When news broke in 2014 that the much-beloved ’90s sitcom “Friends” would be re-released in its entirety on Netflix, fans were ecstatic. However, when they started actually watching those 10 seasons, many were struck by how unfriendly many of the story arcs and punchlines were to minorities, homosexuals and women. But perhaps what was most striking for many people was the fact that so much of America could be so blind to those undertones. This same sort of realization is apparent when we wonder why it was that so many prior to the #MeToo movement tolerate toxic workplaces for so long. Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys know we need look no further than that same set, where a former writers’ assistant filed a sexual and racial harassment claims. Warner Bros. fought back hard in Lyle v. Warner Bros. Television et al., ultimately backed by Hollywood’s top brass in an amicus brief filed with the California Supreme Court.
What was especially interesting about this case was the fact that defendants actually didn’t deny much of what plaintiff alleged: Sexually coarse, vulgar and demeaning language, “off-color banter,” and even masturbatory gestures and doodles. All of this, however, they claimed was not impropriety and definitely not harassment. It was, rather, a necessary part of the creative writing process. In the amicus brief, filmmakers and executives argued that to decide the case in plaintiff’s favor would have had a chilling effect on free speech, and that writers needed to be free to share their darkest and most private thoughts without fearing legal reprisal.
In 2006, the California Supreme Court didn’t just dismiss plaintiff’s case; justices unanimously agreed with the argument of “creative necessity.” That is, those in creative careers have the right to demean women, even pretending to masturbate (so long as it wasn’t aimed at someone particular), and that individuals who choose to work on a creative team “should not be allowed to complain that some of the creativity was offensive.” Continue reading