The firing of Thomas Gibson: Celebrity Culture and the Inevitability of Male Violence

Thomas Gibson has been fired from Criminal Minds after kicking a writer in the leg following ‘creative differences’.

My very first reaction to this news was that there was no way one of the highest rated shows for CBS would fire its lead actor solely for kicking a writer – as the first media stories claimed. Allowing male celebrities to engage in violence and abusive behaviour on set. It took years of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by Charlie Sheen before he was fired from  Two & A Half Men – and even then only because he was rude about one of the producers.

So, I started googling Gibson to see what else he’s been up to. According to The Hollywood Gossip and Variety, the producers of Criminal Minds had already sent Gibson on anger management classes after he shoved an assistant producer in 2010. They also claim that Gibson has a history of “aggressive and verbally abusive” behaviour. The Hollywood Reporter insinuates that Shemar Moore left Criminal Minds last year following years of strife on set. There is also a lawsuit from Gibson’s former manager which also alleges abusive behaviour that has yet to receive a judgment from the Labour Commission.

The Hollywood Reporter, which is one of the more detailed descriptions of the allegations against Gibson, also mentions similar lawsuits – including one from Nicolette Sheridan for wrongful termination. Now, I never watched Desperate Housewives and only vaguely heard of Sheridan leaving the show, which I understood was because she was rude to Teri Hatcher (who, in turn, was apparently rude to Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, and Marcia Cross). Turns out I was wrong about the Sheridan lawsuit. She alleges that she was fired due to complaints about physical and verbal abuse by show creator Marc Cherry. Cherry claims her contract was ended due to her unprofessional behaviour and treatment of the other main actors. The lawsuit has wound its way through several courts and is set to restart in 2017 focusing on unfair dismissal rather than the allegations against Cherry.

The idea that Gibson was fired for kicking a co-worker was analogous to being rude (rather than verbally abusive) set me off on a spree of googling that resulted in me reading far too many ‘Worst Celebrities to Work With’ lists, which were pretty much the same:

  • women were listed for mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction
  • perfectionism in men was deemed controlling behaviour in women
  • women not liking their co-stars (like Hatcher) was labelled as ‘bad’ as men who engaged in verbal aggression and physical violence on set.
  • Not one of the women listed in ANY of the lists had a history of physical or sexual violence. Most of the men did.

These are some of the highlights:

Russell Crowe‘s reputation for aggressive and abusive behaviour on set has not prevented him from getting hired – whilst Katherine Heigl has been effectively blacklisted for being opinionated. I think we can all agree with Heigl that Knocked Up was misogynistic twaddle, even though she has now backtracked on that statement. Shannon Doherty is meant to be ‘demanding and controlling’ on set – Edward Norton and Christian Bale are lauded for the very characteristics that label Doherty ‘bad’. And, really, lists of ‘difficult actors’ that include Heigl for trashing a film she starred in tend to ignore  Steven Seagal – a man who has reputedly kicked numerous people on several sets between he legs.

According to this list, Jennifer Aniston is a bitch for choosing to eat alone whilst on set and Jennifer Lopez for requiring a personal assistant on call 24/7, which somewhat begs the question about the working conditions of personal assistants across Hollywood and businesses. Now, I’m all for unionising personal assistants and increasing pay and decreasing contact hours but Lopez is hardly a bitch for doing exactly the same thing as every single male actor in Hollywood. I can’t even begin to work out what Beyonce did wrong here.

Even Bustle, a supposedly feminist media site, includes 9 women on their list of “16 Actors who are the worst to work with”, including Lindsay Lohan whose documented history of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ is self-harming through alcohol and drugs rather than say, kicking a member of staff.

Only one list mentioned Randy Quaid:

… an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor, apparently behaved so badly while working on the pre-Broadway play “Lone Star Love” in 2007, that he was banned for life from Actors’ Equity and fined $81,000. A complaint filed by all 26 cast members against both Quaid and his wife/manager Evi alleged sexual harassment, physical violence and a variety of other transgressions.

Granted none of the gendered constructions of ‘bad’ are particularly shocking. Women have always been held to a higher standard than men. Male celebrities are forever given free passes for their violence – Charlie Sheen even got a sitcom based on his abusive behaviour called Anger Management. That millions of people actually watch. The media, who adore trashing Lindsay Lohan for her drug and alcohol abuse, have remained silent on the domestic violence she has experienced.

I’m sat here waiting for the inevitable allegations of domestic violence against Thomas Gibson. Men who believe they are entitled to verbally and physically abuse their co-workers tend to be the same ones who believe they have the right to abuse their partners and children. And the minimisations of Gibsons’ behaviour.

Mostly, I’m shocked that CBS took the steps to fire him, regardless of his behaviour on set. Because, Gibson is no different to hundreds of male celebrities who believe they are above the law. I mean, obviously, Gibson has now hired lawyers because having a penis in Hollywood means never ever taking responsibility for your actions and choices.

I wonder how many shows would be immediately cancelled if their male stars were fired for abusive behaviour on set?

 

One thought on “The firing of Thomas Gibson: Celebrity Culture and the Inevitability of Male Violence”

  1. Very interesting. I always found it bizarre that the cast of “Desperate Housewives” were meant to be the best of friends off-screen and that any indication this was not so was evidence of massive cat-fighting.

    As I understand it, making 20-something 45-minute episodes per year of a drama tends to be a gruelling experience for cast and crew alike. And yet lead cast members are expected to be best buddies off-screen. For the sake of the media, which can’t quite get its head around the fact that maybe they want to be with their real friends. Their chosen friends.

Leave a Reply