Remember Justin Carter? Last I checked, he was being tried for making a joke on Facebook, because of the culture of fear and speech monitoring created by the irresponsible hysteria over guns and terrorism. He faces prison time. That this is a freedom-suffocating societal illness that threatens any and all of us is chronicled in Ken White account, and accompanying commentary, on the astonishing mistreatment of Bergen Community College Professor Francis Schmidt by the school, which was sent into a frenzy of terror because he posted to Google+ “a cute picture of his young daughter wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt in a yoga pose next to a cat.” Inside Higher Ed reports what happened next: Continue reading
Category Archives: Popular Culture
I just got home from another day trip, and am too weary to essay a significant post. Allow me, instead, to give readers a taste of what goes through one’s mind when you have begun to focus exclusively on ethics in preparation for a key, out-of-state presentation:
- The incompetence of supposed professional broadcasters. Shortly before leaving for the airport on Sunday, I watched the local Fox affiliate report on the new Vogue cover, featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. One of the two anchorwomen noted that there was a parody of the cover titled “Vague” featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy in the same poses. She pronounced it as “Vagg.” Her partner did not correct her. I think newsreaders should be able to read, don’t you?
- Dishonesty in headlines. With the Kardashians still gnawing at my brain, I noticed an issue of “Star” in an airport magazine rack. The headline read, “Kardashians Cancelled!” Filled with momentary hope for civilization, I looked up the corresponding story in the rag. It stated that cable’s “Keeping Up With The Kardashians had been renewed, but that the family was worried that it might be cancelled next year. Yes, the headline was “X” and the story was “Not X.” I don’t care that the Star is just a glossy paper tabloid—how can anyone justifying this? Deceitful headlines are bad, but at least they are literally true, if misleading. Tabloid ethics are as low as ethics can be, but this flat-out false cover headline seems to have breached them… a neat trick.
- More incompetence of supposed professional broadcasters. CNN’s John Berman showed a clip of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton with Jimmy Kimmel and said…”Next…what Jimmy Kimmel did with three generations of Clintons.“
I recently watched the Disney “Peter Pan,” long my favorite of the classic animated films, which I had not seen from beginning to end in decades. I was genuinely shocked at the portrayal of the Indians, which would make the average movie Western seem politically correct and the Washington Redskins seem like a compliment. I know the story is a fantasy; I know that these are not supposed to represent real Native Americans, but a Victorian child’s visualization of the villains of their games. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine the effect of such a film on a Native American child as being anything but devastating. The Neverland Indians, and their heroine, Tiger Lily, have been a human relations problem since at least the civil rights era, and the provocation is legitimate: did you recall (I had forgotten) that Tiger Lily belonged to the “Piccaninny tribe”? That James Barrie was a funny guy. Continue reading
By purest coincidence, I was looking through a magazine rack at CVS yesterday and taking notice of how well Oprah Winfrey has been keeping the pounds off lately. Then, this morning, I saw footage of her walking across a stage to announce her latest venture, something to do with chai tea. Mama mia! The woman I saw smiling and waving, presumably the real Oprah, was easily 50 pounds heavier than the look-alike who has been gracing the cover of recent O’s, though I will say, as mitigation, that the strategically shot March cover has a graphic over OW’s gut.
I could not care less how much Oprah weighs or what she looks like. However, an ethical narcissistic—and what else can you call a woman who publishes a magazine named after herself that has her as the cover model for every single issue?—has limited choices:
- Keep yourself in fabulous shape, so you are fit to be a cover girl (by your own standards)
- Don’t put yourself on the cover when you don’t feel cover-worthy
- Use cartoons, or
- Let it all hang out.
Not an ethical option: showing your loyal, trusting readers that you look one way, when in fact you look a whole lot fatter.
Yes, yes, I know—photoshopping, airbrushing, make-up, glamor photos, “it’s done all the time.” This is Oprah’s magazine, her image and her body, and pictures communicate. Her covers say “This is what I look like, be like me.” If she doesn’t look like her covers or even close, that’s an outright, calculated lie. It’s really as simple as that.
“I think if you see that no one is going to laugh at you for it, I think the concept of living nicely will be infectious. I believe there is room for the absence of cynicism. This is my final dream before I take the last cab.”
— Mitch Leigh, Broadway composer best knows for the music of “Man of La Mancha”-–and “The Impossible Dream,” of course, in an interview with the New York Times last year, quoted by the Washington Post in the obituary today for Leigh, who finally caught that cab.
The context of the quote was Leigh’s ad for a residential community he tried to launch on land he had bought in New Jersey. His ads seeking businesses and suburbanites requested that only nice people move in.
Leigh didn’t write the famous lyrics of “The Impossible Dream”—-Joe Darion did. He was clearly influenced by the song, however, beyond the fact that it made him rich. Maybe a society with less cynicism where people put a premium on being nice is an impossible dream; certainly the United States has been treavelling in the opposite direction. As an “unreachable star” to reach for, however, it’s not a bad one at all. In the Sixties, people were inspired by “The Impossible Dream.” Now pretty much everyone snickers at them.
You can’t convince me that’s progress.
Patrice, the Ethics Alarms resident Catholic theologian (and a dear friend), weighs in on the “Noah” controversy, in the this Comment of the Day on the post, “Noah” Ethics:
My undergraduate theology degree is indisputably from a Catholic perspective, although many of the scholars we studied were not Catholic, nor even Christian. I was required to take only 4 semesters of biblical literature, but even those few academic hours of biblical studies taught me enough about biblical analysis to understand how “The Bible” (which, as I’m sure you know, is just a mutually-agreed upon canon of literature which omits as much as it includes) came to be. I often think that it is a shame that true knowledge about biblical literature mostly seems to reside only in academia. Unfortunately, most of the zealots out there would and probably do regard biblical scholarship as an attack on God. The battles over the centuries over biblical inerrancy/infallibility/literalism are merely unread footnotes to most people. Continue reading
In past years I have taken the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to task for the ethical breach of ingratitude and disrespect, as the honor roll of the year’s deceased film notables have omitted important figures who deserved their final bows. Omissions are inevitable, I suppose, but some of the past examples were unforgivable—last year alone, for example, the Academy snubbed Ann Rutherford, Andy Griffith, R.G. Armstrong, Russell Means, Harry Carey, Jr., and Susan Tyrell. 2012 was worse.
2013, however, shows that the Academy is being more careful, and Oscar deserves credit for cleaning up its act. I have ethical and historical objections to bestowing the prestigious final slot on actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, dead prematurely of self-inflicted drug abuse, when a genuine, bona fide Hollywood legend, Shirley Temple, was on the list. I understand the thinking: Hoffman had friends and colleagues in the room, and Temple is of another generation; his premature death was a tragedy, and she lived a long and productive life. Still, the priorities and relative values such a choice exemplifies is disturbing. Great actor that he was, Hoffman was a criminal, an addict, and left his children fatherless. Shirley was the greatest child star who ever will be, a ray of sunshine in the dark days of the Depression, a one-of-a kind talent and icon, and later a lifetime public servant who raised a family. She represented the best of Hollywood and the profession; Hoffman represents its dark side. Naturally, he’s the one who received the greatest recognition. I will suppress my dark suspicions that Shirley was docked because she was a Republican. A Facebook friend actually wrote that Shirley deserved to be penalized because some of her movies were racist. My response to this slur was not friendly. Continue reading