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Sean Spicer Defends His Participation in Dancing with the Stars After Backlash

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  • Critics are using #BoycottDWTS online after Dancing with the Stars announced former Trump Administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer as a contestant on its 28th season.
  • Host Tom Bergeron also criticized the casting, saying he stressed not including any political figures during a meeting with the ABC show’s executive producer.
  • However, Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown, who will also appear on the season, defended Spicer, telling Access that he looked forward to respectful conversations with him.

Spicer on DWTS

Former Trump Administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer is responding to those critical of his participation in the upcoming 28th season of Dancing with the Stars after #BoycottDWTS began trending online.

“I am very happy with who I am and who I support,” Spicer said in an interview with CNN. “I’m not changing. I am giving people another opportunity to see a side of me that is different.”

Spicer also defended his appearance, calling the show entertainment and not news. “If people are looking for news, I suggest they tune into a news program,” he told CNN.

“It will make this show an example of how Americans can disagree about politics and tune into good entertainment shows and keep their politics at bay,” he told US Weekly in a statement.

On Wednesday, Good Morning America revealed the cast, which includes Christie Brinkley, Ally Brooke from Fifth Harmony, Kate Flannery from The Office, and Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown. Spicer will reportedly make six figures while on the show.

Before passing the position to Sarah Sanders, Spicer’s tenure as press secretary was embroiled in controversy. Following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Spicer claimed it was the largest crowd to ever show up at a presidential inauguration.

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” he said in a press conference

That claim was heavily disputed, and after he left the position, he later said he regretted making the comment.

Spicer also received criticism for comments about Hitler in relation to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

“You look, we didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” he said in a different press conference. “Someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” 

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Nazi soldiers under the command of Adolf Hitler killed millions of people using gas chambers.

While Spicer’s new appearance is also generating controversy, he is not the first political figure to appear on Dancing with the Stars. Fox News host Tucker Carlson competed in season 3. Former U.S. Representative Tom DeLay and now-Secretary of Energy Rick Perry also competed in different seasons.

More political figures connected to Trump such as Anthony Scaramucci and Omarosa also competed on other shows like Big Brother.

Host and Castmate Reaction 

Hours after Spicer’s casting was revealed, host Tom Bergeron jumped into the mix by criticizing the choice to cast a political figure. 

“A few months ago, during a lunch with DWTS’ new executive producer, I offered suggestions for season 28,” he said on Twitter. “Chief among them was my hope that DWTS, in its return following an unprecedented year-long hiatus, would be a joyful respite from our exhausting political climate and free of inevitably divisive bookings from ANY party affiliations. I left that lunch convinced we were in agreement.”

“Subsequently (and rather obviously), a decision was made to, as we often say in Hollywood, ‘go in a different direction.'”

“For me, as host,” he continued. “I always gaze into the camera’s lens and imagine you on the other side, looking for a two-hour escape from whatever life hassles you’ve been wrestling with. That’s a connection, and a responsibility, which I take very seriously.”

Castmate Karamo Brown, however, said he looks forward to having respectful conversations with Spicer. 

Sean Spicer and I have been talking,” he said in an interview with Access Online. “I was most excited to meet him because the thing is, people would look at us and think that we’re polar opposites, but I’m a big believer that if you can talk to someone and meet in the middle, you can learn about each other each other both grow, and so, we have been chatting all day today. He’s a good guy, really sweet guy.”

Online Response and Boycott Culture

Many online directed their criticism at Dancing with the Stars and its network ABC for deciding to cast Spicer, with some calling for a boycott of the show.

“Let @ABCNetwork know that paying Sean Spicer a reported six-figure salary to appear on @DancingABC is a hard pass from loyal viewers,” one person tweeted. “We will not be tuning in this season if he remains on the lineup.”

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Many of those people who are urging for a boycott of the show said they are scared to normalize a political figure who, at times, provided misinformation to journalists.

“Shame on you ABC,” one person tweeted. “By having Sean Spicer on DWTS, you are helping to normalize a behavior, ie lying, that is helping to tear down our democracy.”

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Meanwhile, others have called the situation the latest trend in a series of calls for people to boycott media, including hashtags like #BoycottMulan and #BoycottSony that trended earlier this week.

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (Vanity Fair) (LA Times)

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Chris Evans, Elijah Wood, and Others Speak Out Against James Dean CGI Casting

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  • A CGI version of James Dean has been cast as a secondary lead in the upcoming Vietnam War movie, Finding Jack.
  • The directors and studio received permission from Dean’s family to use his image, however, many do not think it is okay to use an actor in a film posthumously.
  • Stars like Chris Evans and Zelda Williams condemned the use of James Dean in this manner, seeing as there is no way to know if Dean would actually want to be in this movie. This started a widespread online discussion on the practice of using CGI to bring stars who have passed onto screens.

James Dean Cast in Film

Critics are speaking out against James Dean being cast in a movie⁠—60 years after his death. 

Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are partnering on the film Finding Jack, which is based on a novel of the same name. It will follow a man who is forced to abandon an injured dog he met while serving in Vietnam. The film is being produced by Magic City Films and Dean is set to play the secondary lead in the story.

Dean suffered an untimely death in 1955 after a car accident in northern California at the age of 24. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Dean’s performance will be constructed via “full body” CGI using actual footage and photos. Another actor will voice him.”

Dean’s family gave the studio permission to use his image for the film. 

“We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact,” Ernst said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”

Ernst also said that they did look at other casting options, but ultimately landed on Dean.

“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” he added.

Actors and Others Upset by the News

The concept of casting someone in a film posthumously did not sit well with many in the industry. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, said it sets an “awful precedent for the future of performance.” In fact, Robin Williams’ family restricted the use of his image for at least 25 years after his death in 2014.

Big-name actors also joined the conversation. Avengers star Chris Evans called the decision “awful.”

Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood said, “this shouldn’t be a thing.”

Julie Ann Emery, who has starred in projects like Preacher and Better Call Saul added that it may not give proper credit to the living actor providing Dean’s voice. 

“How do Dean’s descendants know that he would WANT to be in a Vietnam movie?” she later asked. 

Actors were not the only ones upset about this. An article from Vice pleaded “please don’t do this.”

“For the love of all that is holy, just let his legacy be,” it continued. 

Esquire came up with its own suggestions for working actors that would have made a better choice instead of Dean. Their picks ranged from Timothée Chalamet to Harry Styles, to Cardi B and Post Malone, all to say that any living person would be better than a CGI version. 

On the other hand, however, some were not as critical of the choice. While their voices were fewer and farther between, some thought that since his family gave it the okay, it should be allowed. 

Future and Past Instances

According to The Hollywood Reporter’s piece, Ernst might have future plans to use this kind of technology. Magic City will be working with a Canadian group called Imagine Engine and a South African group MOI Worldwide to produce the CGI, and their list extends past James Dean.

“Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance,” he said.

This is also not the first time a late actor has been used on the screen in this way. In 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Peter Cushing, who died two decades before the film’s release, made an appearance as Grand Moff Tarkin via CGI. He originally played the character in Star Wars: A New Hope. When Rogue One hit theaters, his presence caused its own controversy, with some also thinking it was wrong to do this.

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Deadline) (Los Angeles Magazine)

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Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock Sue Over Phony Endorsements

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  • Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock have filed a joint lawsuit against individuals and entities who use their likeness to create fake endorsements of products, in an effort to “expose the Celebrity Endorsement Theft Industry.”
  • Fake celebrity endorsements have become more common thanks to scammers who prey on consumers in a growing era of affiliate marketing. 
  • For years celebs have issued cease-and-desist orders, but these companies operate quickly, taking down one site only to replace it with another soon after.

Stars File Lawsuit

Hollywood stars Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock are fed up with websites using their likeness without consent to falsely promote their products 

The two filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court as part of an effort to “expose the Celebrity Endorsement Theft Industry,” which they say has become a major issue for stars in the digital age. 

DeGeneres and Bullock are specifically going after scammers in the affiliate marketing industry who direct traffic to e-commerce sites by creating phony advertisements. 

The two have issued a “right of publicity” claim, saying that these individuals and entities use their names and likeness for false advertising of products like face creams, anti-aging serums, dietary supplements, and more. 

But these obscure internet companies have proven to be difficult to go after. For two years, representatives for DeGeneres and Bullock have sent out cease-and-desist orders, but once one site is taken down, another pops up in its place under a slightly different name or form.  

“These companies change names frequently, merge in and out of entities formed in states that allow for secrecy, operate websites that pop up and disappear overnight, and generally do everything possible to ‘stay one step ahead of the sheriff,’” the complaint said, according to The New York Times. 

Because DeGeneres and Bullock don’t know for sure who exactly is behind the fraud, the defendants have been listed as John Does 1 through 100 and their lawyers can now issue subpoenas to undercover them. 

The Era of Affiliate Marketing and Scams 

Their lawsuit brings the issue of fake celebrity endorsements to the forefront, a problem that has become especially more rampant for Hollywood stars thanks to scammers who prey on consumers in a growing era of affiliate marketing. 

Affiliate marketing is a popular way for online figures to earn money by promoting products and directing consumers to the online seller. In most cases, a click that generates a sale can earn the publisher a commission, though other types of compensation arrangements are sometimes also agreed upon. 

It can be a very powerful marketing tool, especially when those promoting a product have built a strong reputation for trustworthiness with their audience.

According to estimates from Forrester Consulting, by next year the affiliate industry will be a $6.8 billion business, And while most participants are legitimate, others are not. Some take advantage of celebrities who have developed a strong reputation, as well as consumers who they may hold influence over. 

Bullock and DeGeneres aren’t alone in being targeted by these shady websites. Stars over 40 whom the public considers trustworthy or admirable are often used for these scams, including celebs like Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Ripa, and Denzel Washington, who is often used to falsely promote erectile dysfunction pills.  

As The Times points out, bombarding the web with these fake endorsements can actually be damaging to a celebrity’s reputation and hurt their ability to secure legitimate endorsement deals. 

How It’s Done 

A common trick these scammers use involves setting up websites “designed to look like legitimate and independent news reports or magazine articles about various Beauty products,” the complaint says. 

Then they post real images of celebrities that have been doctored to become a fake endorsement. The lawsuit points to some examples, like one image of Bullock appearing on NBC’s Today show to promote a film. The image was converted into an ad that read: “Sandra Bullock Talks About Her New Skin Care Line,” despite the fact that Bullock has never had a skincare line.

The ad is then accompanied by a link that leads to a site selling the celebrity’s supposed product.

Another example in the suit shows that ads include fabrications like: “Sandra even admitted that plastic surgeons are furious with her after noticing a large decline in patients.” 

In their complaint, DeGeneres and Bullock listed 40 beauty products that have been sold online with their names fraudulently linked.

Source: The New York Times

“The celebrity endorsement-theft business model is based on a scheme to trick consumers into disclosing their credit card and/or debit card information in order to enroll them in costly programs with undisclosed, or poorly disclosed, recurring charges,” Bullock and DeGeneres said in the complaint. Ads for the products “typically include unsubstantiated claims that the products will lead to dramatic results,” they continued.

Many of these fake ads also offer free trials, but the complaint says that in reality, customers are often charged full price. 

According to a 2018 report from the Better Business Bureau, offers of free trials put forward through this type of marketing “have infested the internet and social media” and cost more than a million victims upward of $1.3 billion over the past decade. 

Along with claiming violations of their rights of publicity in the suit, DeGeneres and Bullock are claiming false advertising and unfair competition. The lawsuit demands an injunction and compensatory damages. First, though, the suit seems designed to kick off an investigation into responsibility for the marketing. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Los Angeles Times

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Deprogramming: The art of getting people out of a cult.

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Deprogramming is a practice that consists of helping someone leave a cult by leading them to realize that they’ve been manipulated by the group they joined. While this sounds like a life-saving tool, especially for the families and loved ones of cult members, the practice has a controversial past that involves breaking the law.

In the 1970s, Ted Patrick coined the term deprogramming to describe the process of how he would kidnap young adults by the request of their parents and hold them in a room for days until they understood that their cult group was manipulating them. During his career, Patrick was able to kidnap hundreds of people. But what’s more surprising is that he was able to jump through many legal barriers before actually getting arrested and fined for kidnapping. 

Today deprogramming is completely different, but in this deep dive will explain how Patrick was able to deprogram his way for so long and shed some light on what modern-day deprogramming and therapy for cult survivors looks like.

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