Look, I don’t care enough about Jamie Kennedy to read the article where he talks about why he made an anti-abortion movie. I’m surprised anyone does., But in a discussion about it, I saw a mention that Kate Mulgrew had believed that the flat-Earth documentary she’d voiced was presenting “both sides,” and that it was edited after the fact to take out all the reality-based stuff. I’m curious about that story, because it implies there’s a “both sides” to the flat Earth thing other than the obvious concept that a flat Earth would have to have two sides. But why do we care about her involvement anyway?
Actors take roles. I’m not, I must say, hugely sympathetic to the “they have to make a living” argument, because quite a lot of people make a living through things that aren’t acting. Tommy Kirk became a furniture upholsterer. And that wasn’t because he didn’t want to be an actor anymore. But, okay, you’ve chosen to be an actor, and you haven’t been blackballed by the industry for being gay. What responsibility do you have for the content of what you’re making? Can people blame you for what you’re appearing in?
Obviously, we all have our limits. I don’t think anyone would absolve someone from making a film that openly and bluntly advocated genocide on the grounds of “they’ve got to work.” With Leni Reifenstahl, there’s a lot of “how much did she know?” And of course her notable films from the era were from before the war. But it’s generally agreed that taking money from the Nazis was a Bad Thing and she shouldn’t have done it. Whether she knew she was making use of slave labor or not.
Generally, we are coming around to the idea that people shouldn’t work for toxic people. We think actors should stop working for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Joss Whedon is going to start getting that same response, I think. Kevin Smith has talked about his responsibility in having worked for Harvey Weinstein. And so forth. Just as boycotting works from those creators saps them of power, so, too, might a refusal of big names to work with them.
But, sure, let’s look at individual acting jobs. If Jamie Kennedy chooses to be in an anti-abortion movie, does that mean we should assume he opposes abortion? Yes, Ben Stein made an anti-evolution documentary because he had deluded himself about evolution, but since Kate Mulgrew took a check for a flat-Earth documentary, does that mean we have any reason to believe that she is herself a flat-Earther? Kevin Sorbo doubtless believes what’s in the movies he makes, but should we assume that everyone in them does?
For one thing, yes, that’s why the producers want to hire these people. Why spend Kate Mulgrew money if Kate Mulgrew, late of the NCC-74656, doesn’t convince people by her very presence? They’re hoping that people will be swayed by the serious tones of TV’s Kathryn Janeway, and we all know it—not least because Star Trek has always had a veneer of science. For other movies pushing a political or religious agenda, they’re hoping that the mere nature of putting celebrities in their movies will make people more likely to see them, if not believe them. But, you know, baby steps.
When John Wayne was in The Green Berets, he definitely believed in the US military. And its intervention in Vietnam. But should we today be taking George Takei to task for appearing in it? He was clear to John Wayne at the time that he opposed the film’s message and the war. In fact, quite a lot of the cast opposed the film’s message and the war. They were still in it—Takei even missed work on Star Trek because filming ran long—because it was a paycheck. And possibly for the chance to work with John Wayne.
Obviously, this is something every actor has to make a decision on. And every viewer must decide how they feel about the person’s career from that point. I suspect that Jamie Kennedy will simply continue his descent into utter irrelevance; he wasn’t all that relevant going in. Maybe he can make a living at PureFlix movies. Or maybe he should go learn how to upholster furniture, which is certainly an honest trade.