A reflection on Bill Murray’s response to his inappropriate behavior

Bill Murray
Bill Murray (CNBC)

Bill Murray, who is considered by his fans to be the coolest human alive, has come forward to address the complaint that had been filed against him last week for “inappropriate behavior” on the set of Being Mortal.

Murray’s chill, unpredictable personality apparently crossed over the boundaries of someone’s comfort space causing the Searchlight film, helmed by Aziz Ansari, to shut down to investigate a complaint against him. No further details were given, leaving everyone to conjure up another celebrity take down.

I’m one of those loyal Bill Murray fans. Truthfully my first reaction was, no, not Bill. He’s just not that guy… BUT… geez, if he is… I’m done.

The viral reaction

While further investigations were taking place, the story went viral as everyone speculated what this inappropriate behavior might be. Many defending Murray, and others calling him out on past behavior.

I elected to hold back reporting on it until we had something new to say, more details on the allegations, or a statement from Bill Murray. Define “inappropriate” please.

As shreds of the details started to surface, the overall tone was that whatever occurred was not illegal, but was clearly considered inappropriate behavior by today’s standards. Five years ago? Not so much. Ten years ago? Not an issue. Twenty+ years ago? Common everyday “playful behavior.”

Murray was hatched from the 1970’s era of SNL skits where Todd (Bill Murray) regularly looks down the shirt of friend Lisa Loobner (Gilda Radner) to see what’s developing. “You really oughta put some bandaids on those mosquito bites ya got there.” And we all laughed. This would never pass as appropriate humor today. In fact it’s pretty appalling and it’s what the MeToo movement is calling out.

The MeToo movement has clearly drawn a line in the sand and every time someone is called out for crossing the line, it only strengthens the message. “Enough!”

It’s about the bullying that men perceive as only joking. Pointing out a women’s appearance or her flaws as humorous is what pushed Will Smith over the edge on Oscar night. I’m not defending his violence, but I get it. “Enough!”

Does it still go on today? Yep. Just ask the amazingly talented women who are subjected to the comments and ponytail pulling in some of Chicago’s most reputable ad agencies. Boys will be boys.

A source made a comment to Page Six about Bill’s behavior on set, “He was very hands-on touchy, not in any personal areas, but put an arm around a woman, touched her hair, pulled her ponytail — but always in a comedic way.”

Was this behavior offensive enough to shut down an entire film? By today’s standards, clearly.

Offensive vs. Acceptable

A friend recently mentioned that when she casually told a male co-worker he looked nice, he responded, “you should see me with my shirt off.”

Was she offended, I asked? “No because he’s hot.”

Oh wow. Let’s throw that into the mix. So there are exceptions to the rule?

So, Offensive vs. Acceptable is equal to 71 Yr Old Guy vs. Hot Guy? Well wait, that sure leaves a lot in between, and many guys would say the only way a guy knows for sure if he’s being inappropriate, is by the reaction he gets to his behavior. Seriously girls, how many times have we heard, “I was just joking.”

Here’s the answer guys: Boundaries. Learn them. Respect them. Don’t cross them.

The cute, playful antics that we have come to love about Bill Murray, crashing wedding parties, eating food from someone’s plate, hugging girls and pulling ponytails, are acceptable and even welcomed by many, but clearly not by some.

Bill Murray’s Response

On Saturday, Bill Murray told CNBC’s Becky Quick, “I had a difference of opinion with a woman I’m working with. I did something I thought was funny and it wasn’t taken that way.” He didn’t say what this supposedly funny thing was. He went on to say that “the studio wanted to do the right thing. They wanted to check it out and investigate it and so they stopped the production.”

It was an interview that showed a side of Bill Murray that was devoid of humor and antics. One who clearly struggled through the last week in quiet introspection, dealing with what occurred and the tsunami rippling effect of it. A truly humbling moment.

“It’s been quite an education for me. I’ve been doing not much else but thinking about it.” Murray said. “The world is different than when I was a little kid. What I always thought was funny as a little kid isn’t necessarily the same as what’s funny now. Things change. The times change. It’s important for me to figure it out.”

He continued, “I thought about, ‘How could I misperceive? How could I be so inaccurate and so insensitive,’ when you think you’re being sensitive to some sensibility that you’ve had for a long time.”

“I think it’s a sad dog that can’t learn anymore,” Murray said of learning from his mistakes. “That’s a really sad puppy that can’t learn anymore. I don’t want to be that sad dog and I have no intention of it.”

“As of now we are talking and we are trying to make peace with each other,” Murray said.

“What would make me the happiest would be to put my boots on and for both of us to go back into work and be able to trust each other and work at the work that we’ve both spent a lot of time developing the skill of, and hopefully do something that’s good for more than just the two of us but for the whole crew of people, the filmmakers, and the studio as well,” he said.

If you’re wondering just whose side I’m on? I’m with Bill. I believe the old dog has learned a huge lesson. In my opinion he’s done everything as he should. He has accepted responsibility for his poor judgement and inappropriate behavior, and he is remorseful. “You learn so much more from your mistakes than from your successes,” he said.

I grew up in the same era as Bill Murray and had some learning to do as well… I not only learned to say no, but to carry myself in a way that clearly says, “don’t even go there.”

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Wielding decades of Film & TV production experience, Barbara Roche is the editor/publisher of Reel Chicago and Reel 360.