Editorial: Amy Pascal to Step Down as Sony Head, But Did She Need To?

By February 5, 2015
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Likely the biggest story pertaining to the movie business at the end of 2014 revolved around the massive cyber security breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment. For a long time, a group of persistent and devastating leaks of sensitive Sony information dominated the news headlines at multiple movie sites, including trades like Variety and Deadline, with the damage done to the overall company being estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Still, the monetary losses were rather negligible when compared to the damage done to Sony’s reputation and public perception, since a serious number of thought-to-be-private conversations and emails also leaked out with the behind-the-scenes details of several active and inactive movie productions.

Today, the big news dominating trades details how Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and sole chairman of that company’s motion picture division, will be stepping down from her post in a few months’ time. While Pascal herself was briefly at the head of this controversy due to her own conversational emails that had leaked as part of the attack, she quickly apologized for them and saw a large number of high-profile Hollywood personalities rally to her defense. The culmination of all of this, though, is her leaving her post. Releasing a statement on her career change, Pascal said,

I have spent almost my entire professional life at Sony Pictures and I am energized to be starting this new chapter based at the company I call home. I have always wanted to be a producer.

She’ll still be associated with the studio as she settles into a new role as a film producer, which she will fully settle into this coming May. Did this really need to happen, though?

For all intents and purposes, Pascal is a big part of Sony’s success over the last fifteen years. She’s perceived to be one of the driving forces behind many of the studio’s major successes during that time, including films like Spider-Man, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, as well as the successful buddy cop comedy 21 Jump Street. Even as an outside observer, it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where her off-the-cuff email comments could damage the studio so irrevocably, especially when she’s made a concerted effort to make amends to certain groups that found her comments offensive.

We all say stupid things, that goes without saying. It’s all a part of being human. We all generally approach different audiences in our own lives with different tones and different ways of speaking, because that’s how we adapt to certain people, and to certain situations. Should what she said be outright dismissed? Probably not, but taking that basic human nature into account, it’s not too difficult to imagine that casual emails exchanged between co-workers aren’t representative of some deeply-seeded personality flaws. Her behavior, personal causes, and stated beliefs just don’t support the idea that she’s a widely bigoted person.

If the corporate culture at Sony is permitting her to take some kind of fall for the cyber attack and the information that leaked out as a result of it, then that’s just a damn shame. Pascal clearly has a demonstrated acumen for the movie business that Sony has greatly benefited from, and it’s just one person’s opinion, but I really don’t think she needed to go. This attack has already done enough damage without fueling some primal need to throw a figurehead under the bus, and that’s exactly what this looks like.

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.