Category Archives: Popular Culture

Ethics And The New TV Season, Part 2: “Blue Bloods”

danny-shoots

I promise, I’m not going to devote whole posts to every one of the nearly thirty ethics-focused TV shows starting new seasons this month. “Blue Bloods,” however, as the longest running such show and a drama whose very premise is an ethics problem (we call Tom Selleck’s baby “The Conflict of Interest Family” around the ProEthics office)–and it is a multiple winner of the Ethics Alarms Award for best ethics TV series— has earned a post of its own.

Last night was the premiere of “Blue Bloods,” and to its  credit, the show that celebrates our men and women in blue did not duck the issue of police shootings and the national controversy over law enforcement. The episode, titled “The Greater Good,” had NYC Police Chief Frank Reagan’s oldest son, hot-headed police detective Danny (played by Donnie Wahlberg) facing a grand jury because he had shot and killed an unarmed man. Meanwhile, the wife of a fallen officer and Frank Reagan colleague and friend urged Selleck’s character to find a way to flunk her son out of the police academy, because she didn’t want her boy to end up hated and dead, like his father.

Unfortunately, the show’s writers managed to avoid all of the real issues involved in police shootings that have people getting hurt and killed in the Charlotte riots, pro football players grandstanding, and the races parting like the Red Sea as Barack Obama stands  looking on, apparently content.

Danny, you see, shot an unarmed suspect who…

…was white

…an admitted serial killer

tortured his female victims, over 20 of them

…was insane

…had kidnapped Danny’s college-student niece and announced that he would kill her

was goading the detective into firing as part of his vendetta against him

had his hands behind his back intentionally behaving as if he had a weapon, grinning all the while like the eeevil homicidal maniac he was

refused to drop the imaginary weapon when ordered to do so, and

suddenly whipped his hands out from behind his back, prompting Danny to fire.

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Ethics And The New TV Season, Part 1: “The Good Place”

There are an unusual number of shows this season that should be full of fascinating ethical dilemmas. There is even sitcom, “The Good Place,” with a main character who is an ethicist. He’s a dead ethics, but that’s something. Let’s start with that show as I plan on reviewing the ethics-related TV shows in future posts.

The first episode of  the NBC comedy  began with selfish, habitually unethical  Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) waking up in the afterlife called “the Good Place, I assume to avoid religious controversy. Michael (Ted Danson) welcomes her, and explains that he designed this particular Good Place neighborhood that she will reside in for eternity. As many of us were taught, our lives on Earth are being monitored by higher beings, literally and figuratively. In this show’s cosmology, they calculate our ethical worth using a point system.  Those with the highest positive point totals make it to the Good Place.

The problem is that there has been a glitch: Eleanor was erroneously awarded the point score of a capital punishment-fighting lawyer (naturally the Good Place regards all progressive and liberal positions as “good;” I assume that all conservatives and Republicans are in the Bad Place) when she really was a salesperson for an evil drug company. The situation in this sitcom is whether Eleanor can shape up and justify her points before she is found out and ends up playing strip poker in Hell with Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley and Phyllis Schlafly.* Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture

Ethics Mega Dunce And Ethics Corrupter: “Dancing With The Stars”

Ryan Lochte, role model

Ryan Lochte…liar, boor, jerk, TV star, role model.

This announcement would warrant a KABOOM! if ABC’s popular reality show/ dance competition hadn’t already demonstrated its lack of responsibility and decency so many times before. I guess my still unexploded head should be grateful for that, at least.

Dancing With The Stars is going to include Ryan Lochte in its line-up of competing celebrity dancers in the upcoming season. Why? Because he urinated on the wall of an establishment belonging to someone else, lied about the immediate consequences, insulted the hosts of the Olympic Games he competed in, and thoroughly embarrassed the United States, of course.  He’s infamous! He’s cute! He’s a moron! Naturally, this makes him attractive to “Dancing With The Stars.”

The undeniable message such casting sends to younger citizens whose sense of ethics and appropriate social conduct are still being formed is that wrongful conduct pays. DWTS is proving that as long as what you do makes you famous, it doesn’t matter if it is reckless, stupid, harmful or illegal. Then you can cash in.

This is the message that the show has often broadcast. Kim Kardashian was a contestant because she made a sex video, was the daughter of one of O.J.’s lawyers, had a freakishly large butt and epitomized hedonism, venality, and style over substance. Perfect! Tom DeLay was on the show because he was a famously vicious and corrupt—and successful— politician. Bristol Palin’s sole qualification for the show was that she managed to be an unwed mother-to-be, engaged to a jackass, while her mother was trying to convince the nation that she was qualified to be a heartbeat away from the White House. Reality shows and the ranks of washed-up actors have  supplied the show with a steady stream of drug addicts and low-lifes  whose sole distinctions have been that they were primarily famous for doing things that would get normal people fired or imprisoned. Continue reading

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Nipplegate Ethics: No, We Don’t Owe Janet Jackson Any Apology At All

nipplegate

A wonderful, if infuriating, example of race- and gender-baiting was delivered earlier this year by pop culture pundit Emmanuel Hapsis, and a more ridiculous analysis you will seldom see. I missed it, but the post was no more valid then than it is now.

Returning, for some reason, to the infamous episode during the 2004’s Super Bowl halftime show, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake conspired to turn the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl into a strip tease, Hapsis’s piece is called “Nipplegate Revisited: Why America Owes Janet Jackson a Huge Apology.” During a choreographed duet with Jackson  and while singing “Better have you naked by the end of this song,” (talk about rape culture!) Timberlake ripped a pre-rigged portion of Jackson’s bustier to reveal her naked breast. Jackson was severely criticized, as she should have been: after all, it was her breast, and she obviously agreed to allow it to make a surprise appearance, however brief.

Never mind. Hapsis sees the episode as exemplifying America’s “patriarchy,” “racism” and “sexism,” because obviously no white singers flashing ten-year-olds in TV land would be criticized, and no male singer who decided to let Mr. Wiggly make a guest appearance would be similarly pilloried. Continue reading

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The Strange, Unique, Sort-Of Unethical Movie Career Of Marnie Nixon, a.k.a. Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, And Audrey Hepburn

"Heeeeere's MARNI!"

“Heeeeere’s MARNI!”

Marni Nixon died last month at 86, and I have been intending to write about her ever since.  An accomplished soprano with perfect pitch and a rare gift for mimicry, Nixon secretly dubbed in the songs for Deborah Kerr as Anna in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood as Maria in “West Side Story” and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” three of the most successful and honored Hollywood adaptations of Broadway musicals. In doing so she was assisting in the perpetration of a fraud on critics and audiences, but one that had, and indeed has, some legitimate ethical arguments, and rationalizations too, to justify it. Why is using a stunt singer any more dishonest than using a stunt man? Isn’t film about making the audience accept illusions in pursuit of art? If an audience member will be more likely to enjoy a film thinking that a major star can really sing, why is it wrong to make it possible for them to believe that, at least for a while?

The reasoning would have more power if long before Marnie did her secret singing Hollywood hadn’t already made a classic musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” that pronounced the practice fraudulent. Marni Nixon was a real life Cathy Seldon, the Debbie Reynolds contract player forced to supply the singing and speaking voice for a talentless silent film superstar, Lina Lamont, whose real voice would make dogs run for refuge and men claw off their ears, and whose continued status as a money-making asset for the studio depended on making her successful in talkies.

Ironically,  even “Singin’ in the Rain” engaged in the same fraud it was ridiculing. Debbie Reynolds was a competent singer, but a richer, more mature voice was needed to match the image of Jean Hagen, the terrific comic actress playing Lina. So when Debbie was shown secretly replacing Lina’s nightmarish singing voice with her own, another singer was secretly used, uncredited, to dub Debbie. Her voice fit Lina perfectly, because the voice put in Debbie’s mouth while she was supposedly putting her voice into Lina’s was the real voice of… Jean Hagen. Continue reading

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Ten Ethics Observations On The Democratic National Convention

Khan DEM

1. The unrestrained cheer-leading from the news media in contrast to its week-long sneer at the Republican is so shamelessly biased that American journalism risks crippling its ability to use its giant megaphone to sabotage Trump. They might at least pretend to be fair and objective. I get it: I find it horrifying that Trump is running too. The immediate and unrestrained effort to go stop him, however, is so openly unprofessional, and shows how far the news media’s ethics have deteriorated just since 2008.

2. We could see and hear, during the course of the convention, how Donald Trump’s boorishness and propensity for ad hominem attacks and personal insults have degraded both parties and political discourse generally. And to think, in 1988, Ann Richards was criticized for her George H.W. Bush attacks at the Democratic Convention, and her famous jibe that Bush was born with a “silver foot in his mouth.” The Democrats could have taken the high road, and would have benefited, as well as done the culture a favor. Nah.

3. The most unethical aspect of the convention was the party’s tacit embrace of Black Lives Matters, while the BLM protesters outside were directing white journalists  to “stand in the back” while covering its protests, around the country police officers were facing increasing abuse, and in Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby was graphically illustrating BLM’s attack on the rule of law.

Democrats deserve to pay a high price for this, and I am confident that they will.

4. I owe Senator Eugene McCarthy an apology. I was among the many young  supporters of the rebellious anti-war Democrat who felt betrayed when McCarthy refused to address his beaten troops at the 1968 Convention. He stayed in his Chicago hotel room, angry and resentful of how the party had steam-rolled him and his movement. I thought it was cowardly and selfish. Now, after thinking ill of Clean Gene  all these years, I realize he might have been right after all. Being gracious isn’t ethical when you are required to become a symbolic pawn  to the same dark, unethical forces that you have been telling your throngs to resist and battle despite long odds. If you pull a Cruz instead of a Sanders, you look like you are trying to torpedo your own party. Better, perhaps, to do what Gene did. His integrity told him that the best response was to neither to capitulate, nor be petulant, but just to retreat to fight another day.

I’m not sure he was right, but  I’m no longer sure he was wrong.

I’m sorry, Senator. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

Pokémon Go Ethics: Beware The Terms Of Service Agreement!

pokemon-go-starters

I had a hard time finding anything unethical about Pokémon Go, the smartphone GPS scavenger hunt game that sends players all over the landscape to find and trap those adorable Japanese monsters that caused a trading card craze and more a decade ago. (I assume that anything that seems really dumb is likely to have ethics problems. You’d be amazed how often I’m right.) It seems benign. The game can be good exercise, it’s engaging for people who have no more productive avocation, and best of all, it gives American something to obsess about not named Bill or Hillary. There are some troubling signs: administrators at the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery felt that they needed to ask visitors not to play the game while contemplating the murder of six million Jews and the fallen heroes of foreign ways—what is these spoilsports’ problem?—and some people are letting the game endanger themselves and others, leading to these morons falling off a cliff, causing this idiot to drive  his car into a tree, and prompting this in Arizona…

Pokemon go traffic sign

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