In Hollywood, ‘Anything Goes’ Becomes ‘You’re Fired’

In Hollywood, ‘Anything Goes’ Becomes ‘You’re Fired’, by Joe Flint.

Hollywood’s longstanding say-anything, do-anything culture is rapidly turning into one where the wrong words can have career-killing consequences.

Top executives at Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and Netflix Inc., as well as creative talent who worked on the “Lethal Weapon” television series and “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies have been fired in recent months after allegations of offensive remarks, verbal abuse and other inappropriate behavior that in the past was more likely to have been tolerated, industry veterans said.

“Saying something offensive back in the day wouldn’t necessarily get you fired,” said Tom Nunan, a former high-ranking television executive and executive producer of the Oscar-winning movie “Crash,” about race relations in Los Angeles. “Now the consequences are severe and immediate.” …

In Hollywood, the movement marked a dramatic turn from the longstanding practice of considering the bad behavior of executives and talent to be a cost of doing business. Now, the corporatization of the entertainment industry combined with online activism and a new generation of workers not afraid to push back is leading to far less tolerance of misconduct, along with fear of public fallout for not taking swift action. …

If this isn’t suppression of political speech, what is? Remember, culture is upstream of politics, so what appears to be about “values” rapidly turns out to be really political.

On Thursday, Amy Powell, the head of television for Paramount, was fired after complaints over racially insensitive comments she allegedly made in a discussion about a TV version of the movie “The First Wives Club” that will feature a largely black cast. Ms. Powell made remarks about angry black women and black men having “mommy issues” because they are raised by single moms, said a person with knowledge of the call.

Paramount Chief Executive Jim Gianopulos said in a memo to staff that Ms. Powell’s comments were “inconsistent with our company’s values.”

Hollywood has a huge cultural influence on the world. It is worrying to see it throw freedom of speech under the bus so comprehensively.