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Friends, with Joey as a serial rapist?
May 5, 2004 3:07 PM   Subscribe

The One where the Writers Totally Got Themselves Uninvited from Any Parties at Courtney Cox or Jennifer Aniston's House. In the midst of all the dry-as-kindling "Friends" stories being published, there's been one spark: Amaani Lyle's sexual harassment suit against the show's writers. While it's easy to be distracted by the actual meat of her complaint — making Joey a serial rapist (#74), a fill-in-the-genitals coloring book (#56-#58), the importance of spelling "penis" (#59-#60), the twigs in Courtney Cox's uterus (#91), a missed opportunity to bugger Jennifer Aniston (#88-#90) — their defense is even more interesting: Such talk is a necessary creative element of their job. Writes Joanna Grossman: The defendants admitted that many of Lyle's allegations were true. They testified in deposition that they did many of the things she complained of, but argued that the conduct was justified by "creative necessity." The writers' job, defendants argued, was to come up with story lines, dialogue, and jokes for a sitcom with adult sexual themes. To do this, they needed to have "frank sexual discussions and tell colorful jokes and stories (and even make expressive gestures) as part of the creative process." An interesting new permutation in how we classify inappropriate workplace behavior with major ramifications for the creative class, or a big ol' weaselly dodge?
posted by blueshammer (75 comments total)

 
I agree with the writers. One main feature of the show is a steady stream of sexual jokes - if the writers didn't have a way to come up with new jokes or try them out on each other, they would never be able to seperate the jokes that work from the jokes that fall flat.
posted by crazy finger at 3:19 PM on May 5, 2004


Wow, America has a thin skin and no spine these days.
posted by xmutex at 3:23 PM on May 5, 2004


78. Greg Malins liked to doodle and usually it was something disgusting.

Heh.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:25 PM on May 5, 2004


In my work space we watch pr0n and talk about penises to strangers. Potential employees are fully informed of this before they are even given an application. It sounds like this type of lawsuit is nonsense. I have to wonder though if she was informed before taking the assignment that she would be exposed to this type of talk? If she wasn't given notice then there is an issue. I also wonder if she was intentionally leaving the dirty jokes out of her transcriptions?
posted by filchyboy at 3:28 PM on May 5, 2004


Some of the quotes are a little off-the-wall. The rest of it is laughable and pretty sad that you can be sued by co-workers if they overhear you speaking this way.

72. Greg Malins, Adam Chase and Andrew Reich would make jokes about David Schwimmer being gay.

So what?

50. Greg Malins talked about what he would like to do sexually to different cast members on the show like Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston.

So does every other male over the age of 14 who's seen an episode of Friends.

54. One story Malins told was about a woman that when she had his penis down her throat she had a gag reflex and Greg thought the woman was going to throw up on his d**k.

A bunch of guys are sitting around trading stories? That's good material.

Is anybody really this sensitive? If so they should get out more. Most of the claims in those pages seem like filler propgated by the plaintiff. The only thing funnier is the author's sense of grammar.
posted by tomorama at 3:31 PM on May 5, 2004


In my experience, my improv group behaves in ways that are sexist, racist, homophobic, partisan, and latently offensive in over a million ways. That is just during rehearsal. It has everything to do with the creative process for us and we try to warn new group members that this is how we work.

Under current sexual harassment laws, however, it does not matter what the job requires. It does not matter what the writers intended All that is required is for her to feel uncomfortable with it and to have complained about it - at least that's how it has been explained to us.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:31 PM on May 5, 2004


Erg. Change "latently" to "blatently" for the full effect.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:32 PM on May 5, 2004


yeah, and HoleMan is a loser freak.
posted by Satapher at 3:32 PM on May 5, 2004


Is anybody really this sensitive?

Have you been reading the same MeFi as the rest of us for the past five years, tomorama?

There are chicks like this all over. Guys, too.

All that is required is for her to feel uncomfortable with it

I don't recall the right to being comfortable amendment being added to the constitution. I'm made uncomfortable in a million different ways everyday. That's fucking life. Deal with it.
posted by jonmc at 3:40 PM on May 5, 2004


This seems to be about one person trying to dictate the way a creative environment operates, to suit her own particular sensibilities.

If anything this makes me think that she does not see herself as a sexual equal to the men named, but expects them to change their behaviour 'because there is a lady present'. This is to acknowledge that females should be treated differently from males. I think, if the suit is found in her favour, this would be a severe impediment to equality in the workplace.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:43 PM on May 5, 2004


Oh, please. I mean, aren't sexual harassment laws meant to prevent harassment? I'm not seeing any, here.
posted by vorfeed at 3:46 PM on May 5, 2004


This kind of talk has been found to create a hostile work environment for women in the past. However, in this case, the talk is related to the job.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:46 PM on May 5, 2004


59. Greg Malins would take a copy of the "Friends" script cover and blacken out letters to make it say penis.

60. When he would blacken out letters to make it say penis, Malins would say, this is the most important thing you'll learn on "Friends".


amen, Greg "Talking Penis Script" Malins.

"That makes me a saaaaaaad panda!"
posted by mrgrimm at 3:50 PM on May 5, 2004


Poor, poor Lisa Kudrow. Nobody, apparently, wants to bang her in the ass.

Plus, the "racial" stuff seems to be tacked on.
posted by ColdChef at 3:53 PM on May 5, 2004


Poor, poor Lisa Kudrow. Nobody, apparently, wants to bang her in the ass.

must....restrain...self......
posted by jonmc at 3:55 PM on May 5, 2004


Also, the writers' fixation with things that would NEVER EVER make it on air seems to help explain why they don't have time to come up with more than three jokes for Matt Leblanc's "Joey" character.

All of his jokes fit into one of three topics:
1. I'm stupid.
2. I'm hungry.
3. I'm horny.

I will say, however, considering Courtney Cox's problems with conception, the "dried up pussy" stuff seems particularly rude. She must cry herself to sleep on a huge pile of cash every night.
posted by ColdChef at 3:59 PM on May 5, 2004


I don't think she'll sue over this, but next week DJ Kenny G claims he will sing the Friends finale (including commericals) during his radio program and I can't wait... http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/KG
posted by armacy at 4:19 PM on May 5, 2004


There are jokes about sexuality on "Friends"? I have not watched in some time I confess, but it is no where near the adult material (nor sophistication) as "Coupling".

Sounds like the writers knew the show was dead long before the network was willing to shoot it.

Lisa Kudrow? I am so there. (Sorry, Jon.)
posted by Dick Paris at 4:21 PM on May 5, 2004


Trying very, very hard to restrain nearly overpowering urge to rant about the awful tripe that is and was Friends.

Resolve....failing.....no....must.....stay......strong.

Phew.

On Preview: There are jokes on the show? Its supposed to be funny? Damn, and I thought it was a bad cop drama all along.

PS They live in New York right? Where's all the black folks? Has anyone EVER seen a black person on the show?
posted by fenriq at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2004


80. The conduct of the writers interfered with the work place because they would constantly be goofing off disrespecting blacks or women and everybody would have to wait for them to finish.

Okay, so maybe I'm going to be the lone voice saying "hey, wait a minute" here, but to me saying that alot of the talk and gesturing described here is necessary for the job isn't really that different from claiming, ten years ago, that it's okay to make demeaning sex talk about women at your machinist's job because, you know, men are men, and they're just joking around, and, you know, you're surrounded by pistons and things. I haven't watched Friends in years, but I don't remember any scenes involving blow jobs or masturbation or anal sex, so I'm not sure the writers were really going somewhere with this or are just now using their jobs to defend their boorishness.

70. Greg Malins, Adam Chase and Andrew Reich would also use and refer to women as "c*nts", but Marta Kauffman didn't approve of that word, so they wouldn't use it when she was in the room.

See, this shows that to some extent these guys knew they were being dicks, because they adjusted their behavior in front of a female writer. If the female writing assistant complained but they ignored her, they were just doing it because they could, and because they were higher in the food chain. I think that's harrassment.

Let my public excoriation begin.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:34 PM on May 5, 2004


Actually, Ross was dating a black woman for most of the last two seasons, dude.

I was actually a little more stunned by the fact that they're all supposed to be struggling young peopl yet they live in that gigantic apartment in the West Village, which would go for roughly $3500/month.

The show wasn't the monumental acheivement a la All In The Family or I Love Lucy that the hype is making it out to be, but it had it's amusing moments. Plus Phoebe (lisa Kudrow's character for those of you don't have the TV that you need to know about these things) reminds me of a close freind (and a fellow mefite's girlfriend).
posted by jonmc at 4:38 PM on May 5, 2004


my favorite part of the CNN story:
"Another theme of the alleged comments was the personal sexual preferences and experiences of the writers, emphasizing anal sex, oral sex, big breasts, young girls and cheerleaders".
yeah, how weird is that?

"jonmc: Actually, Ross was dating a black woman for most of the last two seasons, dude."
and how would you know that?
Jesus Christ. our resident punk-rocker I-just-don't-care-about-stuff deal-with-it-dude actually... watches... 'Friends'...

BWAWAWAHAHAHAHAHA
posted by matteo at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2004


Jesus Christ. our resident punk-rocker I-just-don't-care-about-stuff deal-with-it-dude actually... watches... 'Friends'...

For the record, I'm not a punk rocker. Punk rockers don't unironically listen to Rainbow for pete's sake. And the hrs. likes to watch it sometimes. And I gotta do something when I'm bein' all apathetic and shit.

BWAWAWAHAHAHAHAHA
posted by jonmc at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2004


I don't watch Friends and I knew it... then again, I have a high level of lust for Aisha Tyler and track her every move on a secret bulletin board in my basement.
posted by jonson at 4:53 PM on May 5, 2004


From personal experience, this kind of behavior happens a lot but not everywhere, and sometimes it turns into a positive thing for the show, sometimes not (especially if the tone is incongrous to the tone of the show). Many unsuccessful "family oriented" comedies had writing teams that spent much more time with "X-Rated" private jokes than "G-rated" material for the show.

(Minimally related self-link): How do you write an article about a top-rated TV show you never liked and seldom watched? Like this
posted by wendell at 5:00 PM on May 5, 2004


good stuff, w. even if you had the good sense to never watch the show. thanks for the link
posted by matteo at 5:19 PM on May 5, 2004


Ahh, okay, that makes it all okay. I did mention that I've refused to watch the show, didn't I?

Though its still a limp stupid little show about idiots.

As for the inappropriate discussions during the "writing" of the stupidity. I've got a pal who's in an improv group. He's talked about specific practices (though yes, I do catch the irony of practicing for improv) where they're called politically incorrect practices.

They're not only allowed to be nasty, rude, stupid, racist, whatever, they're supposed to. Its intended to not only break down barriers between them but to get all the garbage out of them.

Is such a thing necessary on a prime time show that's about as racy as an exposed bra strap? Probably not.

And Jonson, Aisha Tyler is pretty fine, or used to be until she became a cheap sellout sitcom token.
posted by fenriq at 5:24 PM on May 5, 2004


Um, did everyone miss the part where this woman was required to write down the disgusting jokes and trash talk and type them up in transcripts?

Because to me, that's the part where "rude" becomes "illegal".

The other stuff is spectacularly rude, and frankly, the head writer should have kept it under control. An office isn't an eighth-grade locker room.

And the whole "it's necessary for the writing" is ridiculous. "What if Joey and Phoebe were having sex?" may be necessary for the writing, but "Courteney Cox has a dried-up pussy" seems, er, not.

(And I thought Cox admitted to having fertility problems caused by low body weight? That one doesn't seem to me to be sexual harassment--inappropriate workplace banter, sure, but the increased risks of infertility faced by underweight women (as well as morbidly obese women) are well documented.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:29 PM on May 5, 2004


Heh heh... the lawyer's name is Cummings.....

Anyway, I don't think I've ever had a workplace where such discussions were not the normal order of everyday conversation.

And I hope I never do.
posted by spilon at 5:32 PM on May 5, 2004


OnlyConnect, your point about how they didn't talk that way in front of Kaufmann is well taken.

This woman may very well not deserve to win her lawsuit. However, nobody should feel entitled to act like an arrant jackass in the office. Pretending to masturbate isn't an essential part of the creative process.

Maybe if they had spent more time trying to be FUNNY, the show wouldn't have bit the big wang so badly. I mean, honestly--for all the balls it had, Friends could have been written by a group of church ladies at an afternoon tea. It was sentimental schlock at its worst.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:33 PM on May 5, 2004


Spilon, are you seriously saying that you have a workplace in which coworkers discuss the genitalia of their colleagues?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:34 PM on May 5, 2004


If anything this makes me think that she does not see herself as a sexual equal to the men named, but expects them to change their behaviour 'because there is a lady present'. This is to acknowledge that females should be treated differently from males. I think, if the suit is found in her favour, this would be a severe impediment to equality in the workplace.

Agree. And thank you for recognising true gender equality.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:35 PM on May 5, 2004


That court document is awful... full of repetitions and bad grammar. Quotations are missing their quotation marks, or have them in the wrong place so it makes no sense. "There" is used for "their". 82 and 86 are the same. If I was the judge I'd hand it back and ask her to do it again.

That said, it didn't seem like a nice environment to be working in. It probably wasn't meant maliciously, but I can see why that kind of banter would have made her uncomfortable. Her case might be weakened somewhat by the fact that she never seems to have mentioned her feelings to anyone while she was there, though.
posted by reklaw at 5:38 PM on May 5, 2004


Ahh, okay, that makes it all okay. I did mention that I've refused to watch the show, didn't I?

We get it, fenriq, you're way too culturally refined for such things.

Anyway, I don't think I've ever had a workplace where such discussions were not the normal order of everyday conversation.

You need to get out more. Lotta the places I worked, both the male and female employees had conversations so filthy they make this stuff seem like a revival camp meeting.

I mean, honestly--for all the balls it had, Friends could have been written by a group of church ladies at an afternoon tea

Maybe that's why they got so raunchy. The temptation to dirty up something so wholesome is nearly irrestible.

It was sentimental schlock at its worst.

I am now going to contradict myself and tell you that sentimental schlock (in moderated doses) is good for the soul.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on May 5, 2004


This seems to be about one person trying to dictate the way a creative environment operates, to suit her own particular sensibilities.

Would be true but for the fact that the Friend's scriptwriters don't appear to have done anything creative since about 1998.
posted by dmt at 5:48 PM on May 5, 2004


Speaking as someone whose husband, father-in-law, uncle-by-marriage, and two cousins-by-marriage were or are writers, writer's assistants, directors, and/or executive producers for various sitcoms, let me just say that if the woman can't handle really raunchy workplace banter, and can't dish it out as well, she's in the wrong fucking business. The stuff I've heard about what goes on in writing and brainstorming sessions is filthy, but utterly necessary to the kind of creative give-and-take that creates a good script and a good show, especially for a comedy. If it were an hour-long drama or a news program or a reality show, I might have a little more sympathy for her. But you can't create humor while having to constantly monitor and self-censor and worry that someone in the room might take offense and launch a ridiculous lawsuit.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:09 PM on May 5, 2004


asparagirl beat me to it. but maybe the plaintiff began working on the show back when it was carried on the 700 Club...
posted by NationalKato at 7:03 PM on May 5, 2004


So the comic mind of a male network sitcom writer is so untamed that it simply can't be censored, then? Maybe the court will go that way, but creating a separate harrassment standard for sitcom writers just seems odd to me. Perhaps they really are that special.

However, seems to me like the fact that these male writers are arguing for their own special sexual harrassment standard makes them not so different from the chick who is supposedly demanding special workplace treatment (because being called a c*nt upsets her eggshell psyche, I guess). If she is a disgrace to true gender equality as others above have argued, I'm not sure why this argument can't be mirrored back at the guys.

For my own part, I would probably have less of a problem with "raunchy" and "filthy" but for the fact that much of what's described here is unfailingly demeaning to women, and doesn't seem connected with any script.

But you can't create humor while having to constantly monitor and self-censor and worry that someone in the room might take offense and launch a ridiculous lawsuit.

Again, note that they did self-censor in front of the female writer. Apparently, it wasn't that hard to do. They just didn't make the effort for the writing assistant, maybe because the power dynamic was different.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:24 PM on May 5, 2004


Asparagirl, could you please explain how saying "Courteney Cox has twigs in her pussy" was going to help anyone write a funny script for Friends?

Because I'd love to hear the explanation.

Again, free-associating about the characters is one thing--the complaints about writers saying things like "Let's make Joey a serial rapist" seem off-base.

But what possible "creative" purpose could be served by childishly obscene discussions about co-workers? The place for that stuff is in the locker room or a bar, not the workplace.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:32 PM on May 5, 2004


Whether or not this is a ridiculous lawsuit (and parts of it certainly seem to be), I am appalled by all of the people on here who are defending people's "right" to make someone who works for them type up transcripts of their crude eighth-grade-level conversations about their coworkers' sexual organs.

And, Asparagirl, you'd be surprised how many actually funny movies and TV shows have gotten written without anyone pretending to masturbate in the office.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:35 PM on May 5, 2004


Spilon, are you seriously saying that you have a workplace in which coworkers discuss the genitalia of their colleagues?

Well, my current workplace is just me, so I already know all there is to know about my colleague's genitalia. Probably too much, actually. But in the past, when I've actually had to go to an office where other people worked, well, yes... among other things.

Lots of other things.
posted by spilon at 7:44 PM on May 5, 2004


So the comic mind of a male network sitcom writer is so untamed that it simply can't be censored, then?

Who says it's just male writers? Women writers can be just as filthy, and in ways that men might find uniquely icky. There were probably instances where the writers were "demeaning" to men too (Joey as a serial rapist?!), but she's just not complaining about it.

They just didn't make the effort for the writing assistant, maybe because the power dynamic was different.

Maybe. But I don't see why they should be self-censoring at all. Not in that job.

I think it's just the nature of the beast when you're writing comedy (or trying to). Everything and I mean everything has to be up for grabs so that maybe 10% of the crap that comes out of the writers' free-form spewing will turn out to be that one off-the-wall thing that's just so-damn-funny. There has to be that freedom to say stupid shit so that you can maybe get to that one joke that'll get into the script. Think where comedy would be without the ability to say offensive stuff--think of a world without Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. And they were known for offensive stuff that went into their acts. This is just stuff that's just tossed around in some room where none of the cursewords or really offensive stuff goes into the actual script.

type up transcripts of their crude eighth-grade-level conversations

But that's the whole definition of a writer's assistant's job! They type up everything that gets said in a writers' meeting into notes so that later everyone can go over the notes of the conversation and start to form a story structure from all the stuff that was thrown out there, including alternate endings and scenes. Again, if she doesn't want to hear that sort of stuff, she's in the wrong job.

She's not going to make anyone change their behavior, because that kind of honesty-in-profanity is seen, rightly or wrongly, as absolutely crucial to the job itself, not an annoying sidebar to the "real" work. The upshot of this case will not be that network and cable workplaces will suddenly become kinder and gentler, but that women will need to be vouched for as "cool" with office humor before they can get a job in the writers' inner sanctum. In short: new higher hurdles for women. Um, yay.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:56 PM on May 5, 2004


Sometimes - a lot of times - when creative work is done, especially under a deadline, the creators go into a "brainstorming" mode, wherein any and every idea is allowed. It helps you get past your inhibitions and your self-criticism, it helps you push past all the cliches that offer themselves up, all the references to other works, and whatever personal shit you're dealing with at the time that may or may not be worth sublimating into the writing. And if the creativity is collaborative, then the less sacred cows the better. Now, if someone who is a part of that process simply cannot abide certain ways of speaking, and is not at all willing to let that tension be part of the process, then of course, that has to be taken into consideration. But if the writier's assistant cannot abide the way the writers talk, she should fucking quit.

Some of you are asking for examples of a creative process that would involve making crude jokes and end in wholesome comedy. But it's no big secret that it's virtually impossible for most creative people to explain how their creative process works at all, twigs or no twigs, sitcom or no sitcom. Some people type at a manual typewriter until they're so exhausted that their conscious brain stops getting in the way of what they really want to express. Some people do drugs. And if the writers of the most successful sitcom on TV, never mind whether it's good or not, want to joke about the twigs in Courteney Cox's uterus to get them in the groove to write their phenomenally successful show, then the network will damn well roll in the catered lunches while they do it.

That writer's assistant had a hugely coveted position. Some people would have taken lashings or given up much more lucrative jobs to work on a show that big. Most of them would do it for free. I echo comments above that if this kind of thing is really enough to get to her, then she is in the wrong industry. The only thing that's going to change in her life is that nobody in TV is going to want to hire her.
posted by bingo at 8:24 PM on May 5, 2004


Dude, friends sucks. I didn't read the post, I didn't read the comments. It's a shitty show, get over it.
posted by zekinskia at 9:01 PM on May 5, 2004


OMG I can't believe M*A*S*H is ov3r. Ph3b3 and Hawk3y3 will never d0 teh wild thang. This iz teh mo2t import3nt nit3 uv tv 3v3r! OMG LOL!!!1!! GWB rAwx!!1!
fuckany1whocaresaboutfriendz
posted by stonerose at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2004


Wow. If the creative process is such a terrible dark mystery that can't be understood, to the extent that we ought to encourage network sitcom boys to make as many pussy and rape jokes as they want to to their female underling for the good of network comedy everywhere, then I really think that guys in much more important, lifesaving jobs ought to be allowed alot more leeway if it permits them to produce works of greater genius. For example, if my emergency room surgeon would like to make ribald racist jokes about his minority nurse because it puts him at ease under pressure, that should be okay, too. And the AIDS researcher who likes to riff about homosexuals to his gay assistant should be told to go crazy with it if it helps him relax and do his job. I mean, if we're going to fashion new, lax standards of harrassment for comedy, maybe we should double our efforts for science and technology, too. And then, let's really fix things up and do it for politics and law, next!

I would have no problem if George Carlin hired someone to type his transcripts and they were full of the most offensive stuff ever. There is a direct relationship to his work, because his work is all about the complete lack of boundaries. But for a bunch of male network sitcom writers to claim that they can't be held to any of the rules of a normal workplace, at any time, just seems silly.

Second, from what I remember of the complaint, alot of this stuff was not done in brainstorming sessions. This was just the everyday work environment. I think one of them called her at home and called her or a colleague a c*nt. Because, you know, that's clearly the key to writing pure comedy gold.

For those who are making the "higher hurdles for women" argument, I think this would be a good point, except that the same argument was undoubtedly made about the women who complained about harrassment in their trucking and machinists jobs, too. Of course, now the law has changed so that workplace conditions there for women have improved such that women don't have to stand for being called c*nts by their coworkers anymore. But maybe you feel this is not progress.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2004


FINALLY A COGENT POST.
posted by cohappy at 10:16 PM on May 5, 2004


Wow. I'm coming in late in this discussion, but I'll add my $.02 nevertheless...

I used to work on FRIENDS as a PA during its 2nd & 3rd seasons. I've been in the offices, sat in the writer's room, and have worked w/ all the defendants listed in the lawsuit. However, I was gone before Ms. Lyle's tenure. The idea that the show fosters a sexist environment is far from true. FRIENDS has as many -- if not more -- women in positions of power than other shows on television. Compare the number of female producers on FRIENDS to MALCOLM, or RAYMOND. Furthermore, the show has promoted many of its female writers assistants. I can think of at least five working female writers who got their break working in the trenches on that show. The producers even set up an on-set nanny so that mothers on the show wouldn't have to sacrifice their careers for their children. Hollywood may be a boy's club, but FRIENDS was far from its worst offender.

I write sitcoms (nothing on the level of FRIENDS, but I'm trying...). Hardly a noble profession, but there are worse ways to make a buck. Writer's rooms are, by necessity, notoriously bawdy. For example -- Statements about the status of Courtney Cox's vagina may seem questionable but, during the last two seasons Courtney's character, Monica, has been struggling with infertility and as a result, they are adopting a baby. Coincidence? Maybe, but on some level that story may has its roots in an off-color joke told in passing. That's why those notes are important. They're constantly being reread. When you do 22 episodes a season, each with multiple story lines, fresh ideas get devoured in a hurry.

These off color jokes can indirectly foster the creative process in other ways. All this blue material is what's referred to as a "room bit." You pitch this stuff knowing full well that it won't make it in the script. However, when it's 5:00pm and you've returned from a poor run-thru with 10 or more hours of rewrites ahead of you, only to have to redo the whole thing again tomorrow, sometimes you pitch these things just to get a laugh, raise people's spirits, and get the ball rolling.

Ultimately, it comes down to context. What's appropriate in one environment may have no business in another (the football ass slapping in the original link is an apt analogy). Of course much of this language is offensive and has no place in 99% of American offices. That doesn't make it inappropriate in all instances to all people. When you decide to work in comedy, isn't exposure to offensive material an occupational hazard? Does a bartender working at the Improv have the right to sue when Chris Rock does a profanity-laden set?
posted by herc at 10:35 PM on May 5, 2004 [1 favorite]


herc, now that's what I call a COGENT POST. Thank you!

I'm surprised no one's brought up this (my favorite) part of the complaint:

"Evidence of racial harassment in the workplace:

93. When I begin my job as a writer's assistant it was a month and a half before my computer was connected to the computer network so I could do my job properly. All the other writers' assistants who were white males were connected to the network."

The horrible grammatical mistakes aside, is she serious about this? Fer chrissakes, just plug in the ethernet cable. I wasn't there, but to say its a racist conspiracy is just absurd.

Her whole complaint seems to reek of desperation to me. She couldn't hack it, just isn't cut out for this sort of (dream) job, and became convinced that she's somehow entitled to cash in too. Quite likely she was incompetent and was treated as such. I put this lady in the same boat as "Omarosa" ... a boat I want to be far, far away from.
posted by Fofer at 11:33 PM on May 5, 2004


1) "Is this 'friends' something you'd need a..." Okay. I'm sorry.

2) She'd really hate this office. The office discussion is based on the material you are working on. No-one much is going to swear while they're working on a reprint of the bible (Okay, i probably would) but in this office (where we regularally work on pornography) the air regularally turns blue... If you don't like the job, leave. Unless you're new to the profession, you must have known that the writing rooms are like this. Get over it.
posted by twine42 at 2:04 AM on May 6, 2004


This is silly. If the job was so unendurable, why'd she wait around to be fired? Why not quit?

Sounds like she hated her job, got an attitude, got fired, now wants a piece of pie.

No one makes people keep their jobs. If its bad enough that you feel you should sue, why did you subject yourself to it??
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 9:35 AM on May 6, 2004


You Crazy Americans!
posted by seanyboy at 12:45 AM on May 7, 2004


Sounds like she hated her job, got an attitude, got fired, now wants a piece of pie.

This does not justify the admitted behavior of the writers. This "creative freedom" argument is complete bullshit.
posted by cohappy at 1:26 AM on May 7, 2004


"85. Adam Chase and Greg Malins told me that his recollection was that all the writers' assistants before me got there name listed in the credits of the television show "Friends." I never got a credit.
86. Andrew Reich would always make comments and shoot down any of my ideas."

I'm not saying they weren't pigs but these two might be particularly telling. Nobody should work in an environment like that if it offends them but for god's sake it's Hollywood.
posted by m@ at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2004


Point #85 is *wrong*. None of the writer's assistants on the show got a screen credit -- as per Warner Bros. policy. Some studios give the entire production staff screen credit, others base screen credit on job title/union membership. All she had to do was watch an episode of the show to discover that.

Point #86 is moot. Her job was to be a Writer's Assistant -- not a writer. It's poor form in the industry for the writer's assistants to pitch in the room. It's been that way on every show I've ever worked on. That'd be like a paralegal complaining when an attorney at the firm doesn't take the paralegal's advice.
posted by herc at 1:23 PM on May 7, 2004 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying they weren't pigs but these two might be particularly telling. Nobody should work in an environment like that if it offends them but for god's sake it's Hollywood.

Why are these complaints more telling than the workplace behavior complaints? Assume for a minute that she had terrific ideas -- if they were repeatedly shot down, wouldn't it make sense for her to complain about it here?

Seems like she can't win here. Either she's being a big baby for complaining about a hostile work environment, or she's being a big baby for complaining about not having her work taken as seriously as everyone else's. Clearly she should just shut up and be happy she was ever allowed to play with the big boys.

Of course, when the three guys behave like adolescents by putting up drawings of girls with big boobs and open legs, that's okay, because hey, it's comedy.

Does a bartender working at the Improv have the right to sue when Chris Rock does a profanity-laden set?

No. That's clearly job-related -- the bartender had to be there and Rock's routine was clearly Rock's work. If, however, every day after his set Rock went to the bar to work on new jokes and and repeatedly called a waitress a c*nt and mused out loud about the fictitious butt sex that he had had with her and her friends, I think we could agree that this would be sexual harassment unnecessary to the performance of his comedy routine. (At least, I hope so.)

That's my main problem with the behavior of these guys. It's demeaning to women and just not connected to their job. Having crude drawings of women on the walls fostered their creative genius? Calling women c*nts or bragging about anal sex with Aniston brings them closer to their next big plotline? If people think the plaintiff is just making a big deal of this because of sour grapes and an excuse for being fired for poor job performance (and frankly, maybe that's true -- if she had succeeded in her job she might not be so bitter now about the sexist atmosphere that surrounded her failure), can you also see that maybe these guys did alot of really dumb and sexist stuff that wasn't necessary or even ultimately useful for their jobs, which they're now using their jobs to try to excuse?

From the court decision [pdf] overturning the dismissal of the case (p. 34):

"Finally, our Supreme Court's definition of harassment supports the argument a defendant may answer a claim of sexual harassment with a claim of 'creative necessity.' In Reno v. Baird the court defined harassment as 'conduct outside the scope of necessary job performance, conduct presumably engaged in for personal gratification, because of meanness or bigotry, or for other personal motives. Harassment is not conduct of a type necessary for management of the employer's business or performance of the supervisory employee's job.'

"Thus, to the extent defendants can establish the recounting of sexual exploits, real and imagined, the making of lewd gestures and the displaying of crude pictures denigrating women was within 'the scope of necessary job performance' and not engaged in for purely personal gratification or out of meanness or bigotry or other personal motives, defendants may be able to show their conduct should not be viewed as harassment."

Alot of this stuff (e.g., calling their female colleague a c*nt, the drawings, the anal sex with Aniston stories) sounds like it was just done for personal gratification, and not for the job. If someone could give me an explanation for how it could possibly be necessary to call a woman they work with a c*nt in order to do their jobs, particularly when they were not having one of their sacred brainstorming sessions, I am all ears.

Point #86 is moot. Her job was to be a Writer's Assistant -- not a writer. It's poor form in the industry for the writer's assistants to pitch in the room. It's been that way on every show I've ever worked on. That'd be like a paralegal complaining when an attorney at the firm doesn't take the paralegal's advice.

Are you sure it worked that way here, or are you just defending your old workplace? One of the other writer's assistants working at the same time (a white male named Boyle, who also btw was a sub-par Writer's Assistant -- see p. 14 of the pdf) actually got promoted to being a staff writer. Wasn't he pitching ideas, too, or did they just magically intuit that he'd be a good writer? Your analogy to law is inaccurate, since lawyers have to pass bar and ethics requirements that don't apply to paralegals. (Thus, a paralegal could never simply get "promoted" to attorney by being a go-getter, but a writer's assistant apparently can get promoted to writer that way.)
posted by onlyconnect at 4:01 PM on May 7, 2004


I'm absolutely positive that there's no "writers assistant" credit on the show. At least, not as it was broadcast on NBC. I can't speak for the credits as they appear on the syndicated episodes, nor on the DVDs. Haven't watched either of them.

Nobody "magically intuits" anything. Boyle most likely got his promotion in much the same way that the six female writers assistants got their promotions -- by writing screenplays and other samples after work and on weekends. Once the material is ready, you ask one of the writers if they'd be willing to read your stuff. If they like it, they pass it up the chain. This is how it works, and how assistants -- writer's assistants, producers assistants, production assistants -- land agents and writing gigs. As for the paralegal angle -- why couldn't a go-getter paralegal go to night school, (there are plenty of part-time law schools), pass the bar, and become an attorney. I think you'll find it takes less time to for a lay person to get a JD than to get a script produced in Hollywood.

Had Lyee written any spec material? If so, was good? Did she respond to criticism of her work, or did she get defensive? I don't know. But that the show promoted six of its female writers assistants makes me question how great a role her gender, and sexual harassment, played in denying her a promotion.
posted by herc at 7:37 PM on May 7, 2004


1. You said #86 (one of the writers allegedly always made comments and shot down Lyee's ideas) was "moot" because writer's assistants never pitched ideas.
2. I disputed this because writer's assistants clearly must pitch ideas somehow because sometimes they get promoted to writer, as Boyle was.
3. The complaint doesn't specify how Lyee pitched her ideas, so she may or may not have taken the routes you say are the normal ones and/or the very same ones that Boyle did when he was a writer's assistant. I don't know, and I don't think you do either, so I'm not sure how this issue is "moot."

I think you'll find it takes less time to for a lay person to get a JD than to get a script produced in Hollywood.

Again, are you sure? Zack Rosenblat was apparently also working as a writer's assistant with Lyee in June of 1999 [see pdf link], but by January of 2001 was getting credit for writing his own Friends scripts. That's 18 months. Law school usually takes 3 years, and if you do it part time as a night student it's usually at least 4.

That said, I think I'm in a cranky mood, and was during the last comment as well, so I apologize for my tone. I'm very happy that the Friends people promoted six female writer's assistants. That's swell. I'm not happy that these particular three guys have admitted outright that many of Lyee's allegations about their behavior are true, and that the fine folks at Friends don't seem to have any problem with that.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:21 PM on May 7, 2004


Please explain to me how point 86 isn't moot? I didn't say writers assistants didn't pitch -- I said it was in poor form. A writer's assistant can pitch jokes and story ideas in the room all they want, but that's usually a fast-track to becoming unpopular, unwelcome, and unemployed. There's a big difference between pitching jokes & stories to the writing staff while they're trying to work, and giving one or two writers on staff a copy of your spec script and asking them to read it when they have a chance. Now, I don't know what route Lynee took, but that leads me to asking...

How does someone not liking your comedy pitches merit inclusion in a lawsuit? Hundreds of pitches get shot down every day in a writer's room. If I had a million dollar law suit for every pitch of mine that didn't make it on the page, I'd pony up the cash so Metafilter's servers would never go down again.

In Zack's case you're assuming that he didn't start writing material until he started working as a writer's assistant on FRIENDS. I doubt that Zach's first job in the entertainment industry was in a non-entry level position on the #1 comedy on television. Kevin Bright's nephew started working on the show as a PA, which is a significantly lower position than a writer's assistant -- and he's a direct blood relative to one of the show's creators. Add up the time Zach spent working toward getting a job on "Friends" that to the 18 months it took, once there, to get his first produced credit and it wouldn't surprise me if it took 3+ years.
posted by herc at 12:45 AM on May 8, 2004


Re 86, did you read my last comment? As you admit, it is not clear either to me or to you how Lyee "pitched" her ideas to the writers -- whether she did it orally or though spec scripts, as you say is the custom. All I mean is that Lyee could have "pitched" her ideas in the same way Boyle apparently did (you say this was probably through spec scripts -- fine, whatever), and when he did it it got him promoted, not fired. If she did exactly what Boyle did, and her ideas were just as good, but she got fired and Boyle got promoted, the appropriate place to raise this clearly would be in her lawsuit, where she is complaining that she did the same quality work as others but got fired for the pretextual reasons of her race and sex. So, not moot at all, to me.

Not to belabor the point, but I do think your comparison of writers and writers' assistants to lawyers and paralegals is flawed. A paralegal, as a way of getting ahead, never sits in their office and drafts up their own briefs for a lawyer to review. They don't pitch new and innovative legal theories and case interpretations to lawyers in order to "get promoted" to lawyer. They simply cannot become lawyers that way -- they must pass the bar. The "take a look at my script/brief" approach isn't done in the legal world as a way of moving from one position to another, but apparently it's a completely regular part of the sitcom world. So to say that Lyee was out of line if she tried to move forward to submitting her ideas in scripts, or whatever, doesn't seem fair, because apparently that's how it's done.

Finally, if you do have any explanation for why it might be necessary to call a colleague a c*nt in order to do the job of a writer on Friends, especially while not in a brainstorming session, I really would be interested in hearing the inside view.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:17 PM on May 8, 2004


It is not the assistant's job to pitch material and to try to get hired as a writer. In fact, it's a cliche that "you can't get promoted to the position of 'writer.'" That it has happened so many times on this show is remarkable.

All herc was trying to say with his paralegal analogy was that a paralegal could go through the process of becoming a lawyer - the schooling and the bar exam - in less time than it takes most writers to become professionals. I think he was perfectly clear.
posted by bingo at 1:39 PM on May 8, 2004


All herc was trying to say with his paralegal analogy was that a paralegal could go through the process of becoming a lawyer - the schooling and the bar exam - in less time than it takes most writers to become professionals. I think he was perfectly clear.

Here's what he originally wrote:

Point #86 is moot. Her job was to be a Writer's Assistant -- not a writer. It's poor form in the industry for the writer's assistants to pitch in the room.** It's been that way on every show I've ever worked on. That'd be like a paralegal complaining when an attorney at the firm doesn't take the paralegal's advice.

So, again, paralegals don't get promoted to lawyer by pitching briefs or legal theories to lawyers. They can't. Writer's assistants on Friends apparently do get promoted that way. Boyle did. Even if it takes them 10 or 20 years to get their promotion that way, and a paralegal can go through night school in 4 years -- wow, writer's assistants must be really dedicated, that's great. Even after the paralegal gets through night school, I have never once heard of a paralegal that then began pitching briefs to her lawyers in her off time. Promotion in the two fields just is not achieved in the same way. The analogy is not fair to Lyee. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear.

** Herc assumes that Lyee was pitching in the room, but we don't know from the complaint how she was pitching. She could have been submitting scripts, or doing whatever Boyle did, or Rosenblat, or whatever. (Furthermore, both you and herc suggest that the Friends atmosphere was sort of weird because so many writer's assistants got promoted to writer there, so it seems possible that even if pitching in the room was taboo at other places, it may not have been so taboo at Friends, which apparently had a big pool of talented writer's assistants.)

It is not the assistant's job to pitch material and to try to get hired as a writer.

If it was a common practice on Friends for writer's assistants to pitch material to get hired as a writer (Boyle, Rosenblatt, the 6 female writer's assistants, etc.), and Lyee did it, submitted good stuff, and was fired, I think this fact becomes relevant to her lawsuit of whether she was treated differently due to her sex or race, and is not "moot."

If you have anything to add on the c*nt question, bingo, please feel free to have at it.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2004


If it was a common practice on Friends for writer's assistants to pitch material to get hired as a writer (Boyle, Rosenblatt, the 6 female writer's assistants, etc.), and Lyee did it, submitted good stuff, and was fired, I think this fact becomes relevant to her lawsuit of whether she was treated differently due to her sex or race, and is not "moot."

"Moot" may not be the most accurate word, but I'm not sure that you understand the kind of situation we're talking about here. Most jobs of this kind (i.e. non-creative entertainment industry jobs) are acquired more on the basis of who you know than on merit to begin with. If there was really some kind of racist, sexist hegemony going on at Friends, it could have easily been enforced by only hiring white men and/or female minorities who were willing to put up with that kind of environment. But the fact that the plaintiff got hired to begin with is testament to the fact that such is not the case.

Nevertheless, I think herc was calling it "moot" because the hearing of pitches from assistants, successful or not, is not part of the job. Now don't get me wrong, it may be permitted, but whether or not it was part of the job is surely germaine to whether or not it can be part of a harassment suit. She is, after all, suing for harassment inflicted on her on the job.

Sure, her lawyer might say in court that her off-the-job treatment is evidence of an overall prejudice against her. But I don't think that the jury will buy it, and I don't think that they should. Many low-ranking Hollywood people get fired because they are too pushy with their employers about hearing their ideas and incorporating them more into the organization. A lot of it has to do with social networking, and some of it has to do with the quality of the work. People get fired all the time from jobs like this just because they looked at somebody the wrong way. And most ideas that are pitched suck, and most spec scripts suck, and there won't be any proving in court that her stuff didn't suck. By definition, the arbiters of what material is appropriate for inclusion in a sitcom episode are the writers of that sitcom. If they deem a script "bad," well, then, you can disagree, but you can't make them hire the writer.

To anyone with much knowledge of the TV world, the fact that this show has promoted so many writer's assistants to writers is going to be viewed as shockingly benevolent. The fact that they did not tap this particular assistant along with all the others (and I'm sure she's not the only one that didn't get promoted) is not going to look strange.

If you have anything to add on the c*nt question, bingo, please feel free to have at it.

I'm not really sure that there's a point to us arguing about this further. I stand by what I said above about creative environments. Apparently, though, you are looking for someone to try and justify the use of the word in a work environment in general. I don't believe that such a justification is necessary. A man said a word at work, multiple times, that offended a woman who worked for him. She thinks that on that basis, the company she worked for should owe her money. Apparently, you agree. I don't. The difference of our opinions there is probably the subject of another, much more abstract, argument, on the appropriate role of law (and lawsuits) in society.
posted by bingo at 4:36 PM on May 8, 2004


Onlyconnect, I don't know why you're assuming that Lyle's material was good. Sure, I'm making an assumption as well -- that Lyle's stuff wasn't, but at least my assumption is based on the opinions of professional writer/producers, producers who have a track record of promoting writers assistants (male and female) when said assistants present them with quality material. That's my justification for thinking Lyle's ideas may have been poor. What's yours for thinking otherwise?

Secondly, having read the pdf again, it says that Lyle almost immediately began critiquing the show's casting decisions. I don't know what she was thinking, but it's insane for a writers assistant -- especially one who's been there for a matter of weeks -- to make creative suggestions about the show. Don't like my paralegal analogy? Fine. If you were a brand new sous-chef working at Spago, do you think it'd be a good idea to make menu suggestions to Wolfgang Puck? How long do you think that sous chef would last?

What's conveniently being forgotten in all this is that the show fired a male writers assistant at the same time. Lyle wasn't the only one terminated for being a poor writers assistant.

I didn't read anywhere in the PDF that Brian Boyle (or any of the other successful assistants on the show) pitched ideas, just that he was promoted. However, in the deposition, Lyle says that her pitches were shot down. So we know Lyle was pitching; we don't know about Brian. I can understand how you may not see the difference, but pitching ideas about the show you're working on and asking someone to read a script you've written are not the same. The former rarely works out well for the writer's assistant, whereas the latter is how 99.9% of the writers assistants I've known have managed to work their way up the food chain. And you'd never give a writer a spec script for the show they work on -- they won't/can't read it for fear of being sued should a similar story appear on the show. I suppose one could assume that Brian chose the atypical route and pitched casting and creative ideas to the producers -- just like Lyle -- rather than chosing the path that's been more-typically successful. I don't, and I'm basing my belief on industry practice. You're free to think it didn't happen this way, but what would this be based on?
posted by herc at 6:19 PM on May 8, 2004


Apparently, though, you are looking for someone to try and justify the use of the word in a work environment in general. I don't believe that such a justification is necessary. A man said a word at work, multiple times, that offended a woman who worked for him. She thinks that on that basis, the company she worked for should owe her money. Apparently, you agree. I don't. The difference of our opinions there is probably the subject of another, much more abstract, argument, on the appropriate role of law (and lawsuits) in society.

You make it sound as though my question is purely philosophical and I ask it merely to amuse myself. I do not. Its basis is in the facts of this case. Her co-workers used those words, and not when they were caught up in creative brainstorming sessions. But given your response here, I guess I have my answer. You may not feel that it is not the court's duty to interfere when employees create hostile work environments through sexist or racist language, but your opinion conflicts with decades of labor and employment law decisions. Argue this as an abstract question if you wish, but the reality is that law makes it the court's role to get involved. That's how conditions in the trucking and machinist's industry changed, though you would apparently feel that this was unnecessary, also.

That's my justification for thinking Lyle's ideas may have been poor. What's yours for thinking otherwise?

Defendant moved for summary judgment, which means that defendant has the burden of showing that there are no material facts in dispute in the case. I have no idea what the evidence is, but simply going on that standard, the Defendant has (and rightly so) the higher burden of proving his facts here, because if he succeeds in obtaining summary judgment, that's the end of the suit. (In fact the Defendants here did initially succeed, but part of that opinion, as well as the decision awarding Defendants attorneys fees, was overturned on appeal because the higher court determined that there were material facts in dispute.)

If there was really some kind of racist, sexist hegemony going on at Friends, it could have easily been enforced by only hiring white men and/or female minorities who were willing to put up with that kind of environment. But the fact that the plaintiff got hired to begin with is testament to the fact that such is not the case.

The fact that employers hire women and/or minorities does not by definition exclude the possibility that they'll have to work in a hostile environment. Again, look at the examples of female machinists and truckers from a decade or two ago. The courts did not look at those cases and say, "The fact that the trucking company hired and promoted minority women who had enough spunk to sue them means that the company is not supporting a racist, sexist hegemony, and therefore we find that it's okay for male truckers to call their female colleagues c*nts." No indeed, the courts said that the use of racist or sexist language, even in these traditionally rough-and-tumble fields, was illegal and made it harder for women and minorities to do their jobs.

If you were a brand new sous-chef working at Spago, do you think it'd be a good idea to make menu suggestions to Wolfgang Puck?

The "casting decisions" you refer to here, of course, were her ideas to introduce African Americans into the cast and as extras in scenes. The pdf says she gave these ideas to the writers -- are you equating the multiple writers who work on a sitcom to the one man who owns and singlehandedly masterminded a restaurant? I am seriously not trying to denigrate writers, but perhaps this is giving them a little too much credit? But I agree with you that if someone new and low on the totem pole came into a process that was already working very well and tried to revolutionize things with ideas that others thought were not so great, things would not go well for that person. I do see your point.

The appellate court determined that Lyee had been fired with good cause, and I really don't dispute that. But was her work environment unnecessarily hostile to women? The men she worked with wouldn't use the word c*nt around the female executive producer because she laid down that one rule. Did the guys protest it because they needed their comic freedom, or find it impossible to follow? No, they simply didn't call women c*nts in front of her. If such rules could apply whenever the executive producer was in the room, and didn't cramp their style overmuch, I don't see why at least that same rule couldn't be permanent, or at least apply when they weren't brainstorming. For that matter, if this rule worked and wasn't a burden, I think they probably could have lived with a few other rules, too. It just sounds to me like things got out of hand and the men forgot that they weren't in a frat house. I refuse to believe that even the best sitcom imaginable requires men to talk about women like that as routine behavior. Maybe I'm too idealistic.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:17 PM on May 9, 2004


You may not feel that it is not the court's duty to interfere . . .

One too many negatives there, sorry.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:22 PM on May 9, 2004


You may not feel that it is not the court's duty to interfere when employees create hostile work environments through sexist or racist language, but your opinion conflicts with decades of labor and employment law decisions.

I guess you're right: my opinion does indeed conflict with those decisions. I have worked many places, in and outside of the entertainment industry, wherein I heard my boss use the word "cunt," and other words that would probably make you unhappy. I didn't care. I don't care if someone else did care. Sometimes, my employers have said things unrelated to work that made me feel I was in a "hostile environment." But I didn't sue. I wouldn't. I would never feel that it would be right for me to do so, and the fact that there is a legal precedent for it merely annoys me.

re you equating the multiple writers who work on a sitcom to the one man who owns and singlehandedly masterminded a restaurant? I am seriously not trying to denigrate writers, but perhaps this is giving them a little too much credit?

Writers run the show. It would be hard to overestimate the amount of power they have in terms of what happens with relation to that show.

I don't see why at least that same rule couldn't be permanent, or at least apply when they weren't brainstorming.

Because they didn't want it to, and they make the rules for the show they run. It's possible that they could have lived with a vegan diet, too, but that's probably not what they preferred.

I think you summed up my view on this whole thing pretty well when you said, above (I know you were being sarcastic):

Either she's being a big baby for complaining about a hostile work environment, or she's being a big baby for complaining about not having her work taken as seriously as everyone else's. Clearly she should just shut up and be happy she was ever allowed to play with the big boys.

That's exactly what the truth is. Also, she has ruined her own career (which is a nice side effect).
posted by bingo at 1:57 PM on May 9, 2004


I feel I should add, in terms of your surprise at the comparison to a restaurant owner/designer, that really, while you may not think much of Friends, or sitcoms in general, writers on Friends are considered to have reached the pinnacle of their careers in an extremely competitive industry, and like most writers of hit TV shows, they are considered to be very intelligent and highly skilled. The sous chef who makes menu suggestions to Wolfgang Puck, as dumb as he would have to be, is still a better bet to keep his job for another day than a writer's assistant who suggests casting changes on a sitcom.
posted by bingo at 3:13 PM on May 9, 2004


Welcome to a few examples of legal history that you'd like to see vanished:

* EEOC v. Farmer Bros (1994) - Supervisor made foul comments about female employees including the size of their breasts. Bingo says, "Nothing wrong with that!"
* Kotcher v. Rosa and Sullivan Appliance Center (1992) -- Supervisor pretended to masturbate in front of employees. Bingo says, "Wank away!"
* Lipsett v. University of Puerto Rico (1988) -- Playboy centerfolds in school dining hall and meeting rooms. Bingo says, "It's educational!"
* Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards (1991) -- "Extensive, pervasive posting of pictures depicting nude women, partially nude women [and] sexual conduct." Bingo says, "Get over yourselves, girls, and while you're at it, put on a miniskirt and fetch me some coffee!"

You might want to roll back the clock and get rid of these cases, but lots of people (both women and men) are very glad that courts set a standard saying it's not okay to do these things.

Clearly she should just shut up and be happy she was ever allowed to play with the big boys.

I guess I understand your POV now. Thanks.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:39 PM on May 9, 2004


There's a difference between believing that it's not the government's job to interfere in a situation, and enthusiastically condoning the same situation. And I think that's pretty obvious from my comments above, too. Your imaginings of what I might have to say about those rulings only shows that you either don't understand my point of view, or are pretending that you don't understand it.

To take just one of your examples:

* EEOC v. Farmer Bros (1994) - Supervisor made foul comments about female employees including the size of their breasts. Bingo says, "Nothing wrong with that!"

Attempt, if you will, to stretch your mind around this crazy paradox: a) That doesn' t sound like a place I would like to work, and if the workers were marching in a picket line in front of the business, I probably would not cross it, and b) I do not think that they should have the right to take legal action against the employer as a way of retaliating.

Apparently, in your mind, there really isn't any difference between "that's not okay with me personally," and "that should be illegal." But to me, there is a huge difference.
posted by bingo at 6:26 PM on May 9, 2004


I guess I did misunderstand your crazy paradox. Let's look at what you said:

"I have worked many places, in and outside of the entertainment industry, wherein I heard my boss use the word "cunt," and other words that would probably make you unhappy. I didn't care. I don't care if someone else did care. "

It is true that I did not contort my mind into understanding you to mean that "that's not okay with me personally." I took that to mean that in fact you did not care, and didn't care if anyone else was offended by it, either. I certainly didn't take it to mean that you would mind working for a boss who called women c*nts or used other sexist language towards them, or wouldn't mind crossing a picket line to work there. Maybe I missed that part somewhere while I was concentrating on the fact that you said that you simply didn't care.

(I also understood that you went on to say that you also didn't think it should be illegal -- making it unlikely that these workplace conditions would ever change -- but that's not in dispute.)
posted by onlyconnect at 7:29 PM on May 9, 2004


Oh, come on. Now you're conflating what I was saying about my own hypothetical example, and what I was saying about one of your examples, and talking about them like they're the same thing.

It's really not worth my time to continue this argument if you're not even going to follow the bouncing ball. It's like you only read every other word of other people's posts before you respond to them.

What I said was that I didn't care about the use of "objectionable" words. I really, truly, could not give a fuck whether the word "cunt" was used in an office setting, anywhere on earth. That act, in itself, is fairly meaningless to me.

When you're talking about an employer who is directly badgering an employee, though, you're talking about something else. And sure, he might make use of all sorts of four-letter words in doing so, but the issue, to me, is the fact that the employer is making a malicious, direct, and fully deliberate effort to antagonize the employee. That's the sort of thing that might bother me. Not enough that I think the employee should be able to take legal action against the employer, though.
posted by bingo at 8:27 PM on May 9, 2004


...and, needless to say, that is not at all the type of thing that was going on in the Friends offices, either.
posted by bingo at 8:34 PM on May 9, 2004


Bingo, I honestly did not understand your position before. You really didn't spell it out until just now. If I may, I'd like to try to confirm that my current understanding is correct.

1. Boss regularly refers to women as c*nts, but not to specific employees -- no problem.
2. Boss uses term regularly to refer to a specific employee, i.e., "Hey, c*nt, come here." -- don't approve of, but woman shouldn't have right to sue.
3. Boss uses term regularly to refer to an employee's female colleague -- no problem.

Or maybe I've misunderstood again, because you do say that generally you don't care about the use of the word, ever. I'm honestly not trying to antagonize you here, simply trying to understand your position.

Finally, I am unsure what you would make of the second through fourth case examples I gave above. I suspect that they might fall into your "I don't approve and wouldn't like to work there, but don't think they should be able to sue" category. Can you confirm this?
posted by onlyconnect at 10:17 PM on May 9, 2004


I am not sympathetic to people who say that they are bothered by the use of certain words, regardless of the context. However, that doesn't mean that the words in question can't be used in a situation that I would find objectionable. For instance, I don't care who uses the word "banana," but if my boss comes up to me once a day wielding a hammer, and says "I'm going to crush your skull like a banana," then we've got a problem. The problem is not the fact that he used the word "banana."

1. Boss regularly refers to women as c*nts, but not to specific employees -- no problem.

This is probably not someone I want to work for, and he is obviously going to have a lot of people aligned against him, and perhaps by extension his business, as the result of showing that kind of attitude. But it's not the use of the word itself that I object to. Also, I don't think this has anything to do with the Friends case. Using a word sometimes to describe someone you're angry at, or for whatever reason want to make a negative statement about, is different than choosing language that unilaterally insults every member of a given group, whether you are unhappy with them or not (i.e. choosing an obviously insulting word to use instead of the more conventional ones, like "woman" or "person").

2. Boss uses term regularly to refer to a specific employee, i.e., "Hey, c*nt, come here." -- don't approve of, but woman shouldn't have right to sue.

Same response as to #1. Again, I don't think that this is comparable to the Friends case. Just to give some perspective: I'm Jewish, and if the catch phrase was "Hey kyke, come here," I would feel the same way. Don't get me wrong, I would quit, and I would file complaints with various organizations that would be likely to make the guy's life very difficult (boycotts, editorials, letters to his superiors from important people, etc.). But even if none of that bothered him, all that's happened is that he's been an asshole. It doesn't mean he owes me money.

3. Boss uses term regularly to refer to an employee's female colleague -- no problem.

I care to a lesser extent. Vaguely related to the Friends case...but from what I've read of the case, your definition of "regularly" might have to be pretty liberal for this to apply. "Reguarly," like, once an hour, or once a week? Once an hour would start to sound like the boss has a serious chip on his shoulder, and would be a difficult and annoying person to work for, whether he was using any particular word or not.

* Kotcher v. Rosa and Sullivan Appliance Center (1992) -- Supervisor pretended to masturbate in front of employees.

I don't know the details of this case, but given only this information, I'm not very sympathetic to the plaintiff.

Lipsett v. University of Puerto Rico (1988) -- Playboy centerfolds in school dining hall and meeting rooms.

I assume that the University of Puerto Rico is a public school. If so, that means that it is run by the government (at least the local government...I'm not sure how this works with regard to Puerto Rico, but I did my undergrad at the U of Kanas, and we basically owed our existence to the state legislature). The fact that it's not a private enterprise, i.e. it's funded by the taxpayers, means that the taxpayers and their representatives have the right to challenge the way it's being run. If it's a private school, they can do what they want (I don't think it would do much for their reputation, and I doubt I would want to go there).

* Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards (1991) -- "Extensive, pervasive posting of pictures depicting nude women, partially nude women [and] sexual conduct."

I find this distasteful, but then, I've never worked in a shipyard. Assuming it's a private business, then I think they should be able to hang whatever they want on the walls. If you don't like it, you can quit and/or organize boycotts, unions, letter-writing campaigns, etc. But if that doesn't work, I don't think it should be the government's job to step in and help you. I don't see this as having much to do with the Friends case either.
posted by bingo at 9:39 AM on May 10, 2004


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