Hollywood’s ‘morality clause’ could be bad for LGBTQ actors
In the wake of the #MeToo movement that has shaken Hollywood, a ghost from the past has begun to surface: the morality clause, which was used against gay actors of yore.
With what has happened with actor Kevin Spacey and movie producer Harvey Weinstein, movie studios are now considering them once again in order to avoid disastrous losses.
Which makes us wonder: will it be used against LGBTQ actors again?
Morality clause: Protection for studios
The idea of having a morality clause in contracts is a response to studios incurring financial losses in the wake of sexual harassment and assault accusations and administrations.
For example, Netflix had to take a US$39 million write-down when they kicked out Spacey from their show House of Cards, and let go actor Danny Masterson from the series The Ranch as well.
Netflix CFO David Wells described the write-down as “related to the societal reset around sexual harassment.”
Imperative Entertainment also had to pay US$10 million to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer in reshoots for the Sony film All the Money in the World.
Despite letting go of Spacey, Netflix still had to pay him for the entire final season of House of Cards as well as for Ridley Scott’s movie All the Money in the World.
“Any distributor can say, ‘I’m not picking up this film if somebody involved in the film has some charge like that.’ Absolutely. I’m doing it,” lawyer Schuyler Moore, a partner at Greenberg Glusker, told Hollywood Reporter.
“It’s just a question of drafting it in a way that works,” Moore said.
Morality clause: Targets LGBTQ actors?
Unfortunately, morality clauses historically have been used against LGBTQ actors in the past, which makes others worry that this might be used again current LGBTQ actors.
In Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, historians Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons noted that studios in the past used the “morality clause” against queer performers.
“”If homosexuality was immoral in the mind of the general public, gay and lesbian actors needed to convince the public that they were straight, even to the extent of concocting pap for the media about their personal lives,” the two wrote in their book.
However, there have been recent examples as well. In her book Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi wrote about the “morality clause” in her L’Oréal campaign contract at the time she was a star of Ally McBeal.
The contract clause “cited examples like public drunkenness, arrests, et cetera but I knew that it would include homosexuality,” de Rossi said.
“The wording of the contract was vague, and I was unsure what would constitute a breach of the contract and how ‘morality‘ was defined. The whole thing made me sick,” de Rossi added.
Currently, Fox wants to include a clause that would terminate a contract “if the talent engages in conduct that results in adverse publicity or notoriety or risks bringing the talent into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.”