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 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

The Dumbest Casting Ethics Controversy Yet

Sometimes the line between confused ethics and plain old stupidity is razor thin. This controversy is one of those times.

Actor Bryan Cranston, best known for “Breaking Bad,”  is being criticized for playing a a quadriplegic billionaire in “The Upside,” his new film  released Friday, because he is not actually handicapped.

He’s also not a billionaire, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for some reason.

Jay Ruderman of the Ruderman Family Foundation complained, “While we don’t know the auditioning history of ‘The Upside,” casting a non-disabled actor to play a character with a disability is highly problematic and deprives performers with disabilities the chance to work and gain exposure.”

No, Jay, it isn’t problematic, because the primary objective of the performing arts is not, and has never been, to provide “the chance to work and gain exposure.” This is the affirmative action mentality that as it gets stretched further and further from reality and common sense by the woke and the wokeness-addled, increasingly ensures that society eventually  rejects the whole tortured concept. The objective of the performing arts is to entertain, engage and enlighten the audience. That requires casting the best actors available, and in film, frequently the best know actors, in the judgment of the director and the producer. Bryan Cranston is one of the most skilled actors in the world. I am extremely confident that there isn’t a single quadriplegic actor that can equal him, if indeed there are any at all. Audrey Hepburn could also play a blind woman better than any of the few available blind actresses, when she starred in “Wait Until Dark.” Tom Hanks and cliff Roberrtson could play  mentally-challenged caharcters in “Forrest Gump” and “Charlie” better than any mentally-challenged actors.

I can’t believe we even have to have this conversation. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/2018: Another Rushing Around In A Hotel Room Getting Ready For A Seminar Edition…

Good morning from Boston...

…where I always feel at home! I’m here for the morning, talking to young, newly minted Massachusetts lawyers about ethics.

1. This is a big deal, though only lawyers will care. Finally, California has ditched its confusing, multi-source (some ethics rules were laws, some were regulations), antiquated legal ethics rules, and became the last of the jurisdictions, including D.C., to adopt the American Bar Association’s template for legal ethics guidance. Yes, in one area, if not the most important ones, California is moving closer to the rest of the country! There is hope!

2. Ally’s lament. Ally Sheedy, whom you might recall from “War Games” and “The Breakfast Club,” is one of Hollywood’s more articulate and thoughtful performers. She recently penned a post condemning Hollywood sexism, and its effect on her career. Essentially the essay amounts to a complaint that Hollywood is obsessed with appearances and, with women, sex appeal.

I like Sheedy, and I was pre-inclined to respect her observations (which are certainly accurate), but I have to admit that unsympathetic blogger Amy Alkon has a point. She writes,

“..professional actress Ally Sheedy takes it upon herself to lament the looks-driven reality of Hollywood — which is kind of like lamenting how in professional baseball, somebody’s always throwing a ball your way. …This is the movies, dear, not the genetics lab. Her entire essay is an example of intrasexual competition — criticizing and trying to change the standards of female competition by one who falls a bit short of them.Because so many people are so ignorant of our evolved psychology and in denial of biological sex differences (and the psychological sex differences that come out of them), they don’t get that there is pressure on men, too, to meet women’s differing mating priorities.As for those differing priorities, well…you don’t see men writing essays about how rotten it is that you can’t get a hot girlfriend (or probably any girlfriend) while unemployed and sleeping on a couch in your grandma’s basement.”

Yikes. And they say I’m tough… Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/2018: Something In This Post Is Guaranteed To Send You Screaming Into The Streets” [Item #3]

Curmie is one of my favorite bloggers, and also a fellow stage director, a teacher, and a learned man with a keen understanding of ethics. As soon as I encountered the jaw-dropping story about the high school that cancelled its scheduled musical after a protest was mounted because a white student was cast in the role of the show’s Romani heroine, I knew it was in Curmie’s wheelhouse.

Here us Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the third topic in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/2018: Something In This Post Is Guaranteed To Send You Screaming Into The Streets:

Re #3: I’d seen this story a few days ago, but luckily for my sanity I had too many other things on my mind to contemplate too deeply what was going on in my old stomping grounds (I went to high school a little over a half hour from Ithaca, and spent four years in grad school at Cornell).

I’m not sure I agree with you that the school is supporting “per se racism,” but I do think the decision was equal parts stupid, repressive, and cowardly. Even if we discount your entire argument, Jack (and I don’t), we still left with this: the character is Romani. The fact that a POC actor played the role in the biggest production of this particular iteration of the story doesn’t change the fact that many Romani are indeed white. What they definitely aren’t is black, although one suspects that casting such as actor in the role would have been at least condoned if not applauded. And if I’m identifying the complaining student correctly, she is far from the body type one would associate with the role. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The ‘Unacceptable Word’ Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?”

I don’t know if anyone regularly commenting here cares about the punishment of the acting student for his politically incorrect choice of words in an improv exercise as much as Curmie (above) and I do, but we care about it a lot.  As with the Ethics Alarms baseball ethics posts, the various theatrical ethics posts here sink quickly in readership, which, I’m afraid, speaks to a regrettable narrowness of vision. Ethical issues are seldom restricted in their applicability to the specific area in which they arise. I’m especially sensitive to ethics issues others might miss in certain areas where I have a lot of experience and expertise. The same is true, obviously, with Curmie.

Incidentally, I again urge readers to check on Curmie’s blog routinely. He has been through a light writing period of late, but when he speaks, as they once said of E.F. Hutton, people listen, or should. And maybe we can get him writing more again. I know of no more thoughtful, fair, and eloquent blogger, regardless of the topic.

See Curmie? The pressure’s on now!

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?:

I am not an acting teacher by trade, but I have taught about two dozen sections of various college-level acting courses over the years. I’ve also taught directing maybe 15 times, and I’ve directed about 40 full-length plays (and a bunch of one-acts)—I’ve used improv techniques in the classroom and in rehearsal many times, although perhaps fewer than some of my colleagues of equivalent experience may have done.

It is remotely possible that the professor, Craig Rosen, imposed some restrictions on the exercise. I’ve done this. For example, if a student is working on a period piece and the language is, shall we say, less explicit than that of a work by David Mamet or Neil Labute or Sarah Kane might be, that young actor may be having trouble finding the anger a character feels if the verbal expression of it seems mild by 21st-century standards.

I’m reminded of working on a book chapter about an Irish version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The translator/adapter had Masha, one of the title characters, refer to her sister-in-law as a “bitch.” I happened to have access to a good friend and native Russian speaker, who also happened to be a scholar of dramatic literature. No, she said, Masha’s expletive doesn’t really translate that way… but for her expression of class-driven disgust to have the same effect on a modern audience that Masha’s line would have had in Tsarist Russia, she’d have to call Natasha a “fucking shopkeeper.” Continue reading

The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?

I just received an email from the Democratic National Committee urging me to protest Betsy DeVos’s (completely valid and overdue) withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague Letter” by which the Obama Department of Education pressured universities into dispensing with due process when a male student is accused of sexual assault. “Tell Trump and DeVos not to undo President Obama’s policies to combat sexual assault on campus!” it bleats. The e-mail blast (if I ever find out who put me on this list, there will be blood), quotes DeVos, as if this advances their case, as saying, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.”

The Education Secretary was exactly right, and a story today from Reason shows why.

Joshua Zale, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, was asked by his drama instructor to play a pimp asking for money from another student, playing the role of a prostitute in an improvisation exercise. Improvisation means that the actors work without a script. In the process of the improv, Zale used an “unacceptable word” according to the instructor, who was apparently improvising the role of a fool. The teacher immediately reprimanded Zale, who later insisted on a private meeting to learn why he had been attackedfor using a word he felt was consistent with  the role he had been assigned.  Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay subsequently accused  Zale of violating Title IX—the weapon of choice in the “Dear Colleague Letter”—and school conduct policies by sexually harassing his acting partner “as a woman.”

No one has yet divulged what this “unacceptable” word was. I have taught improvisation. I am a pretty creative guy, with a fairly extensive vocabulary. I cannot imagine any word, from Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Bill Maher’s favorite, cunt, to “penis breath,” uttered by a child in the opening minutes of “E.T.”, that would be “inappropriate” in an improv, especially in a scene involving a sex worker and a pimp.

As you know, ethics stories often remind me of TV shows and movies. This one (see the video clip above)  reminds me of a famous “MASH” episode, “The General Flipped At Dawn,” in which Harry Morgan, later to play lovable, crusty old Col. Potter, played an insane general. Reviewing the MASH squad, he asks Radar, “Where are you from, son?” Radar answers, “Iowa, sir..” only to have the General scream, “NO TALKING IN RANKS!!!!”

Maybe the improv instructor, Craig Rosen, flipped too. That would be an excuse, at least. But how do you explain the Assistant Dean? Continue reading