Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Universal Pictures, Walden Media, and Amblin Entertainment: 'A Dog's Purpose'

The main characters of 'A Dog's Purpose', Dennis
Quaid, and dog Bailey
The movie, ‘A Dog’s Purpose’, was released on January 27, 2017. This film was an Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media Movie, released by Universal Pictures. The film was based on a novel written by Bruce Cameron, who also worked tirelessly as a screenwriter to adapt his book to the screen. The novel and film are based on a loving dog who is reincarnated as multiple canines over the course of five decades. Eventually, this dog develops an unbreakable bond with a human named Ethan. As the boys become older, they grow apart, but eventually come back together in their later lives, reminding each other of their true selves. This story shows the dog and humans learning to laugh and love again, and discover the meaning of their existence. Three weeks before the film was scheduled to premiere in theaters, industry estimates suggested that the film was set to gross more than $25 million in its opening weekend, which would be a very successful introduction considering it cost the production company, Amblin, less than $25 million to make, meaning the movie was on meaning the movie was on track to potentially earn at least $75 million in only private ticket sales. Unfortunately, this predication immediately changed once a TMZ video of the dog used on set was released. On January 18, 2017, immediately prior to the release of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ a video surfaced on TMZ, a popular casual news station that is notorious for somewhat skirting the rules. This leaked video showing footage taken from the set of the film. This footage included a clip of the German Shepherd, named Hercules, who played the dog in the film. He appeared to be being dragged and forced into rushing water against his will. There is a cut in the video, and then the following clip shows the dog drowning in the water while a voice in the background can be heard loudly screaming “cut it!”, followed by many people rushing towards the endangered dog. This footage, which was headlined “TERRIFIED GERMAN SHEPHERD FORCED INTO TURBULENT WATER", created much controversy, and nearly ruined the film.
A stakeholder is an independent party directly affected by the actions of a business. The future of Universal Pictures, Walden Media, and Amblin could likely depend on its stakeholders because of the reputation they could form for the companies. This entire controversy could have a highly negative affect on these companies, so they should focus on developing positive relationships with stakeholders from now on.  The most obvious stakeholder affected by the makers of 'A Dog's Purpose', was the dog who played the main character and was hurt during the making of the film. It is especially sad because there is not much the dog can do to protest the matter and get justice. Another stakeholder are the actors who claimed to play no role in the abuse of the dog, but are suffering the repercussions because they are guilty by association. The audiences who paid money to see the movie, and later found out about the TMZ footage could also be a stakeholder because they paid to see a film they would not have seen had they known about the abuse. Viewers of the film could potentially stop seeing films produced by these companies because they angered them. Competitors of Universal Pictures, Walden Media, and Amblin could be Colombia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Footage of the dog Bailey on the set of 'A Dog's
Purpose' being forced into moving body of water
Individualism theory states that business actions should maximize profits for the owners of the business, but do so within the law. The primary values of this theory are the business, the owner’s choices, and business profits. The case manual states that the individualism theory “is not a standard ethical theory in the traditional sense because it does not attempt to explain what should be valuable for people or how they should live their lives” (Salazar, 19), showing that this theory more so talks about legalities, and what a business should do to stay out of trouble, but also be successful. From an individualist’s perspective, creators of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ failed to act ethically. Individualism clearly states that you must act within regulations of the law, and abuse of animals is very illegal. Also, the makers of the film did not maximize profits, because along with the illegality of abuse of the dog on set, this also caused gross profit dropped significantly. If TMZ is being dishonest, like the majority of the makers of the production claim, then they also acted against the individualism theory. Producing misleading information, and altering a video and showing it to the public is a form of fraud, which is highly illegal. Thus, anyone behind this acted against individualism. This (potentially) fake video definitely earned them a profit, so they did maximize profits, but they did not reach ethical behavior because they acted contrary to the law. If the video footage that TMZ released is the truth, they are following the guidelines of the Individualism theory, but if not they did not manage a combination of both acting legally and maximizing profit and therefore are acting unethically.
The Utilitarianism theory takes a stakeholder approach and mainly strives to accomplish making all parties involved happy.Utilitarianism theory according to the case manual states that business actions should aim to maximize the happiness in the long run for all conscious beings that are affected by the business action. Professor Heather Salazar makes it easier to comprehend when she states “the basic method is to analyze the costs and benefits of a particular course of action” (Salazar 19). Bentham and Mill, who are the creators of this theory “measure happiness as the only thing of value and they count happiness as pleasure and freedom from pain.” (Salazar 20).‘A Dog’s Purpose’ does not follow Utilitarianism beliefs because “under utilitarian framework, all beings who are capable of experiencing happiness should be considered when weighing the costs and benefits of actions” (Salazar 20), and pretty much all parties involved were made unhappy. In weighing the costs and benefits, the makers of the film probably assumed they would experience happiness through making a successful film, but this was not even accomplished because through their actions they took away the full success the film could have accomplished. Also, other beings who were capable of experiencing happiness, like the dog, the viewers, and the actors, were not fully considered, and the makers were acting selfish. The abuse of the dog inflicted pain and unhappiness on the dog in that moment, and unhappiness of all animal lovers across the world who heard about the incident, or even viewed the movie and became attached to the dog, then learned about the damages that were done. The happiness and the success of the actors who worked hard on this film and earned a successful outcome, but were deceived out of their full success, were stripped form their happiness, and not considered by the makers. If the footage that TMZ produced and shared to the public is false, and was altered with, they are acting unethically according to the Utilitarianism theory because they created unhappiness for the makers of the movie. They also created unhappiness to the viewers of the movie and animal lovers, and even anyone who saw the footage because this footage saddened them to see.
 The ethical rules of Kantianusm theory state you should always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. It goes against Kantianism to lie, cheat, manipulate, or harm others to get your way. Instead, you should use informed and rational consent from all parties. The case manual states that Kant believes “his reasoning is evident in contemporary discussions of ethics whenever people claim that it is wrong to manipulate, exploit, or use people to their own advantage. He also claimed that it is wrong to lie, cheat, and steal, no matter the positive consequences that may occur.” (Salazar 21). This is alternatively saying that it looks deeper into the motives behind actions, and the “Good Will”, rather than the outcome of your actions. Possessing Good Will is equivalent to having good intentions.  The makers of the film ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ strongly go against the Kantianism theory through their actions of harming the dog. Kantianism focuses on the intentions behind actions, and the creator’s intentions were not pure, or good. Their intentions were to produce a good film and make money, and did not even consider treating their cast with respect, or even justice.      The makers of the film also go against basic ethical rules of Kantianism because they cheated by abusing the dog to produce a good film, they lied about the abuse of the dog to both the public and their actors, and they manipulated the dog to do something it did not want to do, and manipulated their actors to be apart of a practice that they did not support. If TMZ is altering footage and displaying it to the public, they are also acting against the beliefs of the Kantianism theory. TMZ lacks good intentions if they are spreading false information, because their intentions are completely selfish, and to only make money. They have absolutely no regard for the effort the filmmakers and actors put into ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ when they disposed of these lies, and took away the success of these innocent people. They are not acting rationally because in no way is it rational to lie to get what you want, so they lack good motivation. They disregarded Kantianism beliefs because they lied to the public, cheated by practicing a form of fraud, and manipulated viewers and the public, and the filmmaker’s success.
Virtue Theory:
The ethical rules of the Virtue Theory are that you act as to embody a variety of virtuous or good character traits, and so as to avoid vicious or bad character traits. This theory, unlike the rest, analyses character rather than actions. You can analyze these actions by asking whether the actions, under consideration, epitomize or advance virtues or not. Professor Heather Salazar puts Virtue Theory in a more understandable context when she explains “Virtue Theory asks about a person’s character and assesses whether a person is virtuous or not. Is the person getting better in life, flourishing, and fulfilling his or her purpose in life, or not?” (Salazar 23). This is a good guideline to use when deciding if someone exemplifies Virtue Theory.   The makers behind the production of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ certainly do not demonstrate the Virtue Theory because they express vicious or bad character traits through their actions of harming the dog on set, and continuing to lie about it. If TMZ altered the videos, and lied to earn money they acted against the Virtue Theory. Lying to achieve success and generate profit emphasizes viscous and malicious character traits. Through the actions of lying and manipulating the public, TMZ workers are not getting better in life, flourishing, or fulfilling his or her purpose in life.These acts are insanely selfish because they are taking away multiple people’s hard earned and deserved success, just to benefit themselves with some money. TMZ is acting very unethical according to the Virtue Theory. 
 Justified Ethics Evaluation:
In my opinion, Universal Pictures, Walden Media, and Amblin Entertainment, acted unethically and
Protests led by PETA, on the mistreatment of the dog
on the set of 'A Dog's Purpose'
are responsible for the unethical acts behind the making of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’. I think this entire situation could have been easily avoided, and the reason it was not avoided was because of lack of morals, and disregard for the happiness and safety of others. Also, once the video footage was released by TMZ they could have made matters better by giving a public apology, and making sure it never happened again, but instead they chose to attempt to lie their way out of it. Safety and honesty should have been the main concern of these companies, but they did not demonstrate either of these characteristics.
Their intentions at all times proved to be about money and their reputation, and for that I cannot consider them ethical in any manner. The most frustrating aspect of all of this for me, is how easily it could have been avoided. If the dog was properly trained, he would have ended up shooting the scene the way they envisioned it. It just required a little more patience by the workers, and a little better supervision provided by the companies. Even if this called for more time spent on the production of the movie, and a later release date, at least they would have been acting ethically. I do not personally believe that TMZ altered their footage to show false information, but I do like to research all sides of a controversy, and understand where all parties are coming from. The most that I believe they could have possibly done is dramatize the situation, but I do not see how you can alter the fear and resistance shown in the dogs face and body language. I was not fully convinced by the lies told by all different makers behind the film, and I am curious, and skeptical to why they cannot come up with any sort of proof to help their case. Also, I noticed that no one fully denied the mistreatment of the dog, but instead denied seeing it or being apart of it. I fully believe that actors were not aware or a part of the unethical behavior because it is common in the production of movies for actors to not always be on set, or aware and involved with what is going on behind the scenes.  


"'A Dog's Purpose' was supposed to be a hit, until animal-abuse controversy threw the studio's plan out the window." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

"A Dog's Purpose (film)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

"Animal Abuse Alleged on the Set of 'A Dog's Purpose'" N.p., 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Polone, Gavin. "Gavin Polone on 'A Dog's Purpose' Outcry, What Really Happened and Who's to Blame." The Hollywood Reporter. N.p., 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Salazar, Heather. The Case Manual . N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print

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