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
I alluded to Hedy Lamarr in an earlier post about my favorite celebrities, those who manage to be outstanding in multiple diverse fields at once. The glamorous cult actress is a prime example, being known publicly for her pulchritude and in much more rarefied circles as a brilliant inventor. I had been waiting for the release of the documentary–produced by Susan Sarandon!—about Lamarr, called “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” ever since a friend and commenter here told me that it was in the works. Now it is on Netflix, and I watched it. You should too. I’ll just jot down some loosely connected thoughts about the ethics lessons of Lamarr’s life.
- The sexual exploitation of young women in films may have been worse in the past than it is now, but Lamarr’s life is a reminder of how excruciatingly slowly cultures change. She was made infamous as the star of a sensational sex film in Germany, shown naked, and also in an apparently explicit sex scene when she was too young (19) and naive to know what the director was doing.
The episode literally shadowed her life. Yet half a century later, very young actresses like Drew Barrymore and Dakota Fanning were similarly abused by directors, the main difference being that public attitudes now make the resulting stigma less permanent.
- Antisemitism was sufficiently pervasive in the U.S. that Lamarr denied her Jewish heritage for much of her life.
Living a lie is not an ethically healthy existence, but Lamarr had few reasons to trust that she would be accepted for who she was….fewer than most, on fact.
- There are few more vivid examples than Lamarr of a brilliant woman who rapidly learned that she had to rely on the favor of men based on her physical charms to have any chance of succeeding. Yet it is a bargain with the devil, for the price is not being taken seriously. The suppressed resentment and anger Lamarr reveals in interviews is palpable.
Sometimes I think it’s a mircale that women didn’t rise up and slaughter millions of men while they slept. They deserved it.
- Hedy Lamarr is primarily remembered now as a running joke in “Blazing Saddles.”
Think about that. Continue reading
Danielle Brooks, the African-American actress who plays Taystee in “Orange is the New Black,” felt that she had been insulted and racially stereotyped as she boarded a plane this week with a First Class ticket because she is, you know, rich. Thus she used Twitter to complain about a “microaggression.”
I hate when gate agents look at me like I’ve never flown first class and say “You’re in first class, lucky you!”???? really tho
— Danielle Brooks (@thedanieb) June 30, 2016
The celebrity news site Heat Street mocked her complaint, and the mockery was picked up by some conservative sites, though many in the Twitterverse supported the complaint. Sneered Ed Driscoll on Instapundit:
The nerve of that gate agent! Making $45K a year and not even having an expensive cadre of writers sculpting her dialogue and a director shaping her performance and a cameraman shooting take after take to get things just so! Incidentally, I wonder if the people who imagine all of these microagressions occurring ever wonder why they just keep happening over and over to them? But, really, as with Alec Baldwin accosting American Airlines stewardesses, what’s the sense of being a leftist one percenter who believes in tolerance and diversity if you can’t publicly attack people who actually work for a living?
Driscoll’s comment is classic conservative jerkism. Brooks was right; the comment was condescending and based on racial stereotypes, she was right to be insulted, and right to make a public comment that might make others aware of what such a comment conveys. Continue reading
You should know by now that about a hundred actresses have had their nude photographs hacked from private accounts and posted for the world to drool over. As is often the case in such incidents, the ethical instincts, or lack thereof, of various individuals have been exposed in the wake of the event:
Ethics Dunce: Perez Hilton.
No surprise here: Hilton, a web gossip columnist and a different species of hack than the ones at issue, showed himself to have dead ethics alarms. After eagerly posting the uncensored photos of Victoria Justice and Jennifer Lawrence on his celebrity gossip blog, Hilton was condemned far and wide on social media, so he first proved he didn’t get it by keeping up the photos but censoring the women’s naughty bits, and then taking them down entirely, explaining that “At work we often have to make quick decisions. I made a really bad one today and then made it worse. I feel awful and am truly sorry.” Continue reading
Annette died yesterday after a long, painful decline triggered by the onset of Multiple Sclerosis 25 years ago. To understand why she was an Ethics Hero, one need only read the New York Times obituary, which captures her essence well. One is an Ethics Hero if one goes through life caring about others, being loyal, responsible and fair, never inflating one’s own value and worth above those you live and work with, and having integrity.
If you can do all this while being a celebrity, TV star, teen idol, recording star, movie star and adolescent lust object, you are more than an Ethics Hero. You are a miracle. That was Annette. Continue reading