Sexist Broadway Musical Lyric Ethics: Carousel’s “Soliloquy”

“Soliloquy,” also known as “My Boy Bill,” may be my favorite Broadway musical song of all time. (I don’t know, it’s between that and “Losing My Mind” from Sondheim’s “Follies.”) It certainly is among the most ambitious of all the songs from the genre, an emotionally wide-ranging, musical equivalent of a Shakespearean  monologue. Both the song’s lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein, and especially its composer, Richard Rodgers, were at the top of their form when they created it, and the top of their form can match any songwriter who ever lived. It’s also a tour de force for the singer, a seven-and-a-half minute musical mountain that only the very best even dare try to scale

The song comes at a key moment in the plot of “Carousel,” when the brutish and none-too-bright hero, Billy Bigelow, has learned that his wife is pregnant. The arrested-development adolescent muses about the joys and ultimately the responsibilities of his impending fatherhood, and having accepted the fact that his child might be a girl, makes a fateful vow at the song’s climax: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/2/18: Dictators, Wizards, Liars and Abusers [Updated]

Good morning!

1 Housekeeping matters. For some reason, I know not what, there was an outbreak of contentious discussion regarding Ethics Alarms administration in a couple of threads yesterday. I think everything covered or complained about is covered in the Comment Policies above, but just for the record:

  • I handle the moderation here. Only me.
  • Though it might appear otherwise to some, I do not spend my day glued to Ethics Alarms. Thus on days like yesterday, when I had an early morning CLE session to teach in D.C., followed by one  law firm client emergency after another, I did not see any comments at all from 1am to 6 pm. Thus the hysterical and indignant “Why did you delete my comment?” outbursts and the “How dare you allow that rude comment to stay on the site?” and the ultimata springing therefrom were especially silly, unfair, and ill-informed.
  • I am not your Moderation Monkey. Don’t command me on how to police my own site. Thank you.
  • As I have written many times, occasionally a comment from an approved participant gets spammed for no good reason. Sometimes WordPress, for no apparent provocation, starts spamming the comments of visitors here who have been commenting for years. Sometimes such commenters have had to change their screen names as a result. None of this has anything to do with me: I can’t control it, or predict it. The calm, reasonable commenters faced with this crisis generally e-mail me, then I search the spam archives, find the lost post, send it to moderation, and approve it.
  • I do not delete posts from approved commenters. The exception is when I ban a commenter permanently, or give one a time out, which is a temporary ban or suspension, in which case the commenter is always warned in advance.
  • I expect discourse here to be civil, but will excuse momentary and periodic lapses and outbursts from veteran commenters (and me, of course), in direct proportion to their time here, level of participation and constructive value to the mission. Individual quirks will also be taken into consideration.

2. Remembering the David Manning Liar of the Month: A commenter who hails from the old Ethics Scoreboard days recently referenced the feature there called the David Manning Liar of the Month. A David Manning-style lie is a statement that the speaker or writer can’t possibly expect anyone to  believe, thus raising the question of whether it is a lie at all. (Sony spawned the award by excusing its use of a fake film reviewer it named David Manning to rave about terrible movies in ads,  claiming that nobody believed such excerpts anyway.) If Ethics Alarms had the same feature, President Trump would obviously dominate it, as I was reminded this morning. The President’s ex-physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein. bitter over his ejection from the Trump Court, revealed that Trump himself had dictated the absurd letter in which the doctor attested, Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)”

 

"I'm going to slug you, and then you sing a lovely song about how you love me anyway, and it doesn't matter in the great scheme of things. OK?"

“I’m going to slug you, and then you sing a lovely song about how you love me anyway, and it doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things. OK?”

Steve-O-in-NJ sent in a thoughtful elaboration on the issue underlying my previous post regarding the obligation of abused women to end their relationship with abuser, and certainly not deepen it. He gets extra credit for quoting a lyric from “Carousel” in response to my post’s use of a similar themed lyric from “Show Boat.” (I wonder how many Broadway and popular songs are laments by abused women? The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Carousel’s” protagonist is an abuser: one woman he strikes says that the blow “felt like a kiss.” Gee, if he threw her down the stairs, would it feel like a hug?)

Here is Steve’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)

There’s an Italian proverb to the effect that no one else should enter into the discussions between husband and wife. I’m personally acquainted with one couple where things went bad after the wedding because the husband decided his wife was no longer so good-looking after she didn’t quite lose all the weight she gained during her first pregnancy. I’m also acquainted with another couple, mostly with the wife, in which the husband both verbally and physically abused the wife for months before the wedding, but she married him anyway, and now with the birth of their first child it appears that life is perfect.

For a long time prior to the second couple’s wedding I listened to the now-wife’s constant complaining and gave her exactly the advice set forth above. It fell on deaf ears, and I paid a draining emotional price. Because of that, when the wife in the first couple came to me in tears because the husband’s attention had turned to some hot number with tattoos and piercings, I turned her away and told her to work it out, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to listen to this nonsense again, when all it would probably result in was her going back with him after burdening me with her problems, leaving me the loser. I should also mention that the wife in the second relationship had been in relationships with at least two other men who beat her prior to the one she actually married.

It’s hard to say that there’s a war on women when some of the women actively walk into the line of fire and toss logic to the wind (“What’s the Use of Wondrin’?”) and burden society’s resources by welcoming their 911 rescue only to drop all charges once they see their men in cuffs, leaving the cops and prosecutors wondering why they even bothered.

It’s generally an accepted practice that if you call for the paramedics because you feel ill or are injured, but decline to go to the hospital, you have to sign a form generally called an AMA (against medical advice) form, absolving them from liability. I would suggest that a similar form be adopted for domestic violence situations, where, if the woman declines to press charges, she has to sign a form saying she is doing so, and perhaps a second form where she has to sign off if she declines to leave the relationship. Then the police keep these forms on file, and when they get another call from the same address about the same stuff, they can give it a lower priority or ignore it altogether in favor of pursuing the shots fired or burglary in progress calls. It isn’t society’s job to help those who refuse to help themselves, nor to be a maid or valet service cleaning up after messy relationships but never able to get at the source. Society has an obligation to properly husband its limited resources, and members of society have an obligation not to become a drain on those resources.

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