1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.
2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.
In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,” shrieking “They don’t deserve it,” meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:
When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.
UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:
In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.
3. Would it be unfair for Republicans to make this episode the focus of campaign ads? From an account in The Blaze:
Customer Alexandria Montgomery was trying to place an order at a drive-thru through window at the Taco Bell store at 785 East Ninth St.[ in Hialeah, Florida] when an employee told her she couldn’t take orders in English.
In the video, Montgomery asked the cashier if a manager is available.
“She is in her house sleeping,” the employee replied in Spanish.
“Honey, I have a car behind you,” the employee tells Montgomery in Spanish as she closes the drive-through window. “Can you move please? I have an order behind you. There is no one who speaks English.”
“This is Hialeah, I’m sorry,” she added in Spanish.
Two other Taco Bell employees in the story also did not try to help Montgomery.
“No more, papi,” the clerk said in Spanish to a man who was in the car with Montgomery. He was trying to argue that this is the United States.
Finally, the two drove off without ordering their food.
Montgomery complained to the company.
Taco Bell Corp. told el Nuevo Herald that “this does not meet our customer service expectations.” “We have worked quickly to resolve with the customer to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” a spokesperson for the fast food chain told the media outlet. In a statement Taco Bell indicated “this individual no longer works for the brand,” the Miami Herald reported.Montgomery told WTVJ-TV that the chain offered her a $100 gift card in exchange for her trouble.
I am fully supportive of Hispanic immigration—the legal variety, of course. The arrogance of some Hispanic-Americans, and the presumption that there is no obligation for all immigrants to accept and embrace this nation’s culture, including the language, is infuriating. “This is Hialeah, I’m sorry”? “No more” as a response to “this is the United States’? If that’s the attitude the Left’s open border poison is cultivating, I think it is a fair issue to raise. I am sympathetic and tolerant of thick accents and other language deficiencies, as long as the speaker signals that he or she is trying to communicate in a language they have not yet mastered. If I had been confronted with the attitude Montgomery was, however, it might have gotten ugly fast. Here’s a poll:
4. Self-Promotion Corner. This week, D.C. area actor and Clarence Darrow channeler Paul Morella will be joining me in a provocative and entertaining 3-hour CLE seminar in Northern Virginia and Richmond, with video replays to follow. This one of my best-received ethics seminars, and if you are in the neighborhood and need some ethics credits, come on by!