Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/2019: Two Bingos, Two Drag Shows, and Poop

Good morning!

1. Is it me, or is this TV commercial indefensibly gross, and signals the impending end of civilization?

2.  Reasons not to duck the New York Times op-ed pages…Yale student Kathryn Hu contributed a sane and thoughtful essay on the topic of classic operas with characters and plot elements that seem sexist or racist to today’s more enlightened audiences. As we know, today’s “woke” censors of the arts and arbiters of what we are allowed to watch and hear have their own solution: never do the piece again, despite its obvious virtues, or interpret and rewrite it out of existance or into nausea, like John Legend injecting “It’s your body and your choice” into the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I had to suppress my gorge from rising while reading this article, for example, that described the current production of  J.M Barry’s 1904 classic “Peter Pan” in Washington D.C:

In [Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s] version now playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company (retitled Peter Pan and Wendy…), the character of Tiger Lily has been completely reconceived. No more the helpless princess in distress, Tiger Lily is now a spirited and fearless Native rights activist whose people thrived in Neverland long before Captain Hook’s pirate ship dropped anchor and Peter showed up with the Lost Boys.

Because as we know, there were so many Native American activists in 1904. To anyone with brain cells and cultural perspective that haven’t been woked to death, it is obvious that Barry’s Neverland is a child’s fanciful impression of Indians, pirates, and friendly wild animals. It has nothing to do with reality , so imposing current day adult political views on the and characters is neither fair nor necessary.

Hu’s solution to the supposed horrors of 19th Century biases and social mores in opera:

To survive, opera has to confront the depth of its racism and sexism point-blank, treating classic operas as historical artifacts instead of dynamic cultural productions. Opera directors should approach the production of these classics as museum curators and professors — educating audiences about historical context and making stereotypes visible.


3,.And reasons to avid the Times op-eds like the plagues they generally are. Thanks to Ann Althouse for fisking the idiocy emitted by once -sensible Times columnist Bret Stephens, now a Stockholm Syndrome victim after too many months of being dominated by his arch-progressive colleagues. She saved me the trouble, and her reaction was identical to mine. Poor Bret wrote, in “What Will It Take to Beat Donald Trump?/It’s not what the progressive left is talking about”:

“[T]he winning Democrat will need to make Trump’s presidency seem insignificant rather than monumental — an unsightly pimple on our long republican experiment.… not a fatal cancer within it. Mike Bloomberg has the financial wherewithal to make Trump’s wealth seem nearly trivial. Joe Biden has the life experience to make Trump’s attacks seem petty. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have the rhetorical skills to turn Trump’s taunts against him. As with most bullies, the key to beating Trump is to treat him as the nonentity he fundamentally is. Wouldn’t it be something if his political opponents and obsessed media critics resolved, for 2020, to talk about him a little less and past him a lot more? When your goal is to wash your hands of something bad, you don’t need a sword. Soap will do.”

Can you imagine a more vivid example of how bias makes you stupid? Now here’s Ann:

1. Isn’t this how they tried to defeat Trump the last time around? Diminish him. Insist that everything about him is small — hands, penis, brain, worldview. Donald Trump can’t possibly be President! Isn’t that less likely to work when Trump actually is President? 2. Biden can run by standing in place, embodying “life experience”?! He’s “experienced” to the point of old age, and we’re wondering if he currently has what it takes. 3. Who cares if Bloomberg is richer than Trump? I don’t think Trump won because people simply admired him for his wealth. Bloomberg might be able to use his wealth to run ads that work to some extent, but those ads are likely to minimize the significance of his stature as a very rich man, not vaunt his wealth in comparison to Trump’s — my pile of money is bigger than yours. If size matters, Bloomberg is the one who will look small compared to Trump when we see them on the debate stage together. 4. I find it very hard to believe that anyone could — in real time, on a debate stage — best Trump in a game of trading taunts, and it just seems silly to posit that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar could do it because they have “rhetorical skills.” 5. Talking about a human being as filth or disease… I thought we weren’t doing that anymore. I thought you could get canceled for that. But Donald Trump can take it. He can take everything dished out against him. That’s why these ideas about how to beat him feel like absolutely nothing.

4. Ethics Alarms Poll report. In these two polls on the controversial Peloton commercial, the revelation was that the proportion of men to women among Ethics Alarms readers was much closer than I thought. Also, on this alleged gender-based issue, the difference between the two groups responses was negligible.

5. Good drag, bad drag?  A. At the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas this week, Star Wars fans who brought their kids to see the final installment of the trilogy trilogy went to see the movie got a pre-show consisting of  drag queens discussing space fashions. For some reason, parents were upset by this.

Stipulated: parents who bring children to this chain are not firing on all cylinders. Audiences are sometimes drunk and rowdy, and the place is an adult venue. However, the cinemas allow children, and management with any cylinders firing at all should have known that a drag queen feature would not be an appropriate intro. I’m not convinced its an appropriate intro for an adult audience. I have no quarrel with drag queens; I know a few, and they seem to be nice people. I don’t think they should be getting in people’s faces, however, and that’s what this is. It smacks of pro-drag queen propaganda. The film showing wasn’t “La Cage Au Faux.”

The chain should apologize for not making it clear to audiences what they were buying tickets to.

B. Meanwhile, in Seattle,  activists are attacking the stage musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Here’s the “woke” Seattle Times:

A man in a dress. That was the central gag of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the 1993 Robin Williams hit about a hard-luck actor named Daniel Hillard who loses custody of his kids and masquerades as a Scottish nanny to stay in their lives. It was the second-highest-grossing movie of the year, just behind “Jurassic Park.”

But a man in a dress doesn’t cut it as a punch line in 2019 — not without serious and necessary conversations. The new musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire” at The 5th Avenue Theatre, which features heavy-hitter talent (including Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks), is already slated for Broadway, but not without scrutiny and criticism.This summer, a petition asked The 5th Ave to cancel the musical altogether, citing the film’s “tired, transphobic tropes.” Though “Mrs. Doubtfire” is not directly about transgender identity, “the central device of the plot, crossdressing as an elaborate ruse, strengthens the assumptions and misjudgments that continue to harm trans women in implicit, pervasive ways,” the petition, started by Seattle-area theater artist Eli Blodgett, says. “As trans theatre-maker and critic Brin Solomon writes, … ‘Because mainstream society, by and large, thinks of trans women as “men in dresses” instead of women, the man-in-a-dress joke perpetuates the idea that trans women are “unnatural” and fit for ridicule and scorn.’”

This reads like a parody, and it should be.

  • Don’t tell me what makes it as a punchline in 2019. (and I speak as someone who has never found drag humor funny. Well, sometimes when Monty Python did it, but not in “Mrs. Doubtfire.”)
  • “Serious conversations” are not necessary when comedies are involved; in fact, the opposite is true. If audiences find the show funny, it’s funny. Those who don’t or won’t find it funny should spend their tickets elsehwere, like, say, for “The Book of Mormon,” because its fine to make fun of religious people, right?
  • “Mrs Doubtfire’ has nothing to do with transsexuals whatsoever. Any transsexual activists who find that movie insulting of offensive is looking to be insulted and offended to advance a political agenda.

If they have any integrity or courage, the show’s creators and producer should tell critics to back off and shut up. This is show business, however, so integrity and courage are as rare as Carolina parakeets. Watch: they’ll be groveling soon.


19 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/2019: Two Bingos, Two Drag Shows, and Poop

  1. V. I. Poo was advertised on TV in Holland the entire three years we lived there (three years ago). I found the ads unspeakably disgusting then. I was horrified to see it being advertised on U.S. TV beginning sometime this year. Unbelievable.

  2. Althouse said:

    Who cares if Bloomberg is richer than Trump? I don’t think Trump won because people simply admired him for his wealth.

    Have we forgotten Mitt Romney is also very wealthy? How much did America admire his riches? Apparently not enough. Maybe he just didn’t have enough money?

    The idea that Trump was elected because he was wealthy is kind of silly. The reason he was elected was because of what he said, how he acted, and how even his faults fell short of their disdain for Hillary Clinton’s feckless candidacy.

    We may fault Trump for his boorish behavior, but he inspires people other Republicans struggle to reach. His brash actions are viewed favorably, or at least tolerably when combined with his straightforward populism, by more people than it scares off.

    People like Stephens are incapable of understanding this dynamic — it’s simply beyond any of them. They are so awash in their own bubble and conceptions of what their ideal of a president should be that they are unable to wrap their head around the idea that anything as antithetical to their vision as Trump could be attractive to anyone, let alone garner an Electoral College majority.

    Talking about a human being as filth or disease… I thought we weren’t doing that anymore. I thought you could get canceled for that.

    Trump isn’t a human being to the Left and their thralls like Stephens. Hence, this principle does not apply to him.

  3. The letters (in today’s edition) responding to Ms. Hu’s opinion piece are similarly thoughtful. To wit:

    To the Editor:

    I do not think “racist,” “sexist” or “Orientalist” operas must be bowdlerized for the benefit of those who need to be politically correct. The plots of most operas are absurd, and the audiences know it. Since many operas were composed 150 years ago, they obviously reflect the prejudices of the era. So what? (“Carmen” scandalized the audience at its 1875 premiere.)

    Operagoers are unlikely to walk out of the theater feeling newborn xenophobia based on grotesque characterizations. People go for the orchestral and vocal music, the emotion, the sets and costumes, to enjoy the suspension of disbelief.

    Juliette Muscat
    Sarasota, Fla.

  4. Re: Nos. 2 and 5, though only tangentially, because . . . well, . . .

    So, in line with the “modern interpretations of theatrical works, I watched an FX “modern adaption” of “A Christmas Carol” featuring Guy Pierce as the unloveable Ebeneezer Scrooge. A more loathsome character performance I don’t think I have seen in a very long time. Pierce was excellent, as was the fellow who played Cratchit, and the lady who played Belinda Cratchit, Tiarna Williams. They were excellent.

    My concern was the theme, though. This modern adaption is dark, disturbing, and bone-chillingly cold. I mean, you feel every bit of a frigid, desolate London winter in the base of your being. The story line loosely follows Dickens’ original story. It goes sideways very quickly and never comes out back on top. At the end, there is little redemption for Scrooge, only a crack in his ice-shrouded soul.

    In the original work Scrooge is an embittered and cold-hearted, miserly and mean fellow as a result of losing the love of his life. In the modern adaption, Scrooge is left at boarding school by his miserable father only to be sexually abused (apparently repeatedly) during Christmas breaks by the headmaster, in exchange for tuition. So, Scrooge is “sold” to the headmaster for sexual favors in exchange for free tuition. Nice. His sister, Lottie, saves him at gun point but instead of showing her gratitude, Scrooge shuts out the world, closing himself to all human emotion. He becomes a corporate raider, buying businesses to break them up and sell them parts for huge profits. He and Marley buy a coal mine and run it on a shoestring budget, ignoring worker safety concerns in favor of making more money. As a result, the mine collapses and 27 workers (men, women, and children) perish.

    As for Tiny Tim, that is where the story takes an even darker turn. As we know from the original story, Tim needs medical attention and in a parallel future, Tim dies as a result of his condition. Scrooge, newly awakened to Tim’s plight, comes to rescue, to great celebration. In the new adaptation, Tim still needs a surgery (at the cost of £30, which we know Cratchit can’t afford as a result of the paltry wages he gets from Scrooge). Mrs. Cratchit, though, implores Scrooge for a loan, whereupon Scrooge proposes a “gift” of sorts, in which she is to meet him at his place on Christmas afternoon and perform what he wants (fully laden with sexual tension and full-on creepiness [as I said, the actors are excellent as you can feel your stomach wretch at the suggestion]). She consents and, once at Scrooge’s place, he instructs her to disrobe. She horrifyingly does, with the admonition that she is doing it for her son. Scrooge, though, even more awful than can be described, does not have intercourse but tells her his proposal was an experiment to see at what price Mrs. Cratchit would sell her virtue, her morals, her solemn vows, and her commitment to God. The scene is heartbreaking. This sets the stage for future recriminations between Scrooge and Mrs. Cratchit.

    The resolution of the show, though, is not rejoicing in Scrooge’s redemption. He, in fact, tells the last ghost that he has not earned redemption and that his penance should be carried out, even if that includes banishment to Hell for all eternity. He does tell the ghost, though, that everything should be done to save Tim (who drowns in an unfrozen lake when he takes his sister’s ice skates and falls through the ice). Touching and well played. At the end, Scrooge runs to the Cratchit residence, and seeks a sort of reprieve from Bob Cratchit, only then to be met by Mrs. Cratchit’s revulsion that he has entered their home (man, that actress is really, really good!). Scrooge leaves but Mary chases him out of the home, displaying a contempt and disgust for Scrooge lesser performers would have missed by a mile. She declares that his humiliation will never be forgotten or forgiven. Scrooge, though, turns the table and advises her that he neither asked for it, wanted it, or expected it. In the end, we see Scrooge has turned as a result of Tim’s needs. The three ghosts are satisfied, and Marley can sleep in eaternal peace, freed from the torments of Purgatory.

    It is well made and filmed, and brilliantly acted. But, at what point can this “adaptation” be considered “A Christmas Carol”? It follows the story line in theme only but the new version is so much more desperate and repulsive. At no point can you, as the observer, feel for Scrooge. You don’t hope for his redemption; in fact, you want him to pay dearly for his crimes against society.


    • I started watching it but when it went off on a sexual bent I changed the channel.

      Now that I know that redemption and change were dropped from the theme I did not miss anything.

    • That was a masterly synopsis, JB, not so much because of the plot — anyone can rip off (or riff on) a classic — but because of your genuine enthusiasm for the performances. I was convinced by imagining the scenes being played. The blame be on ye, sir, then (by proxy) that when I next lay eyes on Alistair Sim as I do annually … forbye playing the first 43 seconds of the ghostly BBC 1971 version of the Dickens story … I will endeavor to shroud the tale as you told it.

  5. (5) Why would the theater think this is a problem? The public libraries of America have determined that all children need to be exposed to drag queens. If it is appropriate, no, in fact, laudable to expose small children to drag queens in libraries, why would a movie theater think it is a problem?

  6. Wouldn’t it be something if his political opponents and obsessed media critics resolved, for 2020, to talk about him a little less and past him a lot more?

    It would be “something” all right. If you talk less about the President and look “past” him, you will find yourself face-to-face with those who identify and understand the real issues and the true state of the nation, in other words, his supporters.

  7. #5: Remember the sitcom Bosom Buddies, that first really put Tom Hanks in the public eye? Big star that he now is, I wonder when the woke-ians will realize that he needs to go on an apology tour for that original sin?

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