Category Archives: Popular Culture

Keep It Up, Vulgarians

This morning I was listening to a CNN reporter in New Hampshire interviewing an ordinary, middle aged woman who is a Trump supporter, and she dropped a word inappropriate for TV live. The interviewer said, “You just said a cuss word!” and she just ignored him. In Phoenix, Don Harris, the head of Arizona’s largest NAACP chapter, was discussing the somehow national scandal over six white teenage Desert Vista High School students posting a photo of themselves aligned so the letters on their T-shirts spelled N-I-*-* E-R when he just couldn’t resist saying that a TV reporter who had just interviewed him had “nice tits”as he was speaking to another TV interviewer.

The recording was posted, and Harris had to resign as Chapter president. Called about the incident by another reporter, Harris said, among other things, “I’m really fucking sorry. I’m going to slash my wrists . . . Better yet, I’m going to throw myself out of a fucking window, except I’m on the first floor . . . I’m one of the best goddamned people in the state. They’ve seen me now, they’ve seen what I’ve done. I’ve given up my law practice. I’m down here six, seven days a week. That’s what my commitment is. I support NOW, the women’s organization — goddamn! — are you shitting me? Are you going to write this up?”

Why yes, Don, you vulgar fool, they are.

Harris and the dumb New Hampshire woman (I did say she was a Donald Trump supporter, right?) are victims of the crude and ugly culture of rudeness and incivility being imposed on the culture. If you don’t fight back, you will be sucked in: your civility and decency ethics alarms will become rusted and useless. At the 2016 Golden Globes awards, knowing they were on live TV and in front of an audience of adults, various presenters and award winners used the words cunt, sugar tits, fuck and fucking (twice). Speaking like this in private or controlled workplace surroundings is as old as the hills, but somewhere the principle has been lost in which such gutter discourse was understood to be ugly, lazy and the mark of an unmannerly lout when it leaks into more formal, or public settings. Who thinks this is a positive development? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

February 3, 1959.

Buddy-Holly-Plane

Buddy Holly, a rising pop music genius not yet 23 years old, died in a plane crash today, 57 years ago.

We can do all we can, and do everything right, but so much in our culture and lives is determined by pure luck, good, bad, and as in this case, terrible.

I think about this every February third.

Here’s Buddy, with one of my favorites:

And here is Don McLean:

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A Law Student Creates A Dishonest List Called “100 Times A White Actor Played Someone Who Wasn’t White” And Begins Another List Called “Times The Washington Post Published A Race-Baiting Piece Of Lazy Research And Sloppy Reasoning By Someone Who Looks Like She Will Be A Terrible Lawyer”

I didn’t set out to make the news media’s tolerating unethical race arguments the theme today, I really didn’t. While I was researching ESPN’s decision not to hire whites on its new website, to which the Wall Street Journal shrugged and said, by not saying, “Wait….WHAT?” in effect, “Sure, go ahead, discriminate!”, I came upon this piece of journalistic offal called “100 Times A White Actor Played Someone Who Wasn’t White” on the Washington Post website. It was authored by Meredith Simons, a law student and freelance writer. Well, Meredith, free-lance writers get away with these miserably researched and unfairly gathered articles a lot, but if you try to sneak this kind of crap past a judge or a senior partner, you’re going to have a rude awakening.

The fact that her article is incompetent and unfair in myriad ways doesn’t mean that Hollywood has been an equal opportunity employer throughout decades past. It hasn’t, but it has reflected the society and tastes in which it operates, and often has been a leader in race attitudes, as in the film “Imitation of Life.” There is work to be done, but careless articles like Simons’ just causes ignorance and confusion.

The immediate impetus for her hit piece on Hollywood casting was apparently the controversy over the casting of white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in a planned biopic. Simons calls him “African American icon Michael Jackson,” which is the lawyer’s trick of framing an issue to rig the debate—good one, Meredith—but skin-bleaching, child-molesting, whitebread pop star Jackson is hardly an “African American” icon: he’s a national pop icon who went out of his way to reject race and racial labels. That is what the song “Black and White” was about, right? Sure, the casting was a gimmick, but it’s a clever and legitimate gimmick that I would guess Jackson would have approved of enthusiastically. When they make “The Rachel Dolezal Story,” will Simons complain if a black actress gets the part?

So based on a phony race controversy—two, in fact, with the Oscar nomination spat included—Simons comes up with an even more phony list. “Despite decades of protests over racially inappropriate casting and the recent protests over the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees, filmmakers continue to cast white actors as minority characters on a depressingly regular basis,” she writes.

(A tip  for Social Justice Warriors: don’t write about the performing arts and casting if you don’t know a damn thing about either. The purpose of the performing arts is 1) to make a good product and 2) to make money. Anything that in any way interferes with either is irrelevant. There is no such thing as “racially inappropriate casting” if it furthers either of these objectives, or ideally both. It is not Hollywood’s job to eradicate racial inequality in the U.S. If it helps, that’s responsible and ethical of the movie-makers. This is, however, neither its art nor its business.)

Simons’ list is the epitome of the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy done badly. The fallacy consists of cherry-picking facts that support a predetermined argument and “drawing a circle around them” as if they are the sole relevant facts, while intentionally or mistakenly omitting equally relevant facts that would tend to disprove it. Bad lawyer that she is, she draws a metaphorical circle around “facts” that don’t even support her argument. I’m not going to go through the entire hundred  (say “thank-you, Jack!”) but I’ll point out some of her most egregious botches.

To begin with, either she didn’t see the movies on the list, or intentionally misrepresents them. My favorite, and typical of her terrible research: Continue reading

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It’s Time To Play “Ethical, Unethical, Stupid, Or Tongue-In-Cheek?”, The Celebrity Quote Game Show!

Quiz show5

Are you ready, panel?

Here we go…I read to you from Mediate:

As the controversy continues over the white-washed pool of actors nominated this year for the Oscar awards, gay British actor Sir Ian McKellen has stated that homophobia is just as prominent in the film industry as racism.

McKellen, perhaps most prominently known for his work in the Lord of the Rings and X-Men series, spoke with Sky News today about why he felt sympathetic to the minority actors who felt like they were being overlooked by the Academy. While McKellen said that the concerns had merit, he also stated that black people were not alone in feeling disenfranchised by Hollywood.

“It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day,” McKellen said. “And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course.”

In a separate interview with The Guardian, McKellen also said that actors have won Oscars for playing gay characters in the past, and yet despite being nominated himself, no openly homosexual actor has ever won.

Now, you need some background for this round, panel. 

It is almost certain that a very large proportion of Hollywood is gay, and it has always been this way. The exact percentage is open to question, but those who have worked in other areas of show business encounter a large percentage of gay men, and also women, among designers, producers, directors, and actors, at all levels of the theater. In most college theater programs, there is a clear predominance of gays among both faculty and students. It would be strange indeed if the dominance of gays in the other aspects of show business was significantly different from the demographics in film. This suggests that there must be a strong contingent of closeted or privately gay men and women among the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

So now your question, panel: Was Ian McKellen’s bold assertion…

“Ethical, Unethical, Stupid, Or Tongue-In-Cheek?”

You have…30 seconds!

Time’s up!

Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Academy’s Pro-Diversity “Fix”

Chris-Rock-Backstage-at-Oscars

Apparently panicked by the negative reaction to its all-white 2016 Oscar nominations,  and determined not to give MC Chris Rock more ammunition than he already has, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists has rushed into place new voter qualifications for next year’s awards. Under the new rules, members who have not worked over the past 30 years  will lose the right to cast Oscar ballots unless they have been nominated for an Oscar themselves.

What’s going on here?

1. Is this substituting real bias for unfairly assumed bias?

Sure it is.

As one soon to be disenfranchised voter told the Hollywood Reporter, “The Motion Picture Academy, in the spirit of Affirmative Action (which has worked so well in our universities), is determined to take the Oscar vote away from the Old White Guys…Personally, I wish they’d examine their complex preferential ballot procedure which clearly isn’t working right. But no, blame the Old White Guys.” Others noted that to assume older voters, many who were at their peak during the rebellious Sixties and the Civil Rights Era, weren’t voting for black artists was foolish. The new rules seem to be an obvious attempt to stigmatize and penalize older voters.  The seniors, said one dissenting Academy member, are often “perfectly vibrant and very much with it and, while they may be retired, it doesn’t mean they aren’t functioning on all cylinders. They have earned the privilege of being in the Academy through their work and just because they’re no longer active doesn’t mean that they can’t be a good judge of what they’re looking at.” Former actress Delores Hart, who gave Elvis Presley his first screen kiss and who was the top-billed star of “Where the Boys Are?,” was direct, saying,  “It’s age discrimination.”

Of course, Hollywood has long-accepted age-discrimination, and Saturday Night Live would never skewer the Oscars for that. Continue reading

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X-Files Ethics: There Is Nothing Weird About Offering Scully One-Half Mulder’s Contract

X-Files

Gillian Anderson reported that when the producers approached the actress about reprising her co-starring role in the re-boot of “The X-Files,” she was offered only one-half of the salary that her male partner, David Duchovny, had agreed to. From the Daily Beast’s shocking account:

The work Anderson put into securing equal pay back in the ’90s seemingly came undone when it came time to negotiate pay for this year’s event series. Once again, Anderson was being offered “half” of what they would pay Duchovny.“I’m surprised that more [interviewers] haven’t brought that up because it’s the truth,” Anderson says of the pay disparity, first disclosed in the Hollywood Reporter. “Especially in this climate of women talking about the reality of [unequal pay] in this business, I think it’s important that it gets heard and voiced. It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us to be paid fairly. I worked really hard toward that and finally got somewhere with it.

“Even in interviews in the last few years, people have said to me, ‘I can’t believe that happened, how did you feel about it, that is insane.’ And my response always was, ‘That was then, this is now.’ And then it happened again! I don’t even know what to say about it.”

That’s all right, Gillian. I know what to say about it. This was not unfair, disrespectful. or an example of discrimination against women in the workplace. This is called negotiation, and there is nothing unethical about it at all.

Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Ice Cube…Adult

Ice Cube

The Academy Awards nominations flap has been gradually acquiring Ethics Train Wreck Status. Naturally, since it involves race (black artists didn’t get their quota this year, whatever that quota is–it’s a secret quota, but clearly zero isn’t it) and thus an opportunity for him to get some publicity, Al Sharpton weighed in with sputtering outrage, calling for a boycott of the Oscars. Then Spike Lee announced a personal boycott, making no sense in the process, rapidlly followed by Jada Pinkett Smith, who really made no sense, writing,

“Begging for acknowledgment or even asking diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people. And we are powerful. Let’s not forget it. So let’s let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us.”

Gibberish. What is throwing a tantrum and boycotting your industry and profession as it honors itself and your colleagues’ art because  the people you really care about—those of the right color, you know— didn’t get a nomination, if it isn’t demanding recognition, which is as pathetic as asking or begging for it, just more obnoxious?

Next her husband, Will Smith, who looks like a poor sport by doing so, followed her lead, muttering inappropriate platitudes. He said, “There is a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.” If you say so, Will. Causing racial division in your profession and sabotaging its big self-promotion night is part of what solution, now?

In ethics train wrecks, all passengers live to regret it. Over at Fox News, panelist and former “Clueless” actress Stacey Dash suggested that black actors had nothing to complain about as long as they participated in blacks-only honors, like the BET Awards, and the NAACP Image awards. What was that supposed to mean? That Oscar should be all-white, since there are all-black awards? Is this a plug for separate but equal? Her argument was incoherent, so naturally Donald Trump endorsed it, saying, and I quote, “Blah, blah, blah, blah…” Among the blahs, he noted,

“So over there — the whites don’t get any nominations, or don’t get — and I thought it was an amazing interview, actually. I never even thought of it from that standpoint. But with all of that being said, it would certainly be nice if everybody could be represented properly…”

Trenchant analysis, you moronContinue reading

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