No, Pete Davidson Is NOT Starring As George Bailey In A Remake Of “It’s A Wonderful Life”

toy train derailment

Here we have a fine example of that annoying American pop culture phenomenon, the teensie-weensie ethics train wreck. From beginning to end, everything about this episode evinces some lack of ethical values, but in the final analysis, the consequences are negligible.

Let’s examine the trivial Pete Davidson Casting Ethics Train Wreck:

1. Clickbait. Numerous friends and Ethics Alarms readers emailed me with the horrifying news that Pete Davidson, the slimy, possibly mentally-ill Saturday Night Live  cast member and stand-up comic, would be playing George Bailey in a “remake” of the beloved Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The reason for their alarm were headlines like this one, from Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller: “Pete Davidson To Take On Role Of George Bailey In ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’” The conclusion reached by those who contacted me was completely reasonable, but the headline was deliberately misleading.

2. Casting a creep like Davidson as George Bailey in any version of that movie including a Cub Scouts skit  is a slur on the film, the beloved character, James Stewart, the holidays, Capra, what the film stands for to many Americans, oh, pretty much everything. Davidson infamously mocked Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s eye-patch when he was running for Congress in 2018, and has generally proven himself to be a smug, shallow jerk of the sort that has flourished during the Trump years. Crenshaw lost his eye in combat, and Davidson has made it clear, despite various insincere mea culpas, that this warrants no respect in his world view.  For Davidson to stand in the shoes of James Stewart, a World War II veteran and hero, is nauseating, and an insult to all veterans. Continue reading

Distracted Ethics Warm-Up, 11/24/2020: “A Website, Two Governors And An Actress Walk Into A Bar…”

distracted

I’m writing this while simultaneously watching an Ethics Rock Extreme Zoom replay and answering typed-in questions from participants. Boy, I hate watching and listening to myself….

1. Unethical website? www.everylegalvote.com is labeled by the New York Times as “promoting claims of fraud, built on fantasy.” I’d call the big map showing Biden with 214 Electoral votes and the President with 232 misleading. I also find the Times’ constant refrain in headlines and stories that the President is “trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud” an outright lie.” The 2020 election was not “fair” because of biased and manipulated reporting by the Times and most of the media, and there is no question that many of the allegations of fraud are accurate, with legitimate reasons to suspect broader corruption.

The site is also serving valid purpose since the news media isn’t reporting the current controversies objectively.

2. And this is why most celebrities and actors should shut up, because they make people stupid. Here is actress Kristen Stewart’s response to a interviewers question on how she feels about gay activists demanding that only gay actors should be allowed to play gay characters (Stewart decided she was gay mid-career. Whether she stays gay —think Ann Heche—is an open question. It’s all about branding…) :

I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care. You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that….Sometimes, artfully speaking, you’re just drawn to a certain group of people. I could defend that, but I’m sure that somebody with a different perspective could make me feel bad about that — and then make me renege on everything I’ve just said. I acknowledge the world that we live in. And I absolutely would never want to traipse on someone else’s opportunity to do that — I would feel terrible about that. So my answer is fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole.

Thanks for that clarification, Kristen..

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Cat Hands Ethics

witches hands

Having gone to great lengths to make comedy impossible, the political correctness police are now working to make drama impossible as well. Yesterday Ethics Alarms again visited this issue as it considered the brain-meltingly idiotic demands by progressives and group identity activists that only autistic performers should be cast as autistic characters. This is a subset of the disingenuous, contradictory and pragmatically impossible demand by the Army of the Woke that only performers with the same physical, gender, racial and ethnic characteristics should be cast in movies, plays and TV productions as characters with those traits….although minority actors should be cast as characters written as or traditionally played by whites whenever possible.

This nonsense has received new gusts of wind beneath its wings in The Great Stupid, which descended upon out culture hand-in-hand with the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. It is old nonsense, though. The white cartoon voice actors who announced this year that they wouldn’t give voice to cartoon characters of color hailed from the same progressive nut house as those who criticized the “Lord of the Rings” movies (and others) for using special effects to allow actors of normal height portray fantasy dwarves, or who chased Dwayne Johnson away from his planned “John Henry” film because he’s not black enough.

Critics of film remake of “The Witches” have even bigger and more stupid metaphorical fish to fry, it seems. Now the attack is focused on the tendencies of human beings to be frightened or wary of those who look or act different from what they are used to, and, by extension, artists’ exploitation of that hard-wired human reaction to move, entertain, and communicate with audiences.

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High Noon Ethics Shoot-Out, 10/21/2020: Religious Bigotry Vs Anti-Gay Bigotry! “Whitewashing” Vs Anti-Semitism! Google Vs Trust!

As you may (and should) know, the classic Western “High Noon” was and is regarded by some conservatives as anti-American. I think it is, as excellent as it is. The ending, where the heroic law man (played by Gary Cooper in an Academy Award-winning performance) throws his star in the dirt in disgust (imitated by “Dirty Harry” for very different reasons in that conservative film years later), is widely seen as a rejection of American society as hypocritical. (The fact that the screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was a Communist doesn’t help.)

My favorite scene in the movie, where Cooper begs the church congregation to help, plays like a “Twilight Zone” episode, with the whole town rationalizing furiously to avoid helping the desperate law man minutes away from having to face, alone, vengeful thugs determined to kill him. (The whole scene is not on YouTube; I searched.) “Rio Bravo,” one of the best John Wayne Westerns and a personal favorite, was devised by director Howard Hawks as a direct rebuke of the selfish and craven America “High Noon” posits. In the Duke’s movie, the lawman, Wayne, constantly rejects the offers of help he receives, though he knows hired killers are massing to free his prisoner. Yet people go out of their way, at great personal risk, to help him anyway, time after time. “High Noon” is a better movie (maybe), but “Rio Bravo” is a fairer depiction of American values and history.

1. This is why I tell lawyers and government employees that it’s unethical to use Google for professional communication and client matters. Mac programmer Jeff Johnson has discovered that if you set Google Chrome to eliminate all website cookies and site data when you close the browser, the data remains un-erased for YouTube and Google itself.

What a coinkydink!

“Perhaps this is just a Google Chrome bug, not intentional behavior, but the question is why it only affects Google sites, not non-Google sites,” Johnson says. “I’ve tested using the latest Google Chrome version 86.0.4240.75 for macOS, but this behavior was also happening in the previous version of Chrome. I don’t know when it started.”

Bottom line: Don’t trust Google. Like I’ve been saying….

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Mid-Day Ethics Flashes, 10/16/2020: Casting Ethics, Celebrity Threats, Free Speech Suppression, And Conservative Clickbait

Flashes

1. The good brother. It’s not worth a full post, but Ron Howard deserves a call-out for being a good brother. Last night I finally watched “Frost/Nixon,” and wondered if, since it was directed by Ron Howard, Opie’s hideous younger brother Clint Howard would be in the cast. Sure enough, he was. Clint, like Ron, was a child star, most prominently in the TV series “Gentle Ben.” Unlike Ron, Clint was not treated well by the puberty fairy, and once his goofy looks stopped being cute, he had a face that was usable, if at all, in cheap horror flicks and in bit parts playing various creeps and thugs. Clint’s not a bad actor, he’s just not very versatile, and relentlessly hard on the eyes. He would probably not have an A movie to his credit were it not for the fact that his brother, the rich and famous star director, puts him in the cast whenever he can.

Well, good for Ron. Sure, it’s nepotism, but Clint is serviceable, and certainly capable of playing the parts he’s cast in, like one of the NASA guys in the control room in “Apollo 13,” or a referee in one of the less important Jim Braddock fights in “ Cinderella Man.” Getting such roles in Ron’s prestige films make Clint more attractive for the parts he’s up for in his usual vehicles, like the upcoming “Hell of the Screaming Undead.”

2. On a related casting issue, I watched the Netflix production “Enola Holmes.” It was fun, but the “anti-racism” casting was already in evidence: African Americans were scattered through Victorian London in odd and ahistorical places. It didn’t undermine the quality of the productions: all of the black actors and actresses were pros, but it did make the piece seem set in some fantasy land that never existed. If you know history, it is jarring; if you don’t, then it has no impact at all. I did find the non-traditional casting half-hearted: in virtually all cases, the actors “of color” were relegated to extremely minor roles a step above the extras. You know—like the parts Clint Howard plays in his brother’s movies.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/15/2019: A Double-Talking Star, A Doxxing Law Prof, And…Grandstanding Paper Towels?

It’s a good day, a new week, and anything is possible…

Perry may be a good example of that. Supposedly he was told early on in life that he had a two-digit, sub-normal IQ and should seek a trade rather than anything too intellectually demanding. Como dutifully went to barber school, and was cutting hair when his singing talent made him a star. This story should make us doubt IQ tests more than we doubt the intelligence of “Mr. C”….

1 And today’s ridiculous virtue-signaling and pandering to political correctness goes to…Brawny paper towels!

Ugh.

Keep repeating falsities frequently enough, and people will begin to think they make sense. I guess that’s the theory, right? The truth is that one gender is stronger than the other in about 99.9% of the population, or to put it another way, the average male is much larger and stronger than the average female. This is why women who make themselves look like this…

…are regarded as unusual–because they are.  But Brawny’s lie is used to, for example, pretend that there is nothing unfair about allowing biological men transitioning to womanhood to compete in sporting events as women.

From now on, it’s Bounty for me!

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More Casting Ethics Madness: “Colorism” And Will Smith

Perusing the Ethics Alarms essays on casting ethics (there are a lot of them), I think I finally understand the rules. It’s wrong to cast a black actor to play a black character when the original character was white, but if the black character is playing a white character as white, that’s OK. Casting an African-American actor to play a fictional Arab sheik in “Ben-Hur” is fine, but casting a black Samoan-American as fictional black icon John Henry is unacceptable. It’s wrong to cast an abled actor to play a disabled character, wrong to cast a cis actress to play a real life woman who pretended to be a man, wrong to cast that same actress to play an animated heroine who was originally drawn as Japanese, but brilliant to cast black and Puerto Rican actors to play Alexander Hamilton and the Founders. Oh! I nearly forgot! It’s wrong to cast a white actor to replace a black actor who replaced a white actor playing the role of a white character.

Clear?

Now we have a casting ethics controversy that has raised its empty head before: Will Smith is on the verge of being cast to play Serena and Venus Williams’ father Richard in a film, and critics and social justice warriors are calling it “colorism,” because Smith isn’t as dark and the tennis stars’ dad.  Black sports writer Clarence Hill Jr tweeted, “Colorism matters..love will Smith but there are other black actors for this role..” Another indignant political correctness warrior  (in Great Britain) wrote, “Why are they whitewashing the dad with Will Smith? Colourism is constantly subconsciously fed to us and we just eat it up…”

“Colorism” is unethical because, the BBC tells us, because

“It can lead to a lack of representation in film, TV and fashion, particularly in Hollywood and Bollywood, as well as discrimination at work or on dating sites, and even to serious health problems from skin bleaching creams.”

Except, you know, casting Smith as Williams isn’t colorism. It is “casting a prominent actor for the role who will put fannies in the seats-ism.” Who cares how dark or light Richard Williams is? What does his skin shade have to do with the reason he’s worthy of a film portrayal? Would Venus and Serena be better or worse athletes if he were the shade of Will Smith?

The “colorism” argument has come-up before, in the controversy over The Rock playing John Henry, and when not-sufficiantly black actress Zoe Saldana was cast to play singer Nina Simone, and wore dark make-up to resemble her.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve finally figured out what’s going on. Just as rape isn’t about sex but about asserting power, so the progressive complaints about casting aren’t truly about race, or color, or fairness, or white-washing, or any of the supposed justifications for manufactured outrage. They virtually always for the purpose of asserting and cementing the power to bend others to their will, to establish the precedent that whatever they demand, even when it is the opposite of what they may have demanded in the day before, even if it is obvious that they are making up the rules as they go along, must be accepted. It is the equivalent of an abusive boss ordering a subordinate to strip, get down on all fours, and bark like a dog.  They do it because they can.

The only way to end this nonsense is to defy it, but as we have seen in most of the casting controversies, since actors are generally too shallow and too cowardly to articulate ethical principles much less take a stand in favor of them, the actor who is the target of the complaint usually grovels an apology and withdraws. I’m hoping that Smith is made of sterner stuff, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

 

The Hypocrisy Of Politically Correct Casting Mandates: Spielberg’s “West Side Story” Virtue-Signaling Debunked

There has to be a one word summary for this. “Ha!” “Duh”? “Yecchh!” “Wha?”

There is going to be a new film version of “West Side Story,” apparently to have one that doesn’t involve casting Russian-Americans (Natalie Wood) and Greek-Americans (George Chakiris) as Puerto Ricans. Of course, it’s OK for a white character to undergo a gender and nationality change because shut-up. This is, I believe, a doomed project, much as the remakes of “Ben-Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” were doomed. Remaking a film that won ten Oscars is a fool’s errand. So is making any movie musical in an era when the genre is seen as silly and nerdy by a large proportion of the movie-going audience, especially one that requires watching ballet-dancing street gangs without giggling. Steven Spielberg, who accepted this challenge, must have lost his mind.

Ah, but apparently wokeness, not art or profit, is the main goal.

“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” said Spielberg. “I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”

Maria will be played by 17-year old New Jersey High School student Rachel Zegler,  making her film debut opposite Ansel Elgort as Tony. The Sharks will be played by Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, and Josh Andrés Rivera has been cast as Chino. The 1962 film’s Anita, Rita Moreno, is now playing what was the white, non-Hispanic, male role of Doc, now renamed and re-sexed.

Bravo to George Mason law prof. David Bernstein, for this deft take-down: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/15/2019: I Am Cleopatra!

Good morning, Ethics Lovers!

1. Coming attractions. Rep. Steve King is now officially a human ethics train wreck, but boy, it would be nice if we could trust the news media. I will be writing a full post on this matter soon, but in the meantime, if someone can find me the full text of the alleged “interview” with the Times that generated King’s infamous “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” statement, I would be very happy. The link used by all sources reporting on the interview and its aftermath, including the link used by the Times, goes to Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics.”

But that’s not an interview! It’s an anti-King hit piece. I wanted to see the context of King’s remark, like, say, the question that evoked it. Is that too much to ask? All we get, however, is this:

Mr. King, in the interview, said he was not a racist. He pointed to his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowans of all races and religions in his Washington office. (The same office once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.)

At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

That’s telling us about the interview, not the interview itself, and doing so while poisoning the well. More later. However, the fact that the Times won’t provide the unredacted interview itself is troubling.

2. Trump Tweets. Finally I can compliment a good one. This morning the President said, in the climax of a tweet, “They got caught spying on my campaign and then called it an investigation.” I’m critical of Trump’s communications skills, but you can’t do better than that. I also strongly suspect that he is correct. 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