James Franco Lawyers Call His #MeToo Accusers “Attention Hungry”
- James Franco’s lawyers filed a demurrer in response to a lawsuit that accuses Franco of sexually exploitative and inappropriate behavior.
- His lawyers accused the women who filed the suit, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Tina Gaal, of taking advantage of the #MeToo movement by falsely bringing down Franco, who they maintain is innocent.
- They called the Tither-Kaplan and Gaal “attention-hungry” and said they were jumping on the bandwagon to “ruin the next celebrity.”
- Tither-Kaplan and Gaal’s lawyer said that Franco’s new effort to play the victim is a “tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrong-doing” that makes it harder for women to bring accusations forward.
Lawyers File Demurrer
James Franco’s lawyers are alleging that the two women accusing him of sexually exploitative behavior in a lawsuit are taking advantage of the MeToo movement in hopes of seeking public attention.
His lawyers filed a demurrer on Friday, which was obtained and shared by Variety Monday. They claimed that while Franco himself is a supporter of the MeToo and Times Up movements, these accusations are false and without legal grounds.
“The #MeToo and Times Up movements have made tremendous and important contributions to improving not only the culture of the entertainment but also the world as a whole,” the demurrer said. “Unfortunately, while these movements have rightly brought down a number of reprehensible individuals, they have also ensnared an innocent man, James Franco.”
The lawyers continued to say that allegations against Franco “made great tabloid fodder, but like most tabloid stories, they are false and inflammatory.” They believe their purpose was to grab “as much publicity as possible for the attention-hungry plaintiffs.”
What Was in the Lawsuit?
The plaintiffs, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Tina Gaal, filed a suit back in October saying that when Franco ran a film an acting school called Studio 4 between the years of 2014 and 2017, he engaged in sexually exploitative behavior with students. One of the advantages Franco touted about his classes was that students would have chances to get roles in his upcoming projects.
They claimed that he, along with two other men involved with the school who are also listed as defendants in the suit, “opted to sexualize their power and fame by dangling the opportunity to aspiring actors of employment in film and television in exchange for explicit nudity, sex, and as Franco put it, the ‘pushing of boundaires.”
They claimed that the school was fraudulent and that opportunities for women increased if the women agreed to “overt sexual acts” or scenes involving nudity and sex. The lawsuit said that Franco was “looking to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.”
Franco has maintained his innocence since allegations first arose against him. His lawyers further defended him in their demurrer. They claimed that prior to this lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan had spoken words of praise for Franco and the school. The document accused her of jumping on the bandwagon to “ruin the next celebrity.” It also said that Gaal’s complaints were “personal grievances” that had no place in a lawsuit.
A lawyer for Tither-Kaplan and Gaal, James Vagnini, gave a statement to USA Today suggesting that this action only furthered Franco’s guilt. He said that in filing this demurrer, Franco was putting forth an “aggressive effort to position himself as the victim and smear the reputation of the survivors who have come forward is, unfortunately, a tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrong-doing.”
“It is one of the many reasons that so many survivors are still afraid to speak publicly about their experiences,” Vagnini added.
Background on Allegations
Major allegations against Franco involving his acting classes were first brought forward in a Los Angeles Times report in 2018. Five women spoke to the outlet, each alleging their own experiences with Franco that were inappropriate.
Tither-Kaplan was one of the women who said she was chosen to appear in one of Franco’s projects. She said she was asked to do a “bonus” scene that would involve her and other actresses simulating an orgy with Franco. She claimed that during this scene, Franco removed the protective plastic vaginal guard the actresses had on and simulated oral sex without protection. His lawyers claim this is false.
Several actresses said that either in class or in his personal projects, Franco would ask women to take their tops off. In some instances, they said he was angry if they refused. They also said that when roles were actually offered to people in the class, they were either small extra parts or scenes that required nudity.
Katie Ryan, another actress that spoke to the Times, said that Franco would “always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.”
Franco has consistently denied wrongdoing but has still encouraged women to speak up. In a Seth Meyers appearance in 2018, he said that the accusations he had seen so far were not accurate, but he still supported their right to speak out.
“One of the things that I’ve learned is that this is a conversation that needs to be had. There are people and women and others that have not been a part of this conversation,” he told Meyers. “So I support them”
“If I have done something wrong. I will fix it — I have to,” he said in a separate 2018 statement.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Variety) (Vanity Fair)
Swifties Rally Outside Los Angeles Courthouse Amid Ticketmaster Lawsuit Hearing
Over 300 fans are suing Ticketmaster over the “disaster” they experienced while attempting to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s latest tour.
Taylor Swift fans rallied outside of a Los Angeles courthouse on Monday as the first hearing for a lawsuit they filed against Ticketmaster took place.
Swift’s fans, dubbed “Swifties,” sued the ticket giant late last year after the presale for the singer’s Eras Tour left many fans empty-handed. Swift herself called the ordeal “excruciating” after her fans were kicked out of the virtual queue, lost tickets they thought they had purchased, and experienced technical difficulties for hours on end.
Dozens of fans, including virtual attendees, spoke at Monday’s hearing, which largely centered around the status of the suit. There are over 300 plaintiffs represented in the case, though attorney Jennifer Anne Kinder, the self-proclaimed Swiftie leading the case, said she does not plan on pursuing class-action status.
Fans are seeking at least $2,500 each in damages, though as one fan told CNN: “It has nothing to do with the money.” Swifties really want to take aim at the alleged monopoly Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, hold over the entertainment and live event industries. Live Nation is currently the subject of a Department of Justice investigation over potential abuse of power.
Swifties traveled from across the country to attend the hearing and rally. Roughly a dozen stood outside the courthouse carrying signs using Swift’s lyrics to take aim at Ticketmaster. One sign featured a broken heart with “Ticketmaster” and “Live Nation” written on either side. “Are you ready for it?” the sign asked.
Others used lines like “my pennies made your crown” and “can’t shake it off.”
What’s In The Lawsuit?
Kinder’s firm made a website called “Take Down Ticketmaster” to lay out issues fans had with the Swift presale and with the company as a whole.
“We monitored the Taylor Swift sale in real time of what was happening to fans across the U.S.,” the website says. “Collectively, fans’ experiences with Ticketmaster indicated a potential pattern of fraudulent behavior and antitrust violations by the company.”
The site also encouraged music fans across genres and artists to fight back against Ticketmaster and take “back our power in the live entertainment ecosystem.”
In their lawsuit, Swifties accused Ticketmaster of “anticompetitive conduct” by imposing higher prices on the sale, resale, and presale markets. It also claims the company gave out more presale codes than demand allowed, and “intentionally and purposefully mislead ticket purchasers by allowing scalpers and bots access” to the presale.
According to Ticketmaster, the incredibly high demand, coupled with an onslaught of bot attacks, forced the platform to slow sales down. The company delayed sales in certain cities and canceled the general sale altogether before it started slowly releasing pairs of tickets to fans with presale codes who did not have tickets in their accounts.
The Eras Tour kicked off in Arizona earlier this month. Swifties are not the only fandom Ticketmaster has to worry about though, as just last week, Drake fans slapped the company with a price-gouging suit.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Los Angeles Times) (Rolling Stone)
Twitch Tightens Policies on Explicit Deepfakes
“The creation, promotion, or viewing of this content is not welcome on Twitch,” the company said in a blog post.
New Rules Regarding “Synthetic NCEI”
Twitch is cracking down on explicit deepfake content and will indefinitely suspend users who share or promote it after a first offense.
“The existence of this content, and its presence and distribution on various sites, is personally violating and beyond upsetting. Deepfake porn isn’t a problem on Twitch, but it’s a terrible issue that some streamers (almost exclusively women) may face on the internet at large,” Twitch said in a Tuesday blog post, explaining it wants to “help streamers protect themselves” in any case this issue arises.
Twitch referred to this content as “synthetic non-consensual exploitative images,” or “synthetic NCEI,” but many of the platform’s users have casually referred to it as deepfake porn. Synthetic NCEI involves someone taking the face of another person and editing it into a pornographic video to make it appear as though that person filmed themselves demonstrating those sexual acts. The new rise in access to this technology has concerned many, as it is easy to use it to exploit others.
While synthetic NCEI is already banned on Twitch, the company took a more actionable step against it in its Tuesday post by creating an Adult Sexual Violence and Exploitation policy. The new rule prohibits the intentional sharing, promoting, or creation of synthetic NCEI and those acts can result in an indefinite suspension on the first offense.
Twitch also updated its Adult Nudity policy to include synthetic NCEI. Even if it is only shown briefly, that content will still be taken down and result in an enforcement.
In addition to the policy changes, Twitch made available a list of resources for those who might be impacted by or wish to learn more about synthetic NCEI.
“The creation, promotion, or viewing of this content is not welcome on Twitch,” the company said closing its blog post.
Growing Concerns About Explicit Deepfakes
Twitch’s updates come as synthetic NCEI and deepfakes have become a primary topic of concern for social media platforms. Earlier this year, Twitch was home to a major deepfake controversy after a streamer known as Atrioc was caught with an open tab to a website that hosted these videos. That site specifically hosted deepfakes of female Twitch streamers, some of whom were Atrioc’s colleagues.
Many women featured on the page spoke out against these deepfakes, explaining the trauma they endured knowing their face, image, and likeness were used in a sexual manner without their consent. It’s an issue that extends far past Twitch creators. Some fear they could be used for revenge porn, and there are already several cases where the technology is used to create sexual videos of celebrities.
On Tuesday, NBC News published a report finding that Facebook and Instagram ran suggestive ads featuring deepfakes of actresses like Emma Watson and Scarlett Johansson. The ads were for a deepfake app that told users they could “replace face with anyone.”
While the ads did not show explicit pornographic content, one ad featuring Watson was clearly meant to mimic the start of an explicit video, suggesting a sexual act was about to start. The face of the “Harry Potter” actress was seen looking into the camera before bending down.
The report found that 127 ads with Watson deepfakes and 74 with Johansson deepfakes ran across Meta’s platforms on Sunday and Monday, but have since been removed. The app in question was also removed from the Apple app store after NBC News contacted the tech giant for comment.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (Kotaku)
Fans Defend Pedro Pascal After Actor Refused to Read Thirst Tweets: “It’s Sexual Harassment”
Pascal has been dubbed the Internet’s “daddy,” but many think the joke has gone too far.
Pascal’s Heartthrob Status
Fans are defending actor Pedro Pascal after he refused to read thirst tweets on the red carpet, arguing that it is inappropriate and disrespectful to ask him to do so.
Pascal, the star of HBO’s “The Last of Us” and Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” has become a major Hollywood heartthrob. He has even been widely dubbed as the Internet’s “daddy” by those posting about his handsome looks. The running joke grew last year when he did a Vanity Fair lie detector test and said he considered himself a “bigger daddy” than “Star Wars” star Oscar Isaac.
“Daddy is a state of mind, you know what I’m saying? I’m your daddy,” he quipped during the interview.
Since then, TikTokers have started posting thirst trap edits of Pascal, journalists have called him “daddy” on the red carpet, and interviewers have shown him tweets where fans call him a “cool, slutty daddy.”
Pascal has been a good sport about the public displays of lust for him, but many think the joke may have crossed a line. During last week’s red carpet premiere for season three of “The Mandalorian,” an Access Hollywood reporter went viral for asking Pascal to read thirst tweets to the camera. Pascal politely declined.
“No. Dirty! Dirty!” he told the reporter after reading through the tweets.
“For your enjoyment only,” she responded.
“Thank you very much,” Pascal said before exiting the interview.
Fans Condemn Thirst Tweet Interviews
In response, many who watched the clip condemned this treatment of Pascal, arguing it promoted constant objectification.
“I think it’s time for the internet to leave Pedro Pascal alone,” one person wrote. “It’s sexual harassment, but no one seems to care bc he’s a man + is graceful about it. It’s really gross and I would never want to be treated like that.”
“These jokes have gone way too far and he’s visibly uncomfortable,” another fan added.
Some claimed that while the Internet’s love of Pascal “started as harmless fun…the constant public objectification and sexualization must be terrible” and should stop.
“Being attractive, banking on it, selling it, and even at times enjoying some of the attention, doesn’t give everyone wholesale permission to sexualize you,” someone else argued.