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
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
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
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
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
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
“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”?