February 27, 2024



Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Amaani Lyle” sounds like a shady dude who lurks in the darkest corners of Times Square selling cheap knockoff suits.

“Psst…hey, mister, you wanna designer suit for only $30? Check out my man Lyle! He got so many expensive brands, we call him ‘Amaani Lyle.’”

“Shouldn’t that be Armani Lyle?”

“Naw, dude, Amaani suits are even better! Just as long as you don’t expose them to air or move around while wearing ’em.”

But in fact, Amaani Lyle is a failed writer who inadvertently brought about one of the last major defeats for “woke” in Hollywood. Indeed, while her aim had been to restrict free speech and creativity, her defeat set legal precedent that, for almost two decades, has been used to further free speech and creativity—an outcome she regrets to this day.

Unfortunately, that precedent may be in jeopardy. And that would be bad news inside Hollywood, and out.


In my Jan. 9 column, I wrote:

Now every woman in every action film is superhuman. It’s as tedious as it is predictable. And along with overcorrection comes the parade of morons who can’t or won’t see the overcorrection. You’ll still find imbeciles claiming that there’s not enough “female representation” in action films, when in fact, these days, that’s all there is. Overcorrection thrives because the dumbest among us don’t comprehend it.

“Lizzo’s attorneys will be invoking Lyle, so that makes it a case to watch even if you’re not a fan of giant black asses.”

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the dumbest among us. After the unprecedented failure of the new grrrrrl powerrrr superhero film Madame Web—which says a lot because the past year has seen nothing but superhero film failures—last week Hollywood Reporter vegetables Pamela McClintock and James Hibberd blamed the disastrous box office not on female superhero oversaturation, but rather on the absurd notion that Sony “took a risk” and “tried something different” by “making a superhero movie for women and young girls.”

The literal opposite of the reality of the situation.

In fact, the overcorrection I discussed in January extends not just to scripts but to the people who write them. The majority of all TV staff writers and story editors are now female and “BIPOC,” and that’s based on WGA figures from 2020 (it’s likely worse now since the introduction of streaming quotas).

But…those at the networks and studios who are still interested in quality over quotas—and yes, such people do exist, if only for reasons of self-preservation, as woke content keeps losing money—have had, since 2006, one weapon on their side: a legal precedent that’s allowed execs to tell whiny identity hires, “Sorry, my hands are tied!”

It was the only tool the quality-conscious had that could override HR and DEI.

Lyle v. Warner Bros.

The Lyle Case

Amaani Lyle was a hack TV script supervisor who worked on uninspired 1990s “black fare” for Nickelodeon like Kenan & Kel and All That, and lesser-known BET shows like Dig Dat Ass, Dr. Bootycall MD, and Hobart and the Ho (starring Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee). In 1999 she was hired as an assistant to the writers on Friends, then entering its sixth season. She had one job: take notes in the writers’ room as the creatives bandied ideas. She was warned that writers’ rooms are by definition a free-for-all haven away from execs and audiences where writers hash out jokes in a raw, often vulgar manner.

In other words, exactly where you don’t want an angry black woman with a chip on her shoulder.

Lyle took the job and, after four months when it turned out she’d vastly overstated her typing/stenography skills, she was let go. In retaliation, she sued. Her complaint was that having to witness the writers being vulgar constituted a violation of Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) proscriptions regarding workplace harassment (sexual and racial).

A Superior Court judge threw out the suit, an Appeals Court reversed that, and eventually the entire matter ended up before the California Supreme Court. In a unanimous (liberals and conservatives in unison) April 2006 decision, Lyle’s suit was tossed and she was kicked to the curb so hard her weave landed a block away.

Reading the decision now, it’s almost like the justices were trying to forestall today’s epidemic of entertainment-industry speech policing. The gist of the decision, which I’ll paraphrase, was “Nobody be talkin’ to you, bitch.” The crude and vulgar language expressed by the writers was not directed at Lyle, didn’t reference her, didn’t have anything to do with her. She was a passive recorder only; her job was to take notes.

The record discloses that most of the sexually coarse and vulgar language at issue did not involve and was not aimed at plaintiff or other women in the workplace…. The fact that certain discussions did not lead to specific jokes or dialogue airing on the show merely reflected the creative process at work and did not serve to convert such nondirected conduct into harassment because of sex…. FEHA is not a “civility code” and [is] not designed to rid the workplace of vulgarity.

The term “nondirected conduct” comes up frequently in the ruling.

The justices made it clear that FEHA does not apply if (a) complainant hears other people saying things that offend her, (b) the offensive speech is not directed at complainant, and (c) exposure to such speech is reasonably assumed to come with the terms of complainant’s employment.

To show what a different time this was, even though it was only eighteen years ago, 131 entertainment-industry leaders submitted an amicus defending Warners against the angry black woman. Every TV network, every guild, every producer, even leftist stalwarts like Larry David and leftist institutions like the L.A. Times, took the side against a black woman.

Hard to imagine, now.

And they won. Even harder to imagine now.

In a blistering concurrence, Justice Ming Chin (a Pete Wilson appointee, now retired) focused not so much on whether being in the same room as offensive speech not directed at you constitutes a FEHA violation, but on the damage that would have been done to free speech had Lyle prevailed.

This case has very little to do with sexual harassment and very much to do with core First Amendment free speech rights. The writers of the television show, Friends, were engaged in a creative process—writing adult comedy—when the alleged harassing conduct occurred. The First Amendment protects creativity. Lawsuits like this one, directed at restricting the creative process in a workplace whose very business is speech related, present a clear and present danger to fundamental free speech rights.

Chin was on fire:

It’s hard to imagine All in the Family having been successfully written if the writers and others involved in the creative process had to fear lawsuits by employees who claimed to be offended by the process of discovering what worked and did not work, what was funny and what was not funny, that led to the racial and ethnic humor actually used in the show.


The First Amendment protects attempts at creativity that end in failure. In the creative context, free speech is critical while the competing interest—protecting employees involved in the creative process against offensive language and conduct not directed at them—is, in comparison, minimal. Neither plaintiff nor anyone else is required to become part of a creative team. But those who choose to join a creative team should not be allowed to complain that some of the creativity was offensive or that behavior not directed at them was unnecessary to the creative process.

You go, Chin! And for the past eighteen years, the few remaining network and studio execs with integrity have used Chin’s concurrence to put the new generation of Amaani Lyles in their place. Which absolutely kills the original Amaani Lyle, who bitched to Buzzfeed (where else?) in 2021 that she hates her inadvertent legacy of free expression. In the piece, titled “Warner Bros. Keeps Citing a ‘Friends’ Harassment Lawsuit in HR Trainings,” Lyle accused networks of “still scaring the shit out of people with my case.”

“The legacy Lyle’s journey to the California Supreme Court created hasn’t been what she hoped for all those years ago,” Buzzfeed noted, adding that “more than a dozen former employees at Warner Bros. say Lyle’s failed lawsuit has been used for years by managers and in HR trainings to impress on new hires that free speech in creative environments is protected.”

Buzzfeed presents that as a negative! That debt-ridden cancerous tumor can’t shut down quickly enough for me.

The Twist

The Lyle precedent is about to be tested in court, ironically because another black chick is trying to hide behind it. “Behind” being the key term—hippopotamine twerking flautist Lizzo is using Lyle as her defense against the harassment, discrimination, and “hostile workplace” accusations brought against her by several former backup dancers. In assessing Lizzo’s motion to dismiss, L.A. Superior Court Judge Mark Epstein invoked Lyle and pretty much stated that the Lizzo case could be a good test of the precedent:

I’m pushing it to the extreme, but if you have workplace harassment which was equally directed to everybody, irrespective of their gender, it would not be covered by FEHA because there’s no different conduct for one sex as opposed to another sex? Maybe that’s not a fair reading of Lyle.

It isn’t. Lyle isn’t about whether the “harassment” is only directed at one gender or two. It’s about whether it’s directed at the complainant at all. Nondirected conduct. Stated plainly, Lyle means, “passive observers have no standing.” And, as Epstein allowed the bulk of the case against Lizzo to proceed, it remains to be seen if the eventual outcome weakens Lyle or not. What’s clear is that Lizzo’s attorneys will be invoking Lyle, so that makes it a case to watch even if you’re not a fan of giant black asses.

“Passive observers have no standing” is a hugely important precedent in an America in which blacks and trannies constantly claim to have incurred injury from shit that wasn’t directed at them: a white person’s hairstyle or vocabulary, a white person’s tweets or artistic endeavors. A hetero’s use of traditional pronouns; a mom’s belief that women exist. Every day, the aggrieved claim “standing” where they have none. And while Lyle was certainly narrow, in that it dealt with the workplace and FEHA, its larger message needs to be shoved in the faces of whiners across the nation.

“We weren’t talking to you; shut the fuck up and leave if you don’t like it.”

And with women and BIPOCs—professional sentries bred to not mind their business—the new majority among Hollywood writers, Lyle may be the only hope left for at least a few good films and TV shows to be made each year.

Postscript: Amaani Lyle left Hollywood after her humiliating defeat. Guess where she found employment?

The Pentagon!

Hate Hollywood all you like, but there are even woker institutions that will actively recruit the detritus Hollywood flushes.


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