The ethics of Sacha Baron Cohen's Movies

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This blog entry discussing the Sacha Baron Cohen film "Bruno" may seem like a silly way to relate to research. Yet, as his movies use a mockumetary style that captures political figures and celebrities acting in a manner that they would not necessarily want released to the public. In a sense, Cohen is conducting social experiments to how people react in awkward situations.

Whether Cohen received consent after the fact of the recordings, this work may be considered a serious ethical issue. Though there is a difference between the goal of a researcher (obtaining information for a greater good) and a movie producer (entertainment value) both should abide by similar ethical standards, in that the subject; must be aware of the experiment prior, must be given a full explanation of the experiment, the subject must be allowed to opt out at any time, and the subject must be respected.

In the case of "Bruno" Cohen fails to abide by any of these standards. First, the subjects are unaware of their own participation, unaware or Cohen's intentions, and therefore are unable to opt out. Finally, the subjects are not respected because Cohen uses their responses to his awkward encounters to project these celebrities and political leaders in a negative manner.

Surely one may point out the differences in the ethics of Hollywood and the ethics of research institutions. Though Cohen is conducting his own social experiment, and doing so very unethically it is important to note that celebrities and political figures give up a sense of their privacy for their careers. I think Cohen's movies are funny and expose a disturbing truth we would otherwise not be exposed to, yet regardless of this it is unfortunate he does so in an unethical way because it almost discounts his from his work.

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This page contains a single entry by hine0156 published on December 6, 2012 2:30 PM.

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