Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Now THIS Is A War On Women!

I wanna marry harry

Reality shows have now made parody impossible, because absolutely nothing is too exploitive, voyeuristic, disgusting, degrading or wrong to form the basis of a series, as long as people will watch it, and there is profit to be made. Nevertheless, in my continuing effort to at least chronicle the decline of decency and civilization without being able to stop it, Ethics Alarms will continue to throw ethics flags at the worst of the worst.

This brings us to the topic of  “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry’,” the latest offal in this genre from Fox. You may recall “Joe Millionaire,” though if you do, I have less respect for you, an earlier Fox reality dump in which a non-rich actor tricked gold-digging women into competing to win his love as he posed as a young tycoon. After the winner had fallen for “Joe” hard, he revealed that he was just a lovable working stiff—well, worse, really…an actor—and the audience got to see how the woman reacted. So many healthy relationships arise out of fraud and lies, after all. Well, that wasn’t despicable enough fr Fox, so now we have this: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Love, Romance and Relationships

John Paul Stevens’ Gilbertian Nonsense

 

The Lord Chancellor-Stevens

A rather long preface is in order. Bear with me, please…

In the great, underperformed Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Iolanthe,” W.S. Gilbert, a lawyer by training, devised a satirical judicial solution to a dire turn in the plot. Iolanthe, a fairy, violated Fairy Law by marrying a mortal, who happened to be the Lord Chancellor of England (he never noticed her wings, apparently.) The transgression commands the death penalty, but Iolanthe received a pardon on the condition that she allow her husband to think her dead, which she does for a couple of decades, much of which she spends doing penance at the bottom of a froggy stream, on her head.…but I digress.

When she learns, however, that her husband of yore is about to marry the sweetheart of her half-fairy son, who, though the Lord Chancellor doesn’t know it, is also his son, Iolanthe reveals herself and the paternity to the Lord Chancellor, who is duly stunned. This again triggers the death penalty and just minutes away from the finale, it looks like Iolanthe is going to end up like Carlo in “The Godfather,” as the fairy equivalent of Clemenza waddles on to the stage. (That’s how I would stage it, anyway.) Then this happens: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, War and the Military

Selfie Ethics: Yes, Big Papi Exploited The President

Ortiz-Obama-Selfie.jpg

I wrote about this ethical breach when Ellen DeGeneris did it at the Oscars. The short version is this:

“It’s unethical to pretend that a selfie is a spontaneous  gesture of fun and friendship when you have a commercial agreement in place to use the photograph in a way that promotes the cell phone manufacturer.”

This is exploitation for commercial gain, and it’s wrong. It’s wrong when the victims are movie stars, and it’s wrong when the exploited party is President of the United States. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, U.S. Society, Arts & Entertainment, Around the World, The Internet, Etiquette and manners, Character, Marketing and Advertising, Unethical Tweet

The Strange, Sad, Ominous Case Of College Student Julian Batts and His Wheel Of Fortune Disaster

The solution is obvious: colleges should teach "Wheel of Fortune" skills...

The solution is obvious: colleges should teach “Wheel of Fortune” skills…

The Indiana University press breathlessly proclaimed it as a cause for campus pride:

An Indiana University honors student fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on the iconic television game show “Wheel of Fortune.” Julian Batts, a Hudson and Holland Scholar, a Herbert Presidential Scholar and a Hutton Honors College student from Indianapolis, will appear on the show Friday, April 11, as part of its annual “College Week.” “I’ve watched it as long as I can remember,” he said of the game show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years. “I have always had that desire to be on the show and solve puzzles in front of a live audience.”

Batts traveled to Culver City, Calif., and taped the episode in February. Students from Indiana State and Purdue universities also were selected to participate in “College Week” matches. The Carmel High School graduate is majoring in business and Spanish. He is actively involved at Rose Avenue Residence Hall and as an usher at the IU Auditorium. He participated in IU’s Intensive Freshman Seminar program and the IU Beginnings program, which introduces a small group of students to recruiters from top companies that partner with the Kelley School of Business. He also is the third generation of his family to attend IU, and both of his parents earned IU degrees.

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime for Julian, and we’re happy that he has had this experience to add to the many wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed as an IU student,” said James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School.

…On April 11, he looks forward to getting together with friends so they can see how well he did. “Regardless of whatever is aired on TV, I am glad I did it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an experience I will never forget,” he said. A viewing party for Batts will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Room 150 of the Student Building on the IU Bloomington campus.

Do make a mental note of the last part. Even after the taping, Julian was proud of his performance, and was thrilled about a viewing party. This glowing story was written after the following fiasco occurred. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Literature, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

A Chaos Theory Law, An Anomalous Case, And Charles Grodin’s Lament

I swear, I'm not trying to belittle Charles Grodin by posting this photo of him back when he earned his living with his primary talent, which was comedy. I just want you to recall who the guy is, since he and the Nation obviously would like you to forget.

I swear, I’m not trying to belittle Charles Grodin by posting this photo of him back when he earned his living with his primary talent, which was comedy. I just want you to recall who the guy is, since he and the Nation obviously would like you to think he’s somebody else.

Charles Grodin doesn’t like the felony murder rule.

The felony murder rule, which essentially holds that anyone who is proven to have been involved with a felony during which someone was killed is guilty of First Degree Murder, is one of the harsher devices in American jurisprudence. I must confess, I sort of like it, and always have. Like all laws, however, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time.

The reason I like the rule is that it acknowledges the real danger of initiating felonies, crimes that are serious and destructive. If you burn a business down to collect the insurance, for example, you should be held responsible by the law if the fire gets out of control and someone is killed. The law combines criminal and civil offenses; the felony murder rule is like a negligent crime principle. It is a law that implicitly understands Chaos Theory at a basic level: actions often have unpredictable consequences, and even if the consequences are worse than you expected or could have expected, you still are accountable for putting dangerous and perhaps deadly forces in motion. If you commit a felony, you better make damn sure you know what you are doing, because if people get killed,  you will be held to a doubly harsh standard. Better yet, don’t commit the crime. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Law & Law Enforcement

My Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) Post: “Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly”

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney...

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney…

Ethics Alarms has almost 15,000 tags, which means that a lot of diverse topics hard been discussed here in connection with ethics issues. Saddened as I was to learn of the passing of the great Mickey Rooney, truly one of the most talented and versatile individuals in entertainment history and the last of MGM musical stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I can’t justify honoring his ethics; by all accounts, Mickey was not as admirable a human being as he was a performer. Still, Ethics Alarms has a Mickey Rooney post, from 2011, and when I read it over just now, I still liked it. Thus I will honor Mickey by reposting my defense  of perhaps his most criticized performance. For one of his best, watch this. Yes, Judy’s in it too. (TCM has made everyone take down their Mickey clips, but so far, this Russian pirate site still has it. I know, I know—but Mickey would approve. This ethical breach is for you, Mick…) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

Further Thoughts On “The Vampire Candidate”

dracula for congress

I don’t want to make this Vampire Day, but after reading the comments so far on today’s Ethics Quiz involving Florida Congressional candidate/ fantasy vampire role-play enthusiast Jake Rush, I realize that the original post omitted some important points and queries. Here, in no particular order, are my further thoughts:

  • The Ick Factor? Both conservative and liberal commentators are ridiculing Rush, essentially concluding that his hobby disqualifies him as a serious candidate. The most quoted source referred to the images embraced by Rush’s role-playing group as “disturbing,” “bizarre,” and “unsettling.” Do these reactions signal a rejection of Rush’s values, or is this a clear-cut example of the “Ick Factor,” which is often mistaken for unethical conduct? Strange does not mean wrong or unethical.
  • Trust. When we elect leaders, we must trust them. “Strange” by definition suggests unpredictability; if we don’t understand why people do what they do, it is hard for us to know how they will behave, and if we don’t know how they will behave, we can’t rationally trust them.
  • Integrity. I should have raised the issue of integrity, for it is critical to the problem. Integrity is essential to trust, and a candidate like Rush raises the question: “Who, or what, is this guy?” Is he a “straight-shooting” conservative who likes to play vampire in his spare time, just like some politicians like to play poker or watch synchronized swimming (now that’s what I call weird), or is he a wannabe creature of the night who is just playing a conservative Republican in the daytime to conform to the expectations of conventional society? If there is doubt about that, then his integrity is in question.

Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society, Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, The Internet, Leadership, Character

Ethics Quiz: Trust and the Vampire Candidate

jake-rushConservative Republican candidate Jacob A. Rush, a 35-year-old attorney, has begun a campaign in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District to win the primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, a Tea Party stalwart seeking a second term. Rush’s campaign website portrays  him  as a “conservative straight shooter,”and he may indeed be that. A Florida blog uncovered the fact that Rush is also, however, a long-time member of the Mind’s Eye Society,  “a nationwide community of gothic-punk role-players who take on the personas of vampires and other supernatural beings” for fantasy battles “against their own bestial natures, hunters, and each other.”

It’s all fun and games with improvisational theater tossed in, though with a decidedly adult set of themes. Rush liked ( likes?) to play a character named “van de Winst”, a lusty vampire, and photos of the lawyer were found on the web showing him and/or members of his club, playing vampire,  burning books, aiming shotguns at dogs, pretending to be demons, displaying Satanic symbols, being chained and gagged…you know, that kind of thing. Fun stuff.

After this all came out—how could he think it would not?—Rush explained in a press release:

“All my life, I’ve been blessed with a vivid imagination from playing George Washington in elementary school to dressing up as a super hero last Halloween for trick or treaters. Any cursory review of the Internet will show that I have played heroes and villains…. I have never hid nor shied away from disclosing my hobby activities. When I was hired at the Sheriff’s office, I fully disclosed my gaming and theatre background on the application, and these hobbies posed absolutely no problem or raised any flags. In fact, when applying for undercover work, these hobbies were considered an advantage, so much so my shift lieutenant nicknamed me ‘Shakespeare.’”

And he included this photo of him and his wife…

Rush and wife

…wisely choosing not to send this one:

Rush vanpire

WOW.

And thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is….

Is it  Jacob Rush’s unusual personal hobby relevant to his ability to serve in Congress?

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Law & Law Enforcement, Government & Politics, Leadership, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

I Repeat: April Fools Day Is Not For Ethical Professionals

april-fools-day-banner

In a much attacked post here way back in 2010, I offered some ethical guidelines for April Fool’s Day, which was just beginning to get out of hand. I was right, my critics were wrong, and maybe some of the mockers who are now trying to figure out when their favorite news organization is lying to them today for fun, as opposed to the rest of the year when it lies to them out of bias or incompetence, are beginning to appreciate my position.

I just watched three different morning news shows that contained fake news or commentary that the reporters and anchors, at least, seemed to think was hilarious. In one case, on Fox, conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham dead-panned a remarkably even-handed and fair explanation for HHS Secretary Sibelius’s much-maligned TV silence when asked about the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity.  April Fool! Laura wasn’t being fair or objective, she was just tricking Fox’s audience into being angry at her for being fair and objective, or, in my case, admiring her integrity for pointing out that the incident had more than one plausible interpretation. Got me, Laura. I just heard an NPR host plead with the audience not to regard the upcoming segment as a hoax because of the date, an especially difficult plea since NPR springs virtual hoaxes on its audience all year.

The first and most important of my April Fools guidelines was this:

1. April Fools’ Day tricks are not for professionals to play on those who depend on them, trust them, or otherwise rely on them for information or services, unless there is a special relationship as well. The risks of harm and abuse are too great.

The succeeding four years have validated my position. Journalism, government and politics are the prime examples. CNN played a video that showed Jay Carney crowing yesterday about the Affordable Care Act’s success even as the Healthcare.gov website had crashed. Wait..is this a joke? Did the Obama White House film this for fun and games? They wouldn’t do this, you say? Government officials don’t use their high office for jokes and hoaxes? Really?

Sen. Ted Cruz, also on Fox, showed his new tattoo, apparently an April Fools’ joke, but also said he was certain that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed. Which is more likely, that the AFA will be repealed, or that wacky Ted Cruz would get a tattoo? Slate has a post up by someone called Rehan Salan, which is, clearly, a clever anagram for “En Anal Rash” or something, arguing that adults without children should be forced to pay extra taxes to support parents. Hah! Good one, Slate! That should turn the “pro choice” crowd on its head: lets; punish the choice not to have children via a penalty—I’m sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, a tax, wink-wink. Wait…that isn’t a joke? Ok, well, I’m sure about this, then: that fake video showing famous tough guy Don Baylor, a record holder for being hit by pitches when he played and now a coach for the Los Angeles Angels, “breaking his leg” catching the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season. April Fools, right ESPN? No????

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz (Movie Division): “The Impossible,” Whitewashing, and Betrayal

"Bennett" and Belón

“Bennett” and Belón

I suppose some of you may have thought about this two years ago, when the Spanish film “The Impossible” was first released. I, however, take a while to catch up with my movie-viewing, and though the film was much praised by critics and got Naomi Watts an Academy Award nomination, I had not seen the film until recently. “The Impossible,” about as accurately as a motion picture can, tells the amazing story of how Spanish physician María Belón, her husband Enrique Álvarezs, and her three young sons miraculously  survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami when the family was on vacation in Thailand.

It is an engrossing, harrowing movie. I was surprised to find out, however that the family’s name wasn’t “Bennett,” and that they weren’t British, as the movie presented them. Apparently to maximize box office receipts, the film makers decided to take the heroic story of a real family and make the characters “more relatable” by recasting them as English-speaking Brits. There was a minor controversy about the film “whitewashing” the story*, but not much of that made it into the mainstream media. Belón, after all, is white. She was an active participant in the appropriation of story and that of her husband and sons, and they all profited from it, at least financially. Still, the movie’s point of view left a bad taste in the mouths of some international critics. Here is Australian critic Ruby Hamad:

“Based on the true story of a dark haired and darkish-skinned Spanish family, the filmmakers admitted to changing their nationality and casting lily-white actors in order to make the story ‘universal’. In other words, only white people can stand in for the human race as whole. For this reason, Thailand and its people are mere backdrops for the story of a Caucasian family who learn the hard way that even western privilege is no match for the brute force of mother nature.”

Your (two-year late) Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz, therefore, is:

Is “The Impossible” unethical”?

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Marketing and Advertising