Let’s Try To Remember Diahann Carroll, Shall We?

The problem is that when it comes time to honor those who have made a positive contribution to our country and culture, nobody remembers who they are. I confess, it drives me nuts. Today a medical technician revealed that she had no idea what “Ben-Hur” was. No chariot race, no galley slave scene. Well, she’s a drag on the culture. Catch up.

Actress and singer Diahann Carroll, 84, died on October 4, and her death received small and momentary notice. Yet she was another one of the brave, trail-blazing African Americans whose intelligence, charm, talent and willingness to take risks helped move the stubborn needle toward racial conciliation and away from bigotry. Of course, she was remarkable–unusually gorgeous, unusually talented, unusually intelligent. It never seemed like she set out to become a civil rights and cultural icon, but somehow the  position just found her. Most important of all, when she was given the chance to make white people think differently about black people, she did it. She also made it look easy. Continue reading

Hypocritical Or Just Responsible And Competent? Hollywood’s LGBTQ Problem

 

Before it went down the tubes, the leftist commentary website ThinkProgress posted a typical piece (that is, so crippled by bias and a progressive agenda that it was useless as advocacy unless the reader already agreed with it) bemoaning the fate of LGBTQ performers in Hollywood like Kristen Stewart. Stewart, once a rising young star with the “Twilight” Saga films, now approaching 30 without a clear career path.

You’ll get the article’s point of view from the kick-off:

“In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, actor Kristen Stewart, who has been romantically linked to model Stella Maxwell since 2017, said, “I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favor, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.’ I don’t want to work with people like that.” Stewart has said publicly she does not identify as bisexual or lesbian, and doesn’t want to choose a label for her sexuality. In the same interview she added, “I was informed by an old school mentality, which is — you want to preserve your career and your success and your productivity, and there are people in the world who don’t like you, and they don’t like that you date girls, and they don’t like that you don’t identify as a quote unquote ‘lesbian’, but you also don’t identify as a quote unquote ‘heterosexual’. And people like to know stuff, so what the fuck are you?’”

Although it may, at times, appear as though LGBTQ representation and participation in Hollywood has achieved some semblance of parity, Stewart’s experience is far from unique. Several young, openly LGBTQ actors such as Ellen Page and Ezra Miller have talked about how their gender and sexuality have affected how people talk to them about their careers.”

Well, of course it does. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Bad Seed

“The Bad Seed” began as a  novel  by American writer William March, then became a 1954 Broadway play by playwright Maxwell Anderson, and ultimately a 1956  Academy Award-nominated film. The disturbing plot involves Rhoda Penmark, a charming little girl who is also a murderous psychopath. In the play’s climax, which the film version didn’t have the guts to follow, Rhoda’s single mother resolves, once it is clear that her daughter is killing people, to kill Rhoda herself, in a twist the anticipates such films as “The Omen.”  She fails, however, and the sweet-looking serial killer in pigtails is alive and plotting at the play’s end.

A real life bad seed scenario is playing out in Chicago. A 9-year-old  boy has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, two counts of arson and one count of aggravated arson. The evidence suggests that he deliberately started a fire in a mobile home east of Peoria, Illinois, that claimed the lives of the boy’s two half-siblings, a cousin, his mother’s fiance and his great-grandmother.

The boy’s mother says her son suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD. She also says things like “he’s not a monster,” “he just made a terrible mistake” and my personal favorite, “he does have a good heart.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is it ethical to charge a child so young  with first degree murder?

Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: “South Park” Creators Trey Parker And Matt Stone

China’s right: that looks dangerous to me!

Unlike the National Basketball Association, satirists Parker and Stone know that their duties as Americans include representing American values to the world and standing by them even when threatened with negative consequences.

After “South Park’s” latest episode, which mocked China’s influence over Hollywood, the Chinese government banned the series. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that China removed all hints of”South Park” from its Internet, eliminating any social media references as well as episodes and clips from the streaming service Youku.

In response, the “South Park” creators issued a pointed satirical “apology” to China:

“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?”

Perfect. Now watch the NBA condemn “South Park” as racist, or something.

_______________________________

Pointer: Phlinn

Facts: Fox News

Ethics And The Joker’s Moustache

“The Joker,” opening this week and presenting Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Batman’s arch-enemy as fitting the classic mass-shooter profile, has provoked all sorts of ethics- related debates. Is it responsible to release a film that may risk triggering the psychopathic loaners with access to guns we all know lurk in the shadows? Is the studio risking another Aurora-style theater shooting? Should such films be boycotted? Regulated?

These debates, which are retreads of the same old refrains the nation has been tortured by since dime novels through Warner Brothers gangster movies, EC comics, “The Untouchables” TV series, the Legion of Decency’s reign, Sam Peckinpah films and “A Clockwork Orange,” are all appeals to censorship using “Think of the Children!” rationalizations, and are essentially attacks on free speech. The contrived debate is alarming but not difficult to call: the would-be censors are wrong, motivated by emotion, and that’s that.

No, the really interesting ethics debate the new movie has revived is another old one: Was it ethical for actor Cesar Romero to keep his moustache when he played the Joker?

Cesar  Romero  (February 15, 1907 – January 1, 1994) is now largely forgotten, but he was a familiar presence in films, radio, and television for almost 60 years. Sort of a Grade B Riccardo Montalban, Romero had a rather narrow range, with his portrayal of dashing Latin lovers, historical figures in costume dramas, and characters in light  comedies all looking and behaving similarly. Romero’s trademark was his moustache, especially in the post-Errol Flynn era when leading men seldom wore them.

When the 1966 camp TV show Batman became a brief sensation in 1966, the casting of Romero as the Joker was a shock. He had never played any role remotely like it, nor was broad, silly comedy his typical milieu. Most shocking of all, when the Joker finally made his appearance on the show  it was obvious that Romero hadn’t shaved his upper lip. Reportedly the actor refused to eliminate  his moustache for the role, and so the supervillain’s white face makeup was thickly smeared over it throughout the series’ three-year run and for Romero’s co-starring appearance in the 1966 film. Continue reading

Late Start Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/5/19: Dissing Tony Williams, and An Impeachment Headache

I don’t care: Whenever I get up on Saturday, it’s morning to me.

1. Those fake recordings...I have almost gotten used to the fake versions of famous songs an by iconic artists that show up as background in TV shows and movies, but I still resent them. They are lies, in essence, designed to fool less discriminating and knowledgeable audience members. Many people aren’t even aware of the practice, which is virtually routine, of long-standing, and considered standard practice. A friend of mine , a musician/ actor with a gift for mimicry, once explained the whole industry supported by these frauds, which exist because it is cheaper to record a faux version of a famous recording than to pay to use the real thing in a movie.

For some reason, however, the last 24 hours forced me to hear some unusually obnoxious examples. I just heard fake Roy Orbison, for instance. Nobody sounds like Roy Orbison. I heard fake versions of The Platters’ immortal and inimitable Tony Williams twice, and that really ticks me off. Williams, whose rendition of “Only You” may be my favorite male vocal ever, had a freak voice, and younger listeners who hear inferior versions of his “Twilight Time,” “The Great Pretender,” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” are tragically misled. It is an insult to Williams’ memory and legacy to represent through deceptive imitations that he wasn’t as great as he really was.

Anytime you hear a song playing behind a scene, listen closely. I just heard Fake Any Williams, a really bad imitation. Interestingly, I have noticed that there are some departed artists that nobody dares to imitate. Bing Crosby, for example, is always the real Bing (although I have heard several fake Frank Sinatras). They don’t try to fool anyone with fake Judy Garlands, either; I haven’t heard a fake Freddie Mercury, and hope I never do.  But it’s unethical to fake anyone without being transparent about it..

Especially Tony Williams.

2. Still looking for some partners…in the Ethics Alarms Impeachment Project. I have now heard from three volunteers, and I’m grateful…a few more would be ideal. Of course, when and if the website gets published, I expect it will be easier to interest active participants.

The idea is to provide an easily accessible way for “low-information voters” and others to follow this dangerous and depressing drama while having access to the essential materials, facts, context and legitimate analysis without being confused by spin, selective reporting, misinformation and partisan agendas. Here’s an example of information that is relevant to the Democratic impeachment efforts that has hardly been reported at all, because the news media overwhelmingly wants to see the President of The United States impeached, and has made that objective clear to most objective observers for more than three years.

Six months ago, the NY Daily News revealed that Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)received at least $65,000 in campaign donations “from the music industry and other intellectual property businesses that he oversees as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.” That was the end of the story; even the Daily News never followed up. Nadler also spent about $30K to host a Grammy Awards gala in LA in February during the Grammy Awards, giving him access to music  executives for more campaign donations.  Those execs, meanwhile, had their companies pony up $5,000 a ticket to attend the party. This is influence peddling, of course. It’s legal, because Congress won’t criminalize sleazy politics.  TechDirt called it soft corruption:

“These are the kinds of practices that are most likely legal, and possibly even common among the political class, but which absolutely stink of corruption to the average American. And that’s a huge problem, not just because of the general ethical questions raised by such soft corruption, but because it creates a cynical American public that does not trust politicians to adequately represent their interests.”

Nadler’s conduct is relevant to the impeachment efforts because it reveals the hypocrisy behind Democratic efforts to impeach President Trump for political practices that are neither illegal nor unusual while making pious pronouncements that belie their own behavior. The purely political assault on the 2016 Presidential election results is obscured by the media’s efforts to hide the true character and motives of the President’s foes, including the journalists and editors themselves.

3. Here’s another example...My New York Times this morning is dominated by yellow-highlighted text messages between the Ukraine’s ambassador with U.S. Ambassador Volker, and a two-column width headline, “Another Official Considers Filing a Report On Ukraine.” When have you ever seen front page news about an anonymous figure “considering” something? That’s not fact, that’s not news, it is entirely prejudicial spin intended to create distrust and suspicion.

Meanwhile, the Times could have made legitimately made the front page stories about  last week’s  Congressional testimony from Ambassador Kurt Volker, who served for two years as the top U.S. diplomatic envoy to Ukraine, which directly contradicts the pro-impeachment narrative . He testified, under oath, that he was never aware of and never took part in any effort to push the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter, and stressed that the interactions between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials were facilitated not to find “dirt” on Biden, but to address concerns that the incoming Ukrainian government would not be able to get a handle on corruption within the country. The Federalist obtained the full transcript of the testimony, which certainly could have been revealed by the Times as well, if it wanted to.

More later-I have a terrible headache that has lingered for two days, and I can’t tell if it’s this crap or a brain tumor. Coffee, Tylenol, and the Twins beating the Yankees should help.

How To Kill The American Musical

I have directed musicals professionally in regional and amateur theater, and the shows were a great love of mine growing up. Sadly, the American musical genre is becoming increasingly isolated from the mainstream culture for many reasons, among them the death of the movie musical, the pop-infection of the music and its singing styles, making most Broadway scores (and all of the women) sound the same, the inflated price of professional theater tickets, and production costs and effects that put most modern shows outside the realm of possibility for high schools and colleges.

Another factor,  which it is impolitic to discuss, is that the male gay community has decided to make musicals its own special genre, has been discouraging any talented straight performers from venturing into the field, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not.

Emblematic of this trend is the Sirius -XM Broadway Channel, which is the only way any kids are likely to hear an excerpt from a cast recording other than buying the song online. The nearly exclusive host is Seth Rudetsky, a writer/performer of some note and obvious talent. To say that he is openly gay is an understatement. Rudetsky’s delivery, speech patterns and preferred subject matter would have once been criticized as evoking cruel anti-gay stereotypes. He’s an actor; Rudetsky could butch up he chose to, and if he cared about musicals continuing as an art form participated in and enjoyed by the whole society and not just a small segment of it, he would. Continue reading