Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 01.28.09

Do you boycott TV or film that features an actor whose personal or political beliefs you find offensive?

bartlisaThanks to AJS, for sending in a link to this article about Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart Simpson. Cartwright is not only a Scientologist, but actually robocalls people in the Hollywood area about Scientology events, where she evidently performs the “audits”. She does these calls in the voice of Bart Simpson.

Just like buying Shamwows helps finance Vince’s offensive on Scientology, that movie ticket or contribution to the Nielson ratings may support another actor’s crazy beliefs.

But is it really worth not watching The Simpsons?

Related Articles

81 Comments

  1. I can’t remember ever doing this. I have boycotted films of actors who I don’t find entertaining. I haven’t seen a Tom Cruise movie in forever because his movies have been made of suck for as long as I can remember. I also don’t watch Adam Sandler because he doesn’t amuse me.

  2. This would require too much effort in figuring out an actor’s private life, which I have no interest in doing. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist? Big deal. I won’t see his movies because his recent work stunk. Nancy Cartwright is a Scientologist? Ok, that doesn’t change that I like the (old) Simpsons stuff (but doesn’t using Bart’s voice violate some copyright?). I don’t care what actor is boinking whom, I don’t care what church they go to or don’t, etc. etc. I’ll go see their movie/TV show if I like it.

  3. If an actor wants to keep their private views private then I am happy to keep it none of my business. If, however, they trade on their celebrity to publicize their personal convictions then I feel perfectly free to consider this in my entertainment choices. I won’t see anything that Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson are involved with any more. Fortunately this is easy because they haven’t been making anything I’ve really wanted to see. No more Mission Impossible Sequels for me? The agony!

    What I focus more energy on is actively supporting people whose beliefs align with my own. A prime example is The Ditty Bops who bicycled across the country to call attention to human-powered transportation. They make excellent music, and they also look fabulous in bikinis as their calendars attest. I’ve bought copies of all of their stuff for myself and more copies to give away. I also follow Marian Call quite closely. She also makes brilliant music as well as giving us geeks a good name. Marian Call is also a very active and entertaining tweeter: @mariancall

  4. What I find interesting is the fact that she is doing this in Bart Simpson’s voice. Surely the producers have a right to stop her, based on the character. Sort of like Disney has strict control over anything anyone does when they are wearing a Snow White costume?

  5. @andyinsdca:

    Yeah, generally I don’t hear about who happens to be boinking whom this week. (A year in France can really put one out of touch with American celebrity culture.) When I do happen to find out that an actor or a director has some political stance I find repellent, I use that as my excuse to BitTorrent the movie. It’s great — makes any residual guilt vanish without a trace!

  6. i’m with Blake. The Simpsons “jumped the shark” a long time ago and are completely irrelevant these days.

    As for boycotting… i don’t think i avoid movies because of religion/politics of the actors but i am more skeptical about the film itself. Hollywood offers up many a film which turn out to be dressed up, socio-political infomercials populated by actors and producers connected to the film’s politics.

  7. I don’t boycott based on their beliefs. For instance, I still love and purchase Beck’s music despite his being a scientologist. Most celebrities are either far more left in far more ways than I am, most celebrities believe in far more woo-ishness than I’m willing to put up with, etc.

    No, I MIGHT skip watching certain films of a particular actor if their personal life, whatever their political or religious alignment may be, becomes so overwhelming that I can no longer see them as a character, but only as a star. This has happened with Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, etc.

    There needs to be a certain amount of mystery about the life of an actor in order to aid in the suspension of disbelief. Do something to take that mystery away, and it’s VERY hard for me to get past it.

  8. No. Actors play make-believe for a living, I think when you start looking to actors as a group for guidence on anything other than acting (and in a few rare cases classical/shakespearian theater ) then you are really in trouble.

    Tom Cruise may be an idiot but he’s made a few good films and his personal views on, well, anything are irrelavent to his acting ability. Of course if he’s goes all Ben Stein and starts using it as a pulpit, then I’ll be critical. But if he’s doing his job, what he does outside of work (within the law) is his own affair.

    I wonder if religious websites recommend boycotting certain products because of their association with Atheists, such as the people who, vocally, boycott bookshops that carry The God Delusion? It’s the same question from the opposite direction.

    Also there’s been an awful lot of talk in academic circles over the last couple of years regarding a boycott of Israeli Universities as a “punishment” for Israel’s treatment of Palastinians generally and Palastinian Academics in particular. Personally I have always found the idea of collective punishment to be pointless and counterproductive. While there may be some individuals with whom I would disagree with politically, I would not do so on a “work” level and have no problem collaborating with them.

    So with the work of an Actor, though I may have different politics to them in terms of their “work” I may have nothing but praise for them. So, No

  9. What Sam said. :-D

    Personally, I didn’t like Tom Cruise even back in his “Top Gun” days. I went to see the F-14’s and Kelly McGillis.

    (The inflight scenes varied from total bullshit to halfway decent representations of what really goes on at the Naval Weapons Training Center aka “Top Gun.” The opening scene of air combat is what it is really like, according to some pilots I know who have been there – up until the guy gives up his wings. A Naval aviatior would die rather than give those up…)

  10. @Masala Skeptic: I wondered that too. I guess it depends on whether she’s just using the voice or actually identifying herself as Bart. Can you trademark a funny voice? Might get a bit more difficult if she’s using any of Bart’s catchphrases.

  11. Nope, no boycott.

    When it comes to watching a movie or TV show, the beliefs of the performers are almost completely irrelevant. Tom Cruise, for example, might be wacko but he’s a hell of an actor, and usually provides an interesting performance. I didn’t go see War of the Worlds not because he was in it, but because it got mediocre reviews.

    I don’t watch much Simpsons these days because it’s just not that good any more. But when I do watch it — or anything else — I have my “suspenders of disbelief” firmly on and ignore that the performers might be cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

  12. I still find The Simpsons funny, if not as fresh as it used to be. Some episodes are hit or miss, but that’s true with almost everything entertainment wise, anyway. Plus it’s hard to say, “But it’s no longer funny!” if you haven’t watched it in “years” which I see a lot of people do (including hear).

    Anyway, if I were to stop watching tv shows and movies that involved people I did not agree with fully, I’d probably have to just stay in my bedroom all day singing “lalalalalalalal” so as not to accidently offend myself.

    Seriously, though, with as huge of a cast as they have, I’m surprised it’s only one (known) person we may not agree with.

  13. Though I do find it kind of fucked up that she does it in Bart’s voice. I wonder if she could get in trouble for that? She’s essentially promoting a religious organization using her place of business, and most places of business frown on that.

  14. I can’t watch anything with Tom Cruise in it without thinking, “Asshat. Asshat! Asssssshaaaaaaaaaat.” for the entire time he’s on the screen, so I don’t watch his movies. But that’s not exactly a sacrifice.

    But if I really enjoyed an artist’s work and knew they held harmful whackjob beliefs, I don’t know that I’d boycott them. If I did, it wouldn’t be out of attempting to lessen their income, but out of disappointment that something I’d enjoyed was ruined for me.

  15. The Simpsons is too good to boycott. Also, my not watching it wouldn’t do any harm to the show. My household isn’t hooked up to a ratings service.

    But yeah, I do tend to avoid Tom Cruise movies because of the $cientology connection. And I waited for Hancock to come out on DVD so I could rent it rather than buying a ticket, because of Will Smith’s probable $cientology membership.

    Re: Cartwright using the Bart voice, I recall seeing Simpsons cast members on TV, and they said they’re prohibited from using their characters’ voices off-set. I hope she lands in a truckload of trouble for this.

  16. I don’t generally boycott or support TV or film productions based on the personal views of those involved. On the other hand, if the production itself is a propagandist piece of shit (e.g. Expelled), then yeah, I try to avoid giving them money.

  17. I do the opposite: I avoid reading about actors that are typically in movies I like. I’d see the movie anyway even if they are ridiculous in real life because a movie is a movie, and an actor is just some schmo they hired to play someone else. But I just hate paying 10 bucks for a movie with, say, Brad Pitt in it and I can’t get into the character because the tabloids have made sure that I get a run down on how many times a day he goes to the bathroom (or some other inane detail of his life) every time I walk through the grocery store check-out. Its distracting.

    Re: The Simpsons. It’s one of those things I still watch (and will watch as long as it’s on) out of habit – like Lost. There were some golden years around season 4-6 that will never be matched, but I still get the odd chuckle out of it.

  18. I tired of the Simpson’s back in the mid-1990s, before I knew the voice of Bart Simpson was done by a victim of the Scientology scam.

    But I’m horrified to see so many of you agreeing that a company ought to be able to own a person’s voice.
    Why does anyone think this is okay?

  19. For me, it can be a deciding factor. For example, Beck. After many great albums, he put out three real clunkers in a row. Do I jump ship or hold out? Scientology tipped the scales against him. Beck can suck it.

    Now They Might Be Giants? Similar boat. They’re sure struggling with their crappy new club sound, but they like their science. I’ll keep `em around.

  20. I still watch the Simpsons because, frankly, Harry Shearer cancels out Nancy Cartwright. I will not give my money, however, to anything that supports Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise or Jenny McCarthy (natch) because I can’t get past what they are saying in public to suspend my intellect.

  21. @llewelly: Uh, it’s not her voice, not exactly. It’s the way she manipulates her voice to make the voice of a specific character — in this case, Bart. She can further manipulate her voice to make other characters. She likely can’t manipulate her voice to sound like Bart to sell products or make money or shill something or for political reasons. This isn’t unreasonable.

  22. @faith: Oh don’t rule out EVERYTHING Tom Cruise does.

    This would mean you couldn’t watch Tropic Thunder. WHICH WOULD BE A SHAME BECAUSE IT IS HILARIOUS.

    Seriously, folks, Cruise may make a cameo, but the movie is worth it. TRUST.

  23. i had intended to do that at one point, but then i realized that i would pretty much never be able to go to a movie again, so now i only go to movies that look like i’d like it. there are a couple actors i can’t stand for different reasons. i’ll avoid them, but even then i’m flexible.

    i used to think i had a crush on jenna elfman, but then realized it was really a crush on Dharma.

  24. I would like to say that it does not affect me, but it probably does on some subconscious level.

    In particular, scientology has marketed itself particularly hard toward celebrities. I read that the approach they take to celebrities buttresses their big egos. It does make me cringe a little when I read how much she makes per episode, which is offensive enough in and of itself. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/20/500000-an-episode-simpson_n_102710.html .) But besides Nancy Cartwright and Tom Cruise, there are even better actors who are part of that religion – e.g., I loved Giovanni Ribisi in ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘The Gift’, and I probably will see his future films (curiously enough, he is listed as in production for ‘Cult,’ which is about a religious cult). Jason Lee is another example. In any case, one can always hope that even they too could leave it one day, in one of their many fruitless attempts to fill that god-shaped hole – like Jerry Seinfeld and Tom Cruise’s exes.

    I’m not sure that scientology is the primary reason why people do not like Tom Cruise though – he is simply a first-tier jack-ass. (He recently apologized for Matt Lauer, at least I think he did.) We simply love to hate actors/actresses who simply act like jerks.

  25. Not so much into boycotts of any sort, but personal feelings can definitely prevent entertainment from happening.

    JESherman brought up the best example of all. Can anyone honestly still laugh at the OJ scenes in the Naked Gun movies? Hilarious at the time but ruined forever.

  26. @TheSkepticalMale: I do the same thing probably on a subconscious level too. I would probably make an excuse for a different reason to not go see them. I would go if it was a really good movie/show. I like some of Charlie Daniels music but the guy is a total wack job so I wouldn’t waste my time now.

  27. I haven’t outright nixed seeing a movie because of an actor’s beliefs, and don’t think it’s productive to do so. But for theater of any sort to work, there’s a certain amount of anonymity needed to make it work.

    When an actor comes on, and I recognize them, they need to sell me on believing they are their character, not themselves. The more baggage they bring to the stage, the harder that is, and the better they’d better act to overcome it. Good actors overcome this easily, others have to work harder, and some are a lost cause. Johnny Depp’s good enough that I can buy his characters quickly. Will Smith’s near the edge, especially since he’s always the same damned character, no matter the role. Mel Gibson is beyond hope. I don’t see a character, I see a twit.

    So, I don’t boycott their movies, but it hurts my ability to enjoy their work, and that can make their movies less appealing, and sometimes that makes the difference between seeing something or not.

  28. I still love the Simpson’s(see avatar) I know the quality has fallen off but I will still watch. I like how a few years ago the actors wanted more money and they were going to strike the studio brought in some other actors who could do the voices just as well and the original cast backed down and took the offered contract.

  29. The last thing skeptics need is to delve into the narrative of hero-worship that plays on the celebritocracy that rules America (and yes, Canada too). We should be fighting battles based on ideas, not personalities. We’re the good guys, and good guys don’t let superficial people like actors, singer and athletes dictate how we run our lives and make our decisions.

    Minority Report is still a good movie, Ace Ventura is still funny, and the Simpsons continues to break ground that Family Guy tried (and failed) to. Once these celebrites start to intrude in OUR world (the world of science, the academy, and political activism), THEN we can fight them on the beaches, the streets, and there would be no need to pull punches. These people are artists (et. all) first, activists a distant second. If they want to step into the world of activism, then it is at their peril, and we should go after them as hard as we can.

    Buying a movie ticket or CD of a crazy scientologist doesn’t “support their beliefs”. It’s about the art (or the celebrity worship). They get a paycheck at the end of they day and what they do with that is their right.

    This reminds me of how many people flipped out over the “great” news that Daniel Radcliffe is an atheist (even though he never said that). Who gives a bejezzus?

  30. Not sure it counts – I could not stomach watching ex-Prez Bush’s TV – maybe because he was such a poor actor? Maybe because the content was such crap? My aversion certainly resulted in a de facto boycott of all things bushian…

    Y_S_G

  31. I don’t really care that much about actors or musicians and their beliefs and politics.

    There is one exception, a director who’s movies I refuse to see…, Roman Polanski. The evidence and victim statements make it very clear he committed an act of child sex abuse or at least statutory rape of a minor for which he has avoided justice for decades.

  32. Passion of the Christ could have been any type of movie – my decision not to watch it was based on the director – a Catholic. This gave me the steer as to what type of direction the movie would be taking.

    As soon as the voice of Bart Simpson’s starts writing the satirical content, maybe you could justify turning off. Has the Simpson’s ever given Scientology a serve?

  33. @puckish: I went to see War of the Worlds to see what they had done to it. The visuals were stunning, but some of the plot changes made no sense. (The tripods were already buried here thousands of years ago and just needed the crews “beamed” into them? Why? If the aliens were already here to bury the bloody tripods, why did they leave? And why didn’t we ever find any of the tripods with all the subways and highways we have built under our cities? Makes no sense. Doing the meteorite thing worked much better.)

    The story worked in 1898, but you’ll never convince me that a civilization that can cross space and build those tripod fighting machines would forget to install air filtration to keep bacteria out. Puh-leeeze.

  34. not as such, but I *can’t* watch anything with Johnny Vegas in since he mimed raping an audience member (young, female audience member) onstage – the sight of him makes me all twitchy and shouty.

  35. @llewelly:

    I’m a (struggling) composer in Hollywood. When I write something for a project, the production company owns the music unless I work out a deal where I keep that ownership. Even though I’m the one who actually wrote it, I don’t own it. I’m assuming the same would go for voice-over/regular actors: she created the voice for The Simpsons and Fox, therefor they probably own it. Plus it’s not her normal voice, it’s a construct.

    On a side note, I once read that the majority of the writing staff of The Simpsons are/have been atheists. (I’d post a link, but it was a while ago and I don’t feel like digging…. ok, I’m lazy)

  36. I think this is a really interesting topic and one that I often engage in with friends…and co-workers. I’m conflicted about this a lot and I draw my own boundaries. I won’t go see anything that Roman Polanski does because I believe what he did was heinous. The same goes for Jeffrey Jones and I don’t get why he was cast in Deadwood months after being convicted of being a child molester. So I never watched it…I couldn’t. Every time I saw him I was repulsed. I also wrote HBO and told them my thoughts. Did it do any good? Probably not, but I felt like I had done something, at least. Many of my friends love the show and don’t care about that issue because, well they love the show. I couldn’t change their minds but maybe I got them to think.

    But when it comes to personal beliefs as opposed to direct action then it gets more difficult. Where do I draw the line? For example, I don’t dislike Mel Gibson because he’s a Catholic but because he spouted anti-semitic statements. But I still love the Road Warrior….and he was only in them he didn’t make them. But I didn’t see Apocalypto because he would directly financially benefit. And I used to find Jenny McCarthy kind of charming but now…even though it’s only a “belief” I think she’s indirectly responsible for people getting sick and some even dying. So no, I don’t want to give her money….even if it’s only a buck.

    But The Simpsons is easy for me…I don’t find Scientology to be that much worse than most other religions…most of the time. Well….see I’m conflicted about that too.

    And then what about a couple friends who have worked on stupid Paranormal State and Ghost Hunters. I want to kick them but….

    This is now way too long so I’ll stop and eat a snack.

  37. I had a snack and another thought.

    For me it also depends upon how close the “offending person” is to the project. For instance if a normal “go to church” Catholic had an art opening I probably wouldn’t boycott it. But if the Pope did….then I probably would. (Though I would sneak if just to see what kind of art this Pope did… Pope John Paul II was a in an experimental theater troupe in his youth, that crazy bastard.)

  38. But the music of Wagner is not making a statement or a judgement about anti-semitism either way: which is perhaps creates a very different scenario if you consider the Foo Fighters http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1429021/20000406/foo_fighters.jhtml. Had Wagner written prose rather than music bars perhaps we may avoid his work based on an understanding of the content of his work when viewed with an understanding of the content of his character.

  39. Also, Wagner is not going to make a dime off of anyone listening or purchasing his music. And if he is then I need to re-think this whole skeptical thing I’ve got going on.

    But Jenny McCarthy or Nancy Carthwright are going to make money off of their work and they might use it for devious deeds. Just something to consider….while having another snack.

  40. I have boycotted an actor’s work because of their criminal activity, but not for religious or political beliefs. I figure people are entitled to believe (or disbelieve) as they wish as long as they keep it to themselves.

    In-your-face fanatics like Tom Cruise and Kirk Cameron tend to make crap I wouldn’t want to watch anyway. Seems like once you’re bitten by the holier-than-thou bug, you get pretty boring.

  41. Speaking of Jenny McCarthy, I just found out she’s in a computer game i’m planning on getting soon (Red Alert 3, I was not happy to suddenly see her in the demo i downloaded). I’ll be buying the game anyway but when i play the game i’ll be thinking of sadistic ways of killing off her character.

  42. I’m pretty certain that this violates the terms of her contract. I saw an interview with her several years ago, and she wasn’t even allowed to do the voice then.

    Of course, I’m sure the Simpsons people don’t want to make a big deal of it, because they don’t want to lose the voice to one of their most popular characters. They don’t want to “pull a Chef”. And the Scientology higher-ups probably know this, and are taking advantage of their reluctance by pushing her to use her voice for evil.

  43. NPR did a little blurb on this today. The line from the producers was something like: “The show does not endorse any spiritual view any deeper than a Butterfinger fetish.” So, in other words, they haven’t ruled out the possibility that it’s an endorsement.

  44. @Steve: I knew it. She’s kind of an idiot, yes? I mean, others have stated that she’s been unable to make the voice in certain interviews, so it’s obvious she’s aware of the possible contract issues, but chose to ignore them.

  45. I’m so depressed now….I love the simpsons and that phone message was so creepy and freaky! I live across the street from where the event is being held…should I call and RSVP…hehe jk I have WAY better things to do but I hope FOX puts the smack down hard on faking to be Bart when not on the payroll.

  46. No, I don’t boycott, or participate in, any events or movies because of certain beliefs. I boycott based on how interested I am. Fortunately, the vast majority of people with silly political notions make crappy TV, movies, and live events.

  47. @sethmanapio: I dunno, I love memoirs and generally find the life of other people pretty fascinating. I usually like to wiki actors I really enjoy. I’m not a gossip mag hound because that kind of stuff is almost always false, but I’m always interested in how an actor started his or her career, maybe where they went to school… I’m weird, though.

  48. In the case of Tom Cruise, there appears to be a correlation between his involvement in CoS and a decline in his acting ability. No idea if there’s a cause/effect relationship, or which one is which. Could be coincidental, or both are influenced by a third factor. Or maybe he’s just another victim of Acquired Situational Narcissism (a.k.a. the “I’m way too famous for my own good” crazies).

  49. Tom Cruise in Magnolia is one the greatest characters/performance committed to celluloid.

    Has any Tom Cruise film (major motion picture) ever, in anyway, dealt in a positive light with his belief system?

    That said if I was in the demographic that was around to watch TV when Oprah is on I may find myself boycotting something based on the performers beliefs…

  50. @cgmasson:

    Yes, it was an amazing performance for such a stilted actor.

    I don’t understand why folks would boycott a work because one of perhaps hundreds of people involved in that work had politics, or social views, or whatever, that some folks felt were controversial, dubious, or plain evil. It seems rather shallow or narrow or something like that. Petty.

    I mean hey, why don’t we boycott any future moon and mars missions because some of the folks that helped design the first rockets had questionable politics and social views.

    Ya, sure, maybe it is a somewhat extreme example, but only in degree not in substance.

  51. I used to LOVE Jim Carrey. Now the sight of him makes me ill. Honestly, I never thought I could feel so strongly about the views of someone else. Why anyone would listen to a couple of idiots, and risk the life of their children and the children of others based on a bunch of BS is beyond me…

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close