Latest Development In The Search For The Greatest Stupid During The Age Of The Great Stupid: On Broadway, A “Good Racism” Classic!

I have come to the realization that those apathetic, half-awake Americans who shrug off the creeping fanaticism of the antiracism, “diversity, equity and inclusion” mob must not follow developments in the show business and entertainment world, for there the most throbbingly stupid and hypocritical outbreaks of The Great Stupid inevitably occur.

Last month, the ridiculous non-traditional casting version of “1776” opened. Ethics Alarms has discussed it a couple of times: the conceit of casting the Founding Fathers as female, non-binary, trans colonials of color is a naked “Hamilton” rip-off that mocks the show and our history for political grandstanding. As anyone could have predicted, it stinks, though the naturally sympathetic and woke theatrical critic community didn’t have the guts or integrity to say so outright. No, most of them just issued mealy-mouthed deflections like the Times critic, who wrote in part after delivering the mandatory “what a good idea!” virtue-signaling about what was always, absent a miracle, a wretched idea…

….the performances are so vastly histrionic and unchecked by the social situation (this is Congress, after all) that they seem inside-out….It does not help that the new arrangements and orchestrations, aiming to refresh the songs’ profiles in the way the casting is meant to refresh the story, merely make them muddy — and make many of the lyrics unintelligible….

When performers mime the emotions we should be having, the storytelling contract has been broken….What a wasted opportunity!…Instead we get subtracted value. I don’t mean for the cast, who deserve the opportunity, or even for the theater as an industry and an ecosystem….But underlining one’s progressiveness a thousand times, as this “1776” does, will not actually convey it better; rather it turns characters into cutouts and distracts from the ideas it means to promote…. theater makers should have enough faith in the principles of equity and diversity to let them speak for themselves. Are they not, as someone once put it, self-evident?

But of course equity and diversity are not self-evident, and the complete confusion over casting ethics demonstrates this fact beautifully. Let’s see: BIPOC performers can be cast as anyone, regardless of color, ethnicity, gender or race, but white performers can only play white characters. Turning a white fictional character black is to be desired whenever possible (Tangent: My CVS is filled with black Santa dolls and images. Where are the Hispanic and Asian Santas?) but making a fictional character of color (a FCOC) white is “white-washing,” and racist. “The Simpsons” won’t allow white vocal actors to do the voices of a black doctor or an Indian 7-11 owner, but Will Smith can voice a Middle Eastern genie without controversy. Ariel the Little Mermaid will be sung by a black actress; true, they turned Arial black first, but don’t think the same actress wouldn’t  have voiced her if they hadn’t: Diversity! Inclusion! Meanwhile, Tom Hanks said it was wrong for him to be cast as a gay man, though gay men portray about 50% of all the heterosexuals you see on screen and stage.

Clear? Of course not! These aren’t rules or principles: this is racially motivated Calvinball, compensatory racism and related discrimination under the cloak of imaginary virtue.

And yet we hadn’t reached peak stupid yet. Is this latest episode it? Probably not, but behold: Continue reading

Today’s Dumb Woke Hollywood Casting Question: “Why Does Hollywood Keep Using Fat Suits?” [Corrected]

The New York Times today decides to try a new frontier in the woke casting double standard adventure—you know, the incoherent theory that minority actors should be considered for all roles and all character types regardless of sex, race, size or physical characteristics, but it is unethical for white performers to play any character that they have to act and use make-up to evoke. You know, like good Hollywood liberal Tom Hanks claimed when he issued his recent  mea culpa for playing a gay, AIDS battling lawyer in “Philadelphia.”  So, using the same logic, Tom must have been equally hostile to “diversity, equity and inclusion” when he took a role away from some brilliant, unknown actor with a 75 IQ to play Forrest Gump, just as an autistic actor should have starred in “Rain Man” instead of Dustin Hoffman.

Suuuure. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Great Stupid often has that effect on me. Sorry.

The Times’ query, in the headline to a column by Arts Section pundit , is “Why Does Hollywood Keep Using Fat Suits?” Gee, it’s a mystery! And come to think of it, why does Hollywood keep using make-up? Special effects? Fake blood?

Here’s a much tougher question: why does the New York Times let people who know nothing about performing, entertainment, business, audiences, comedy, and casting write columns like this? Continue reading

More Casting Ethics: “Hyde Park On Hudson”

Casting Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes casting Halle Bailey as “The Little Mermaid” look like casting Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane by comparison. I remember avoiding the pseudo-historical drama “Hyde Park On Hudson” when it was released in 2012 because the thought of Bill Murray as FDR offended me. Then I saw the film this week, and it really offended me.

The film is a wildly inaccurate account of the 1939 visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen’s mother) to Roosevelt’s country estate merged with the problems faced by the philandering Roosevelt when several of his women turn up in the same place at the same time. I would put the casting of Murray as Roosevelt in the “non-traditional casting” category,” but it really belongs in the greedy, insulting, stupid casting category.

There is no artistic or historical justification for having Murray play the iconic FDR. All I can hypothesize is that the producers knew that the movie would be a hard sell to anyone under the age of 80, so they decided, “Hey, Boomers love Bill Murray: they’ll pay to see him in anything!” The result is disrespectful to one of our most important leaders, ruinous to the movie (which has other problems), and the antithesis of artistic competence, integrity and responsibility. Continue reading

Believe It Or Not! The Incoherent Hollywood Casting Rules Get Even More Incoherent And Hypocritical In A “Lord Of The Rings” Controversy

To bring you up to date, The Great Stupid mated with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion cult to bring forth the following casting rules for movies, theater, TV and commercials. Per Tom Hanks, only gays can play gay roles, but gay actors can play “cis” characters. It’s fine for Andy Garcia to play Sonny Corleone’s son in “Godfather 3,” but verboten for a non-Hispanic performer to play a Hispanic character. Presenting a real life “character of color” as white in a film is despicable whitewashing, but presenting Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton as non-white in a hit Broadway musical is brilliant, and playing Joan of Arc as a nonbinary individual who goes by “they” is illuminating. Marilyn Monroe being played by a Hispanic actress is testimony to her versatility and range, but Natalie Wood playing Maria in “West Side Story” was a shameful relic of Hollywood racism. Changing the genders and races of popular comic book characters is social justice progress, unless they are changed to white or male.

All clear now?

The eagerly awaited Amazon spectacular “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is being skewered on social media and fan sites because the production, led by a creative team that is ostentatiously woke (Brain-melting quote by Executive Producer Lindsey Weber: “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”), has cast actors who do not resemble how Tolkien described their characters and has them doing things the characters in the books would never do. For example—The Horror!—there’s a black elf. “Rings” fanatics are screaming foul, so, naturally, Weber has called the casting critics racists.

Continue reading

The Political Correctness Casting Standards In The Age Of ‘The Great Stupid’ Are So Incoherent They Are Actually Funny

…if you can keep from weeping, that is.

Quick, now: what classic Shakespearean drama is the scene pictured above from? Hint 1: the show is being produced by Shakespeare in the Park. Hint 2: it’s one of the Histories.

Give up? Boy, are you illiterate! That’s a scene from “Richard III” of course! That’s King Richard—you know, the hunchback?–on the right. Continue reading

Casting Ethics Incoherence

It will be interesting to see if the movie and theater industries, both reeling from declining audiences for management, artistic, financial and cultural reasons, will continue to ride the runaway political correctness train off the metaphorical bridge and into the river. “Go woke, get broke” is not just a partisan taunt: there is a lot of evidence that it is very frequently true.

I had started a new file just this week on the now totally incoherent casting “rules” being inflicted on productions and audiences in the U.S., determined to post on them when the file was sufficiently thick. First into the fresh file—the older ones were stuffed and substantially covered in prior EA commentray–was this post, a paean to the recently deceased comic Louis Anderson for his portrayal of Christine Baskets, “the doting but demanding mother of Zach Galifianakis’s depressive clown in the brilliant, bone-dry comedy “Baskets,” which ran on FX from 2016-19.”

Huh? We have been told that actresses have been robbed of the opportunity to play rich and serious roles in films and television. We have watched iconic characters undergo gender change so women could have more opportunities. Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson was forced to withdraw from the lead role in “Rub & Tug,” about a transsexual male because she wasn’t a transsexual male. As a result, the movie never got made. But the Times, which along with most of the media has cheered on these bonkers and restrictive new “rules” (Maybe my favorite was rule the that Dwayne Johnson, a Samoan-Black Nova Scotian- American, wasn’t black enough to play the fictional “steel-driving” John Henry), celebrates a white, middle-aged comedian’s portrayal of a mother.

Explain, please. No, never mind: I get it: this is Calvinball, run by the corrupt and manipulative tribes and groups who benefit from it.

Next came Peter Dinklage, apparently feeling his oats now that his star turn on “Game of Thrones” has made him the entertainment industry’s biggest “little person.” Dinklage, who is 4’5″, is preparing to play Cyrano in a musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. I love that casting idea; that’s non-traditional casting at its best, assuming Dinklage can sing. Substituting a height disadvantage for Cyrano’s freakish nose should work wonderfully. However, having found that he can now get performing jobs that were once closed to him because of his height, he has decided to object to Disney making an un-animated version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” complaining on a podcast,

They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?

What are you talking about, man? They didn’t live in a cave: has Dinklage even seen the original movie? They lived in a nice cottage in the forest, and worked in a mine. And what’s “progressive” about casting a Latino actress as “Snow White” when you are trying to evoke the original film, and wouldn’t dare cast a white actress to play “Snow Brown”? Disney, which has become so “woke” that it is ridiculous, instantly groveled to Dinklage’s ignorant complaint, saying, incomprehensibly,

To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community. We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period.

That’s “Huh?” #2. Is it a “stereotype” for dwarfs to be small, like Dinklage? Is it the term “dwarf” that he’s bitching about? The story is hundreds of years old: is Disney supposed to call it “Snow White and the Seven Little People”? It already has a movie in the vault called “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” but those little people are leprechauns. In fact, at last report, Dinklage is going to star in the American comedy “O Lucky Day” playing a con-man who pretends to be a leprechaun. I assume he’ll be saying things like “Begosh and begorrah!” and “I see ye’ve come to steal me gold! Catch me if you can!” No stereotypes there!

Or will Disney really cave, and call the thing “Snow White and the Seven Variably-Sized Miners”?

Maybe the problem is that the characters in the original film had names like Dopey, Sleepy, and Grumpy and personalities to match. I’m sure the “dwarfism community’ wants them renamed Empathy, Smarty, Healthy, Lively, Friendly, Bravely and Doc, with at least three female dwarfs, two dwarfs of color, a transsexual dwarf, and one with hooks or diverticulitis or something. Sounds terrific: another success like “West Side Story.

Today came the trigger for the post: a review of the new Off-Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” generally regarded as America’s greatest playwright’s greatest play. (I vote “The Iceman Cometh” myself). I won’t get into the issue of the “reimagined” version of the four-act drama being cut to less than two, except to say that such a production is no more O’Neill than the Cliff Notes “Moby-Dick” is Melville. However, this is a family drama; indeed an autobiographical family drama, indeed THE autobiographical family drama of the American stage repertoire. There’s the “family” above.

The two white actors, representing O’Neill’s parents, have two black sons, and the Times reviewer thinks this is just swell, it’s “colorblind casting.” Yet he would not—trust me on this—celebrate colorblind casting in Lorraine Hansberry’s black family drama “Raisin in the Sun,” which would 1) be absurd and 2) would steal acting jobs from black actors. Colorblind casting is destructive in dramas that are about the dynamics of a family, because the audience cannot suspend its disbelief, even if critics with an agenda pretend they can.

I suppose one defense for this production would be that since it’s not even half of what O’Neill wrote and littered with such distractions as pandemic face masks, it might as well pander to “Inclusivity and Diversity.” (Hey! Those could be dwarf names!)

OK. I think I’ll wait for the real thing before I shell out any of my increasingly hard earned cash, though.

Being Woke, Disrespectful And Stupid Is No Way To Go Through “West Side Story,” Spielberg!

West Side story

Gee, I’m getting a lot of opportunities to write, “I told you so!” lately. But I won’t…

In 2019 Ethics Alarms noted,

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.

I am so glad that, based partially on this, I turned down an invitation to do a lecture right about now for the Smithsonian on the evolution of “West Side Story” through the years. For here comes the news that Stephen Spielberg, who has never directed a musical in his life on stage or screen, has completed his “improved” version with this considerate feature:

[T]o lend the movie an extra touch of authenticity, Spielberg, and screenwriter Tony Kushner, made the choice not to subtitle any of the Spanish dialogue that’s regularly heard throughout the film. Instead, multiple scenes in West Side Story take place entirely in Spanish — or with a pronounced mixture of English and Spanish — and there’s no onscreen text to fill in the gaps for non-Spanish speaking viewers.

“Extra touch of authenticity”?!! Characters are singing their feelings in the film! I assume that, as in the first film version, they are also doing ballet in the streets. Musicals have no “authenticity.” But aside from that asinine statement from Yahoo! reporter Ethan Alter, the decision to frustrate non-Spanish speaking audience members by making dialogue from the book incomprehensible cannot be defended logically or artistically. What is the objection to sub-titles? It is not only beneficial to the movie to make certain all of the audience knows what’s being said, it is basic courtesy to the original author of the book (Arthur Laurents). What is the objective of this choice?

Divisiveness and to stick it to English-speaking Americans, it seems.

Here’s one contemptuous tweeter: “Steven Spielberg a king for not including subtitles in the Spanish dialogue for his West Side Story…very bold and non-compromising. Make these losers try and decipher what the boricuas are saying along with the rest of the Latinx.” Here’s another: “”Much to love about the new West Side Story, but Steven Spielberg’s deliberate choice not to subtitle any Spanish dialogue was his most brilliant decision. Cops and Jets gang members screaming, “speak English!” The real-world parallels to the American experience of today run deep.”

One choose not to speak English, or not to learn to speak it intelligibly. And then has chosen not to be hired for any job requiring clear and effective communication with the majority of Americans. “Speak English”? Damn right. If the new film’s objective is to discredit that basic obligation of citizenship, it doesn’t just deserve to fail, it deserves to be condemned.

Yet another tweet: “Also I like there are not subtitles when they spoke Spanish. The back and fourth between English and Spanish was so familiar ( in my house Portuguese) but you get the idea. That’s how it should be.”

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Casting Ethics: ‘Anne Boleyn’ And Discriminatory Double Standards”

Oh, I just love this Comment of the Day by Curmie, who was AWOL from the ethics comment wars for far too long, and whose return recently has made my heart soar like a hawk. I love it for many reasons, including, of course, the fact that it is well written and enlightening, far more so than my post that prompted it, which focused narrowly on the double standard of applauding the having a performer of one race portray another, but only when it’s the “right” races involved.

As with my posts about ethics issues in another lifetime passion, baseball, I know that many readers nod off when the framework is theater. But the conceit of Ethics Alarms is that the ethics issues and process of analysis are often universal regardless of where the dilemmas and conflicts pop up. As it happens, baseball and theater happen to be two realms that I know a lot about.

But not as much as Curmie, at least as far as theater is concerned. I had hoped that he would weigh in on the casting of a black actress as Anne Boleyn, and he did.

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, Casting Ethics: “Anne Boleyn” And Discriminatory Double Standards.

***

Literally two minutes after reading this post, I saw that Katori Hall had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play The Hot Wing King. I don’t know the play—its Off-Broadway run was cut short by COVID, and as far as I can tell it hasn’t been published.

I do, however, recognize her name as the playwright of The Mountaintop, in which the two characters are Martin Luther King, Jr. and an employee of the Memphis hotel in which he is spending what he doesn’t know is his last night on earth. (Spoiler alert: she’s really an angel preparing him for what is to come.) It is a good, borderline great, play: by turns moving, humorous, and incisive. But what comes immediately to mind is the production by a student group at Kent State University, in which a white actor was cast as King. The director, of course, claimed the casting decision wasn’t a gimmick. (Newsflash: it was a gimmick.)

The original idea was to alternate the role between a white and a black actor to be, in the director’s words, “a true exploration of King’s wish that we all be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.” The black actor had to drop out of the production, and the white one played the role throughout the run.

Continue reading

Casting Ethics: “Anne Boleyn” And Discriminatory Double Standards

Ann Boleyn series

That’s Anne Boleyn on the photo above. No, really, it is. Well, okay, it’s really British actress Jodie Turner-Smith portraying King Henry the VIII’s doomed second wife, whom most people don’t realize was black. That is, of course, because she wasn’t black, just like Martin Luther King wasn’t Chinese and Genghis Kahn wasn’t a Hassidic Jew. However, a new TV mini-series, which premiered last week in Great Britain, cast Turner-Smith because no white actresses were available to play the role. No, that can’t be right. No white British actress were qualified to play an English historical figure? That can’t be true either. What’s going on here?

“It is the first time a Black actress has portrayed the Tudor queen onscreen,” the New York Times helpfully informs us. Really! The factoids we get from the Times! Why not, I wonder? Wait, wait, don’t tell me: has a man ever played Anne Boleyn in a serious historical drama? How about an octogenarian? An actress in a wheelchair? A dwarf? How about a moose? A block of cheese?

“We wanted to find someone who could really inhabit her but also be surprising to an audience,” Faye Ward, one of the show’s executive producers, said in an interview. Surprising, or confusing? Surprising is a piece of cake, as another doomed queen, but from France, would have said. Casting Woody Allen as Anne would be surprising. What’s the objective here?

The Times feature rapidly descends into a hybrid of Authentic Frontier Gibberish crossed with Wokish.

Continue reading

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