not even know. Judging impulsively just because there are women involved and it seems to be politically correct is very dangerous. Let´s not forget that it was political correctness (or rather, the backlash against PC) that made Trump President...

In today´s heated climate, Walt Disney would probably be fired from his own company for being an Anti-Semite. Tha fact that he clearly was not anti-semitic would not count, trust me...

For me, everybody is innocent until proven guilty - and *not* until somebody claims he is guilty...

Anonymous said...

Oh wait, you are allowed to give your 2 cents but I am not? If you don't like comments than you need to turn off the comments section. With this mind set we can go on and on in circles. no?

I suggest you stop comparing him to Weinstein. Two different cases and he has been punished much more intensely. What you are proposing has a lot to do with the fact that you are male of a certain age who is completely biased to these facts. If you were a woman or any of the women who were harassed by this guy you would have not reacted that way. It is just like racism, while some white people would think a racial joke or a comment is HARMLESS that can still hurt a person of color tremendously.

Now every day on the media somebody else gets blamed, until now NON of these cases were lies. All of them turned out to be true. And that's great. It is time male priveledge is challenged.

I've been following this website for years and bought your books for myself and family members for Christmas multiple times, this does not change my opinion of you nor the blog so let's agree to disagree. And by the I am a 35 year old heterosexual male completely disgusted by these facts and the lack of compassion on the web.

Alain Littaye said...

You're perfectly allowed to give your two cents but NOT to tell me what i can do or cannot do on my site. As for Lasseter none of us know exactly what happened ( except if you're one of Pixar employees telling that he..." ), and more specifically what EXACTLY was John intention in his mind when doing these a bit too warm hugs. All we know is what the medias have reported from what they heard, etc... And what i'm saying is that judging a situation only on this, in those times where everyone react too emotionally, is not the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has experienced the environment at Pixar I think I have a bit of a more informed take on this ;).

No one wants him there. He makes women uncomfortable and his behavior defines the sexist work environment that's an issue at Pixar.

It's not about ending his career. It's about allowing everyone else's career at Pixar to proceed without toxic masculinity seeping down from the top. Woman's careers suffer when they're dealing with sexual harassment while trying to climb the corporate ladder.

Alain Littaye said...

As you say you worked at Pixar and although your comment is anonymous, i've approved it, and can give you at least the benefit of the doubt but my feeling is this one: it's not that no one wants John at Pixar, it's that no one wants him doing "sexual harassment" ( and again, IF he really did it and up to what point because as far as we know no one has been raped by him ).
I could agree that he can be with a kid knowing no limits - after all between directing Pixar and his position of Creative Advisor at WDI he had the greatest toys he could dream of - but John is also extremely intelligent and even have a lot of genius so i'm sure he can transcend this behavior and be back and presenting no risk for anyone.
To admit your bad behavior and be able to transcend it is a blessing but to be able to forgive someone is also a blessing...

Jon said...

Despite your statement that you don't know exactly what happened at Pixar, your article is full of ways that you downplay what these women say they went through and dismiss their experiences because it doesn't fit your opinion of what's "inappropriate."

You put "sexual harassment" in quotes. You say "i'm just asking for a fair judgment here and to don't put a gentle tap on the ass or a hug a bit too warm - as inappropriate as they can be - in the same bag than a rape or a sexual attack." Again, you don't know what happened... and even just describing something that you weren't there for as "a gentle tap" is dismissive.

Here's what we know: women at Pixar felt they forced to work in environment someone in a position of power repeatedly subjected them to unwanted physical experiences and commented on their physical attributes. The fact that it you feel it never reached the level of what you define as a "sexual attack" is irrelevant.

And the fact that he's made amazing art in the past doesn't mean that he should be able to continue acting inappropriately to women in the workplace.

Alain Littaye said...

Listen, when i put some words between quote, it's because it's not words or a phrase coming from me but from another site or report from someone else which i don't have the ability to verify, and that's the only reason i do this. Sure, i don't work at Pixar and don't know what happened there, that's why i still approve comments from people saying they work - or worked - at Pixar when i feel they are sincere. So, i don't put these in doubt, and of course a gentle tap on the ass or a hug a bit too warm can be not tolerable for one who don't wish them. There is no question about that. Where there IS a question is if this really deserves that John Lasseter has to END his career and role at Pixar. Again, as i said in my previous comment, it's not that no one wants John Lasseter at Pixar, it's that no one wants him doing sexual harassment. Okay, so now what do we do from that point? Do you give the benefit of the doubt to John to transcend his behavior or are all women back with a vengeance and don't give him this benefit of the doubt that he can do it?

Viola Ran said...

Honestly, shareholders. Sure, in a perfect world the story would end with a nice bow. But, so long as they keep making hundreds of millions of dollars, they’ll keep pushing them out...
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Good post and well balanced. You are entitled to your opinion, I don't appreciate the people telling you what you can and cannot say on your own website. We ALL agree what Lasseter did was WRONG and not appropriate in the workplace. But let's be careful and clear - we do not know the full story here, and today's climate is very emotion-driven on these things, but we must know the facts.

If you watched documentaries of Pixar, you know he hugs EVERYONE, man and woman. He even hugged Hayao Miyazaki!! A really poor way to greet a Japanese person. His hugging was strange, he's not a "normal" guy. I don't know why he hugged everyone so much.

The Lasseter story is still so much hearsay, and many people think some of the things sound minor, and don't deserve a sacking. It depends what he did. Does he deserve sacking because he kept hugging people ? I think that requires someone TELLING him to stop, rather than being sacked as a "sexual harasser". You cannot put someone who hugs too much into same category as rapist or something like what the other celebrities were doing. That is the point Allan is making.

If other facts come out that he did other things like touched people in a sexual way, then it becomes much more serious. But we don't know the full story yet, he hasn't said anything like that. Some people are so keen to throw him under the bus without any sort of fair hearing on the more serious accusation.