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!