Down The Rabbit Hole Again With Hank

Forgive Hank, sir....he only watches TV, and besides, he's a twit.

Forgive Hank, sir….he only watches TV, and besides, he’s a twit.

Another day, another annoying Washington Post TV review from Hank Stuever. When I last checked in on Hank as he was practicing his craft, he was ridiculing the concept of young parents committing to the care of an unplanned baby without considering abortion. Today, he’s just trying to make his readers as ignorant as he is.

I suppose there no requirement that a TV critic be conversant in literature…but there should be. All drama and entertainment is constrcted on the foundation of the stories and traditions that came before them, and while one can critique popular culture while being ignorant of everything between Beowulf and All in the Family, one cannot do so competently or professionally, both of which, as the TV critic for a major newspaper, Stuever is obigated to do. This is especially true when he presumes to critique a new TV show based on literature, however lightly, as  ABC’s new “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” is.

Right off the bat, Hank lets us know that he knows diddly about Lewis Carroll’s strange and wonderful classic, getting “Alice in Wonderland” confused with its (equally brilliant) sequel “Through the Looking Glass.”  Hank speaks of “Lewis Carroll’s 1865 story of Alice, the girl who stepped through the Looking Glass and saw all those freaky things — rabbits, Mad Hatters, worms, Cheshire cats, etc.”  But Alice never saw any of those things when she stepped through the looking-glass, for that is a different book. “Rabbits, Mad Hatters, worms, Cheshire cats, etc.” were encountered by Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole, one the few things the Disney animated version got right. (By “worms” I’m guessing Hank ie referencing the hookah-smoking caterpillar, which is not a worm. Does Stuever know? Is he just showing contempt for the book and its characters? As Hank would undoubtedly say, “Whatever.”) Continue reading

The White House’s Wonderland Ethics

This is a weird one.

"Alice in Wonderland" party at the White House? I don't remember any party!

“The Obamas,” one of those “behind the scenes at the White House” books that has become a routine feature of every administration since the Reagans, has the usual tales about First Couples bickering and First Lady power trips. Author and  New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor has caused something of an uproar with her account of the first Halloween party the first couple hosted at the White House, in 2009. She writes that it was so lavish and “over the top” that the administration kept the event secret out of fear of a public backlash. After all, this was a time when the Tea Party was in full swing, the economy was at low tide, and there was the ten-percent unemployment rate, bank bailouts and Obama’s health-care plan battles. Not exactly a smart time for a Marie Antoinette-style costume blow-out. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Johnny Depp

Hollywood celebrities frequently lend their prominence and notoriety to causes that are dubious or even harmful; Jenny McCarthy’s passionate promotion of now-discredited links between vaccines and autism are a recent and disturbing example. At other times, celebrities assert expertise on complex topics far beyond their competence or comprehension; this was a theme in Michael Crichton’s attack on global warming hysteria, State of Fear. Johnny Depp, however, has got it right. As his highly anticipated film “Alice in Wonderland” is about to be released and he has the media following his every move, Depp is using his fame and following to focus attention on what may be an egregious miscarriage of justice.

It is the case of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, police discovered the bodies of  three 8-year-olds, and there was immediate speculation that their killings had been part of a satanic ritual. Satanic cults were big in 1993, and long-haired Damien Echols became a suspect as much for his demeanor and reputation as for anything substantive. Indeed, there was no evidence tying him to the crime until a cognitively impaired boy named Jessie Misskelly Jr. told police that he helped Echols and Jason Baldwin kill the boys. Continue reading