- 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)
Netflix Reinstates Employee Who Crashed Director-Level Meeting After Criticizing Dave Chapelle
Terra Field had publicly accused Chappelle of making transphobic remarks in his new stand-up special “The Closer” just days before she was suspended.
Netflix Reinstates Terra Field
Netflix reinstated a transgender employee who was critical of Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up special after suspending her for attending a director-level meeting without an invitation.
Terra Field tweeted on Tuesday that she was reinstated once the company determined “there was no ill-intent in” her decision to attend the meeting.
“I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at,” she added. “At the very least, I feel vindicated.”
Field also shared an email Netflix sent her regarding her suspension being lifted.
“Our investigation did not find that you joined the QBR meeting with any ill intent and that you genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with seeking access to this meeting,” the email said. “Additionally, when a Director shared the link it further supported that this was a meeting you could attend.”
Field’s suspension came just days after she tweeted a viral thread criticizing Chappelle’s latest program on Netflix, “The Closer.” She was one of many activists who claimed Chappelle’s set was transphobic and encouraged Netflix to take action. Field wrote that his comments attacked “the very validity of transness.” Netflix insisted those tweets had nothing to do with her suspension.
Field reportedly attended the director-level meeting with two other employees who were also suspended. A spokesperson for Netflix told Deadline that those two staffers have likewise been reinstated and the company “will be distributing broader guidance about meetings and clarifying which are for which people.”
Netflix’s Response to Dave Chappelle Controversy
Netflix, for its part, has defended Chappelle and rejected calls to remove “The Closer” from the streaming service.
“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Srandos wrote in an internal memo. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.”
“We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line,” he added. “I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
Among other things, Chappelle took time in his special to defend author J.K. Rowling, who previously faced backlash over a series of transphobic remarks she made. Chappelle said he agreed with Rowling.
“I’m team TERF,” he added. “I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”
Chappelle went on to make jokes about Caitlyn Jenner before comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.
Many employees at Netflix are still frustrated with the way the platform has handled the controversy surrounding “The Closer.” According to The Verge, a trans employee resource group is planning a walkout on Oct. 20.
“Trans Lives Matter. Trans Rights Matter,” the group said in a memo. “And as an organization, Netflix has continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content. We can and must do better!”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Deadline) (The New York Times)
Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch May Have Abandoned Plans To Participate In TikTok NFT Program
Lil Nas X’s TikTok NFT was scheduled to debut a week ago and is still not available to the public.
Creators Allegedly Leave TikTok’s NFT Program
Musicians Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch may have quietly exited TikTok’s new NFT collection, according to a report from Rolling Stone.
TikTok first announced the line, which is called “TikTok Top Moments,” at the end of September. It involves a series of creator-led NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are unique and tradeable digital assets. TikTok’s NFTs can be purchased with the cryptocurrency Ethereum. According to a press release, the money will “largely go directly to the creators and NFT artists involved.”
TikTok said that creators like Poarch, Lil Nas X, Grimes, Curtis Roach, Brittany Broski, and more would be participating in the program. The company called NFTs an “empowerment tool” that will allow these creators to “be recognized and rewarded for their content.” It planned to debut the collection on Oct. 6 with Lil Nas X’s NFT, but that token has still not been made available. A source told Rolling Stone that it may never be released.
NFT Rollout Described as “A Mess”
The outlet also reported that Poarch is “actively contemplating pulling out of the program due to worries about its execution.” According to Rolling Stone, three sources familiar with the rollout of the program have described it as “a challenge,” “a mess,” and “a complete joke.”
Those sources claimed that in order to secure Poarch’s initial participation, TikTok offered her marketing support worth potentially $4 million for her next release. The company also allegedly promised to use one of her songs in an end-of-year campaign. A spokesperson for TikTok, however, described these claims as “not accurate.”
Neither Poarch nor Lil Nas X has commented on their participation yet. Meanwhile, TikTok declined to answer Rolling Stone’s questions about the status of their NFTs.
Some of TikTok’s announced NFTs have gone public, though. Throughout Tuesday, Roach’s “Bored in the House” video was up for auction on the platform Immutable.
NFTs took the internet by storm in early 2021, but their popularity peaked in May and declined throughout the summer. Celebrities, tech moguls, and everyday people featured in viral memes have hopped on the trend and made millions doing so.
According to Rolling Stone, TikTok has valued some of its own NFTs at $1 million. Now, it’s unclear if those tokens will ever hit the market.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Dexerto)
Ariana Grande, Bella Hadid, and Others Honor World Mental Health Day
A slew of stars acknowledged the day by sharing personal stories and making hefty donations to organizations that offer mental health resources.
Celebrities Donate to Mental Health Organizations
Major celebrities honored World Mental Health Day on Sunday by speaking candidly about their mental health struggles and donating to nonprofits.
Singer Ariana Grande announced that she is donating $5 million worth of free therapy through the online counseling platform Better Help. The star previously partnered with the company over the summer to give $1 million in therapy to fans and opted to throw more money at the program following its success.
“I acknowledge that there are very real barriers when it comes to accessing mental health resources, and while this is only one small gesture (and a much larger systemic problem remains) I wanted to do this again with @betterhelp in hopes of bringing access to a few more people and perhaps inspiring a few of you to try something new and prioritize your own healing,” Grande wrote on Instagram.
Those interested can sign up for a free first month of Better Help and get an additional 15% off the second month.
Model Bella Hadid also pledged to donate to mental health resources. She teamed up with the beverage company Kin Euphorics, which will donate 10% of its October sales to Gurls Talk, a nonprofit that gives adolescent girls a space to talk about mental health, along with various educational tools to aid those discussions. Hadid will match those donations.
“Dealing with mental illness for most of my life, bringing awareness to the education of mental health through my platform is something that I will continue to do until our mental is just as respected as our physical,” Hadid wrote. “I want everyone who struggles daily to know that you are not alone.”
Stars Share Resources and Personal Stories
Meanwhile, actress and singer Selena Gomez used her new makeup brand Rare Beauty to share statistics about the prevalence of mental illness and the efforts to combat it. The company, which has previously focused on several mental health initiatives, shared that just 1.3% of philanthropic investments go towards supporting mental health.
The company additionally cited information from an American Psychological Association report, which revealed that young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health struggles. It found that seven out of 10 Gen Z adults are more likely to report experiencing depression symptoms compared to other generations.
Gomez shared Rare Beauty’s post to her own story as well.
Singer Olivia Rodrigo similarly opened up about mental health and therapy during an interview with CBS that aired Sunday. In it, she said she has been in therapy since she was 16, which she believes has helped her both personally and professionally.
“That was a really big, life-changing moment,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself.”
“I think there’s sometimes a stigma around it, too, like I was saying,” the singer continued. “Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, you don’t need that. You have so much. Your life is so great. What are your problems?’ I think that’s definitely a thing that sometimes older people can do to younger people to kind of trivialize what they’re going through.”