- Hallmark said it would reinstate several ads featuring a same-sex couple kissing at their wedding after pulling the plug on those commercials last week.
- A spokesperson also said Hallmark has a policy to “not to air overt public displays of affection” in ads, yet the company whose ads were banned said Hallmark continued to run similar ads featuring straight couples.
- In a statement on Sunday, Hallmark apologized for removing the ads and said it would affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Hallmark Brings Back Same-Sex Ad
After facing heavy criticism, the Hallmark Channel reversed a decision to remove several ads featuring same-sex couples at their wedding.
Crown Media Family Networks, which runs the channel known for its campy Christmas movies, pulled four out six ads for the wedding registry company Zola on Thursday.
The ad in question depicts two female brides at the altar while discussing how they could have better organized their wedding using the online wedding planner. The couple then shares a kiss and leave the chapel hand in hand.
“We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial,” a Hallmark representative said in an email to Zola.
“The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories,” the email went on to say.
As Zola pointed out, however, Hallmark decided to continue to run two of its other commercials which depict straight couples. One of those commercials shows a bride and groom passionately kissing.
In a statement to several news outlets on Friday, a Hallmark spokesperson tried to clarify the decision.
“Crown Media Family Networks made the decision to pull the commercials,” the spokesperson said. “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.”
Reactions to the Ad Being Pulled
Even before the same-sex ads were pulled, the conservative group One Million Moms protested the network’s inclusion of lesbian characters, saying they went against the channel’s “family-friendly roots.”
The group then launched a petition that saw over 30,000 signatures and viewed Hallmark’s decision to remove those ads as a victory.
In an interview with the CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Bill Abbott, the group said he told them that the ad had reportedly “aired in error.”
Many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, however, condemned the move and called it a step backward for representation on Hallmark. For those groups and LGBTQ+ individuals in general, some fear Hallmark’s decision to originally remove the ads could affect their chances of eventually being represented on the network.
While Hallmark has never featured LGBTQ+ leads, it is reportedly looking at pitches for LGBTQ movies. The president of Hallmark Cards, Inc. also told The Hollywood Reporter in November that the network is open to potentially casting gay leads in the future.
On the note inclusion, Saturday evening, the Netflix Twitter account seemingly took a jab at Hallmark by promoting two of its shows with lesbian characters.
The Schitt’s Creek account then replied with a similar tweet about two of its queer characters, David Rose and Patrick Brewer.
Billy Eichner also replied to Netflix’s tweet with a long-memed rallying cry from his show, Billy on the Street.
In her own post, Ellen Degeneres asked Abbott to explain the decision.
LGBTQ+ Groups Cheer Hallmark’s Decision to Reinstate Ads
In a statement apologizing for removing the ads, Mike Perry, the president of Hallmark Cards, Inc., said the company has a track record proving it is an inclusive company.
“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” he said. “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
The statement then goes on to say that Hallmark is and has always been committed to diversity and inclusion, adding that it never intended to be controversial.
Many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD hailed the decision, saying the channel reversed a “discriminatory” and “hypocritical” move.
“The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine,” Sarah Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said.
Other stars like Jane Lynch also hailed the decision, with Lynch writing, “Love wins!” on Twitter.
Not unexpectedly, however, some conservative voices criticized Hallmark for going back on its decision, including, Franklin Graham, son of the late televangelist Billy Graham.
“We can change the channel,” Graham said. “That’s what I’ll do if I’m watching @HallmarkChannel & an ad w/gay people kissing comes on. My family—& many, many others—have appreciated their wholesome content. But the LGBTQ agenda bullies everybody—including them.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)
Zendaya, John David Washington, and “Euphoria” Creator Film Secret Movie During Coronavirus Pandemic
- “Malcolm & Marie,” a new picture starring Zendaya and John David Washington was completely written and shot during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced most productions to halt in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
- The film was written and directed by “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, who began the project after Zendaya asked him if he could pull off a quarantine movie.
- The cast was under strict safety precautions and underwent a two-week quarantine on location before filming. While filming, sanitation, social distancing, and other measures were also taken.
- This comes as Hollywood is working on its plans to open up again, a complicated task made even more difficult by growing coronavirus cases.
Film Shot in Secret
Zendaya, along with John David Washington and “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, secretly filmed an entire movie during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a report from Deadline, the actress called Levinson after production for season 2 of “Euphoria,” which she also stars in, came to a halt over concerns regarding COVID-19. She asked if he could write and direct a movie during quarantine and just six days later, he churned out a script titled “Malcolm & Marie.” Levinson then brought Golden Globe-nominated Washington on board to co-star in the feature alongside Zendaya.
Shooting began on June 17 and wrapped up on July 2, according to Deadline’s exclusive. The film was shot at the Caterpillar House in Monterey County, California, where shooting on private property was allowed at the time. The house sits on 33 acres of land, providing plenty of space between the crew and the outside world.
Safety Measures Taken
Levinson, Washington, Zendaya, and other producers on the project worked with lawyers, doctors and industry unions to make sure they were following COVID-19 safety precautions while on set. Deadline said that the cast and crew quarantined in Monterey for two weeks prior to shooting.
During that time, everyone wore masks, social distanced, had individual dwellings, rehearsed in the parking lot, and ate in designated spots with food only prepared by chefs who were also quarantining. No one was allowed off the property, no physical contact was allowed, and no more than one person was allowed in a room at the same time, unless those people had been quarantining together.
Cast and crew were tested at the start and end of their quarantine, and the film kept to a relatively small crew. Only 12 people were allowed on set at a time, and had to wear personal protection equipment when in contact with actors. Physical distancing was required as much as possible.
Production offices worked remotely and there were increased sanitation measures for those on set. Surfaces were cleaned, frequent hand washing was required, and people were not allowed to share things like keys or phones.
Hollywood and Coronavirus
This comes as production fell last quarter by 98%, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Because of this, Hollywood is anxious to find a path forward with filming. Some bigger productions, like “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which is set to resume filming this month, will have large budgets devoted to sanitation.
However, that picture is filming in the United Kingdom. Movies filming in the United States have to battle growing coronavirus cases, which could severely delay reopening plans.
Christopher Miller, a writer and producer behind hits like “The Lego Movie” and “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” warned that these increased cases could throw the industry further behind.
Right now, Hollywood could look to “Malcolm & Marie” as an example of how to shoot a film while in quarantine. While it was completed in secrecy and details are still scant, projects designed to be completed in some form of isolation could be the answer.
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (IndieWire)
Lady A, Formerly Lady Antebellum, Sues Black Blues Singer Lady A Over Rights to Use Name
- In June, the country group Lady Antebellum renamed itself Lady A, dropping the word “antebellum” due to its association with slavery. However, a Black blues singer named Anita White noted that she had been using “Lady A” professionally for more than 20 years.
- After a Zoom call between all parties, it appeared that they agreed to coexist, but White later said she felt the band’s camp was trying to erase her after seeing their draft agreement.
- On Wednesday, the band sued White for the right to use the name after claiming she demanded $10 million dollars as part of a draft settlement agreement.
- The band claims they trademarked the name in 2010 without opposition and are not seeking monetary damages or asking for White to stop using the name, but want all parties to coexist.
Country Band Rebrands
Lady A, the country band formerly known as Lady Antebellum, is now in a legal battle with a Black blues singer named Anita White, who is known professionally as Lady A.
Discussions over the use of “Lady A” have been going on for about a month now, so let’s take a look at how the issue started.
After nationwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people unjustly killed by police, people all across the country have been forced to confront systemic racism and their roles in perpetuating inequality. In response, there have been widespread changes, from TV shows removing scenes with blackface, to brands pulling logos that many deemed offensive.
The country band joined in on that movement, dropping “antebellum” from their name over its ties to slavery.
On June 11, bandmembers Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood said they would officially go by Lady A. At the time, the group said, “When we set out together almost 14 years ago we named our band after the southern “antebellum” style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and of course country.”
“But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this world referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our heart’s intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that.”
Anita White Blindsided
But soon after, Anita White came forward to say she had been using Lady A as a stage name for over 20 years and was blindsided by the country band’s announcement. Her fans reportedly bombarded her with the news that her name has been solen, and in an interview with Rolling Stone, the 61-year-old singer said the band hadn’t reached out to her before making their decision.
At the time, she called it ironic that they were changing their name in support of racial equality while at the same time taking another name from a Black performer. She said she would not stop using the name and called their failure to reach out “pure privilege.”
“They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it,” she added.
“It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them.”
Discussions Take Place
After facing questions about White, the band admitted that they were not aware she was already using the name and planned to reach out.
Then on June 15, they shared an image of a Zoom call with White that seemed to suggest they had reached an agreement. “We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come,” the band wrote at the time.
White tweeted out a similar message, however, shortly after the chat, she told Newsday, “I received a draft agreement from the Antebellum camp. I’m not happy about [it] yet again after talking in good faith… Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”
Tensions escalated Wednesday when the band sued the singer for the rights to use the name. According to the lawsuit, the parties involved had agreed to coexist, with the band agreeing to support the singer’s musical career. It even says they had plans to collaborate on a song together.
However, the band says talks fell apart when “White’s new counsel delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand.”
The group said in a statement, “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”
“We are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.”
The suit outlines the band’s history with the name, saying they’ve used Lady Antebellum and “Lady A” interchangeable since around 2006 or 2007. The filing reportedly included documents of the band’s website and other reports demonstrating their use of the name.
According to the suit, the group applied to register “Lady A’ as a trademark in 2010. It was officially registered in 2011 and reportedly received no opposition at the time.
The suit says White never applied to trademark or register the name “Lady A.” The legal filing also doesn’t ask for White to stop using the name, or for any monetary damages. Instead, it says, “Plaintiffs simply wish that the parties continue to coexist.”
Backlash against the group came swiftly following news of the suit, with people now questioning if the intentions behind their initial name change were genuine.
One user wrote, Lady Antebellum changing their name to Lady A to show solidarity with BLM only to SUE AN ACTUAL BLACK ARTIST who already has that name is performative wokeness at its BLEAKEST.”
Even though the group filed for a trademark, some think it’s still not a good look for them to file a lawsuit against a Black artist over the name. Some argued that they should just pick something else.
Still, there are many who view White’s request for $10 million as extortion and believe the band was trying to come to a peaceful resolution.
Meanwhile, others believe it’s likely a defensive move on the band’s part to get legal approval for use of the name in case White decides to sue them.
a non-lawyer suggests i make this crystal clear: the band’s suit is not an attempt to get white to stop using “lady A” or limit her in any way. it’s a defensive move based on the premise that SHE was about to sue THEM anyway. the suit seeks affirmation their tm rights are valid.— alexandra j. roberts (@lexlanham) July 9, 2020
White, for her part, simply tweeted, “No Weapon formed against me shall prosper” following the news, but has not commented much further.
Either way, it seems like the bands attempt to avoid controversy with their name has now brought along just that.
See what others are saying: (CMT) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Entertainment Weekly)
Halle Berry Apologizes for Considering a Transgender Role in an Upcoming Film
- In an Instagram live interview Friday, Halle Berry mentioned that she was considering taking the role of a transgender man, while repeatedly misgendering him by using “she/her” pronouns.
- Some responded with anger, but many asked her to reconsider and educate herself on trans issues.
- People specifically asked her to watch Netflix’s “Disclosure,” a documentary that explores trans representation in Hollywood and the real-world implications trans depictions have on the trans community.
- Halle apologized Monday, promising to promote better representation both on and offscreen. Her apology was welcomed by fans, GLAAD, and “Disclosure,” which thanked her for listening and learning.
Berry Considers Taking Transgender Role
After a weekend of backlash, education, and conversations about transgender representation, actor Halle Berry announced Monday that she is no longer considering plans to play a transgender character.
The backlash against Berry first appeared Friday after she took part in an Instagram live interview with hairstylist Christin Brown. In that stream, Berry talked about possibly cutting her hair short again for a potential new film project, saying, “I’m thinking of playing a character where the woman is a trans character, so my hair is gonna have to be – she’s a woman that transitioned into a man, so my hair is going to be really shaved.”
“I want to experience that world, I want to understand that world. I want to understand that character. I want to deep dive in that in the way I did ‘Bruised,’ Berry continued.
“This world, who this woman was is so interesting to me, and that will probably be my next acting role.”
“It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman, that’s a female story actually– it changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that,” she added.
Internet Asks Berry to Reconsider
When people caught wind of this interview, people took issue with her remarks and the idea that a cisgender woman would be taking on such a role.
This isn’t exactly a new point of debate. For instance, Scarlett Johansson came under similar scrutiny in the past when she initially accepting the role of a transgender man for the film “Rub & Tug,” which she later walked away from after backlash.
However, in Berry’s case, people were also upset by her lack of knowledge about the transgender community, noting that she repeatedly misgendered the character by using “she/her pronouns.”
Still, while some people responded with anger, a lot of people took the approach of asking her to educate herself on trans issues and reconsider taking that role. Many actually asked her to watch Netflix’s new documentary “Disclosure,” which is executive produced by Laverne Cox. That film takes an in-depth look at Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people to help understand the real-world implications they have on the trans community.
On Monday, the official Twitter account for the documentary even shared a clip from the project, writing, “Today is a good day to remind people that casting trans actors in trans roles is more than about opportunity.”
Then it directly addressed Berry in another post, asking her to watch the film “to understand how cis actors like yourself acting in trans roles has major cultural consequences offscreen.”
Others continued sharing similar messages, including the film’s director Sam Feder, who added, “Often people don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s ok!”
Halley Berry Responds
By Monday evening, Berry responded with a statement posted to her social media pages apologizing for her remarks and adding, “As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”
She explained that she was grateful for the guidance and critical conversations that have taken place over the last few days, adding. “I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.”
Berry Thanked for Listening
Berry’s statement was received very well, with a lot of people thanking her for being willing to engage in dialogue with others and responding with a statement so quickly.
Similar sentiments came from the documentary’s account, which thanked her for listening and learning.
GLAAD also tweeted at Berry, saying it was pleased that she had listened to the concerns of transgender people, adding, “Other powerful people should do the same.”
Still, Berry has faced some criticism from those angry with her for apologizing, as some believe there should more flexibility in Hollywood about who can play what roles. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro for instance called her statement “performative wokeness.”
But that is a point the film’s Twitter account hit on Monday when it first addressed Berry’s initial comments. At the time, the account tweeted, “In preemptive response to the critique that all artists should be able to play any role.@Lavernecox “I think if all things were equal, then [yes]. But all things are not equal.”