Travel Notes…[UPDATED]

Every trip I take seems to require some ethical clarification…

  • Lose-lose. At our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, a convention of either transvestites, transgender individuals, or some combination of the two dominated the hotel. The organization was “Himmaher”…I think I’m spelling it right. [Correction: I wasn’t. And that wasn’t the organization; it was the name that was listed for the gathering, and the name was HIMMERSHE. Thanks to Zanshin in the Comments below for the correction.]

I had several illuminating encounters. I don’t know that this is true of all such people, but the members of this association or club all seemed to want to make any non-club member they saw as uncomfortable as possible. Yes, that’s unethical. How you choose to dress, what you choose to have lopped off, and who you want to sleep with could not interest me less, and that is the  attitude a society like ours should strive to encourage. (None of those things should engender and advantages, either.) But what these people seemed to be seeking was imposed ethics zugswang. If you looked directly at them, the response was a chip-on-the-shoulder, “Go ahead and stare, honey: neverf seen a freak before?” If you appeared to be avoiding staring—I regard a six-foot ex-male standing in the middle of a hotel lobby in a  wig, skimpy bathing suit, 6 inch heels and speaking loudly in a base voice as parading a psychological problem or ten, and deserving the same social courtesy I would offer to a Tourette’s victim or a hebephrenic—then the individual decided to make it a project to get you to stare, as if your failure to provide the attention they craved was an insult.

Yeah, I know this is a stage, similar to the early stages of the gay rights movement. Continue reading

When The Anti-Liberty Mobs Attack, Courage And Character Are Paramount, Part I: The “Rub & Tug” Fiasco

As I explained in the initial post about the “Rug and Tug” controversy, the protests against Scarlett Johansson being cast as a biological female who led her life as a transsexual male  (that’s “Tex” on the left) made no sense. The arguments put forth by the transgender cyber-mob and others  undermined the movement for non-traditional casting that would provide minorities, like trans actors, more opportunities in their chosen field.  Their position was a double standard and  internally inconsistent, asserting that biological males who had transitioned to female were a more logical choice to play a real life character who was born female, than a female actress who would be playing a female identifying as a male…when as a female actress, that’s what she would be doing in reality. The controversy was unfair to Johansson (again) and was contrary to the whole concept of acting. Never mind! Transsexuals are currently the darling victim group of the Left, and don’t have to make sense, be consistent, or even advocate causes that avoid undermining other progressive causes and constituencies. What they say is just right, because they say so, that’s all, and anyone who disagrees is a bigot, and that’s that. They want what they want, and because they have been discriminated against in the past, they don’t have to be logical or consistent.

Thus, in episodes like this they can become monsters, using bullying and  social media to demand their desires regardless of whether it is an ethical position or not. Make no mistake: in this case, their position was not an ethical one. What is desperately needed when groups misbehave this way and abuse their influence and power is for their target to say no. Unfortunately, doing so requires unusual levels of principal, character, responsibility, intelligence and courage.

Johansson is a talented actress and a major star, but she does not, we now know, have what it takes. Noticing that no significant voices in Hollywood rallied to her defense, the actress quit the project and resigned from the role, issuing standard Hollywood political correctness blather:

“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project. Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release. While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.”

This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish, self-contradictory and easily translated as “Hey, whatever the anointed  in-group says is right is right with me! I’m certainly not going to buck conventional wisdom if it means losing fans, roles, and money! You tell me what to think, and I’ll think it. Tell me to jump, and I’ll say “How high?” I welcome my Political Correctness Masters, and will do their bidding.” Continue reading

Phony Casting Ethics Controversies Reach A New Low: Scarlett Johansson and “Rub & Tug”

“Tex” Gill and Scarlett

 

I have to congratulate the political correctness bullies and hypocritical casting ethics scolds, I really do. I thought that their absurd  caterwauling over the casting of Scarlett Johansson to star in “Ghost in the Machine”  was as ridiculous and contrived as casting ethics complaining could get. Not only have they topped themselves with their attacks on “Rub & Tug,” they are unfairly targeting Johansson again. Impressive.

You may recall that the previous casting controversy involving Johansson occurred last year when she was cast as the lead in “Ghost in the Shell,” an adaptation of a Japanese anime tale. Then, her crime was supposedly “white-washing”: since the character was originally Japanese, it was somehow wrong to cast the white actress to play her. This, of course, is an outrageous double standard, because minority actors have been calling for Hollywood to be open to casting them in roles traditionally played by whites for decades. As I wrote in the post about “Ghost in the Shell,”

“…movie makers can’t win. If a black actor isn’t cast to play a white character in the source material, Hollywood is engaging in bias by eschewing “non-traditional casting,” which is necessary to remedy de facto segregation and prejudice in movies. If Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican, as in “Touch of Evil,” it’s “whitewashing”—prejudicial and racist casting of whites to play non-whites. Of course, when Morgan Freeman, an African American, is cast to play a dark-skinned Semitic character in “Ben Hur,” nobody calls that “blackwashing,” for there is no such thing as blackwashing. Casting Denzel Washington as a white character from “The Pelican Brief”: great! Who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Denzel as the white hero of “The Magnificent Seven” in the remake, when the white hero was non-traditionally cast with the sort-of Eurasian Yul Brenner in the original, was also great, because—who doesn’t like Denzel?  Casting  Andy Garcia, a Cuban-American, as member of the Italian Corleone family in “Godfather III” was also fine and dandy, but not the casting of sort-of Eurasian Brenner as the King of Siam in “The King and I,” (even though he won the Tony and the Academy Award for an iconic performance)—, especially with all those great Thai musical comedy stars available. So that was–what, “sort-of-whitewashing”?

All right: how about a musical conceived with the novel conceit of having the Founding Fathers played by young black and Hispanic performers? Is that non-traditional casting? Minority-washing? Is it racist to stay with the original (brilliant) concept and tell white actors they can’t audition to be Hamilton, Jefferson, and Aaron Burr? Of course it’s not racist. After all, those actors are white. Screw ’em.

Are you seeing a theme here? Neither am I. What matters in casting a play, film or writing an adaptation is whether the final result works: How well do the actors play their roles? Is it entertaining? Does it make money?

Now the casting of Johansson as an originally Japanese character in a Japanese manga comic and animated film is being attacked as racist. Whitewashing, you know. No, in fact the words applicable here are “adaptations,” “movies,” “cultural cross-pollination” and “commerce.” 

Do you sense a bit of pique on my part? Correctomundo, and that was a year ago. I’m far more disgusted now, perhaps because I just spoke at the Smithsonian about the manufactured controversy over the supposedly “racist” Gilbert & Sullivan masterpiece, “The Mikado.”  The latest attack on a Johansson role, however, takes the cake. Continue reading

Hollywood’s Unethical Aging Leading Man Tradition

[Let’s see, I tried to get everyone off the silly NFL kneeling protests (just because I write a lot about something doesn’t mean I don’t think its that important), and a simple pro-civility post turned into a donnybrook. Hmmm...how far can I get from both issues? Maybe this will work…]

The Business Insider has an article about something that has bothered me for decades: Hollywood’s embarrassing addiction to pairing young actresses with aging male stars, even when it’s ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with a 60 year old man romancing a 25 year-old woman, just as there was nothing wrong about the romance between an elderly woman and a twenty-something male in “Harold and Maude.” However, the appearance of such pairings is unavoidably sexist, and cuts hard against Hollywood’s posture that it is a force for liberalizing the culture.

The article, by Meg Shields, says in part…

“American Made” premieres this week, bringing two reunions with it: Tom Cruise and “Edge of Tomorrow” director Doug Liman, and Tom Cruise and his ever-growing age gap with his female co-stars. Sarah Wright (who plays Cruise’s wife in the film) was born in 1983 just a couple months after the premiere of Risky Business, making her 22 years Cruise’s junior. 

…It’s a well-known fact that Hollywood likes to pair older men with younger women. And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with an age gap between two consenting adults. According to the 2013 US Census, 4.8 percent of heterosexual married couples included a husband 10-15 years his wife’s senior. The problem, rather, is that Hollywood doesn’t really care about showcasing the stories of that 4.8 percent so much as normalizing the expectation that women are only romance material when they’re in their mid-20s/early-30s, whereas men are free to age and remain conceivably f—able.

… I crunched the numbers for every single Tom Cruise movie, comparing his age relative to that of the actresses playing his love interests over time. All told, Cruise’s age gap mirrors, and indeed confirms, the larger critique of Hollywood’s bias against older actresses. This isn’t just anecdotally-sourced rhetoric, by the way. There’s more and more statistical evidence showing how women age out of Hollywood. Time and The Pudding, for instance, do a great job at visualizing how more roles and dialogue are available to men as they age, where the opposite is true for women.

I was intrigued by this article because I just saw Cruise’s remake of “The Mummy” (and a more ludicrous spectacle it would be hard to find). Tom looks great for his age, at least a decade younger than he is, and he is inherently youthful, so it is a bit unfair to use him to make this point. How about the oogy pairing of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery (above), looking every inch of his 69 years in “Entrapment”? When Cary Grant at 60 was paired with the gamin Audrey Hepburn in “Charade,” Cary’s fans weren’t bothered, but he was: he said that he felt uncomfortable playing the romantic lead at an advanced age, and began planning his retirement. John Wayne was never a comfortable romantic lead, and while Howard Hawks made the by-play between the Duke at 52 with 28 year-old Angie Dickinson in the great “Rio Bravo” work, teaming Wayne with much younger women didn’t seem right; a few movies later, he was back with Maureen O’Hara. Continue reading

“Ghost In The Shell” And “Whitewashing”

Once again, a Hollywood film has political correctness furies attacking its casting. This time, it’s the sci-fi “Ghost in the Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson.

The sad fact is, movie makers can’t win. If a black actor isn’t cast to play a white character in the source material, Hollywood is engaging in bias by eschewing “non-traditional casting,” which is necessary to remedy de facto segregation and prejudice in movies. If Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican, as in “Touch of Evil,” it’s “whitewashing”—prejudicial and racist casting of whites to play non-whites. Of course, when Morgan Freeman, an African American, is cast to play a dark skinned Semitic character in “Ben Hur,” nobody calls that “blackwashing,” for there is no such thing as blackwashing. Casting Denzel Washington as a white character from “The Pelican Brief”: great! Who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Denzel as the white hero of “The Magnificent Seven” in the remake, when the white hero was non-traditionally cast with the sort-of Eurasian Yul Brenner in the original, was also great, because—who doesn’t like Denzel?  Casting  Andy Garcia, a Cuban-American, as member of the Italian Corleone family in “Godfather III” was also fine and dandy, but not the casting of sort-of Eurasion Brenner as the King of Siam in “The King and I,” (even though he won the Tony and the Academy Award for an iconic performance)—, especially with all those great Thai musical comedy stars available. So that was–what, “sort-of-whitewashing”?

All right: how about a musical conceived with the novel conceit of having the Founding Fathers played by young black and Hispanic performers? Is that non-traditional casting? Minority-washing? Is it racist to stay with the original (brilliant) concept and tell white actors they can’t audition to be Hamilton, Jefferson, and Aaron Burr? Of course it’s not racist. After all, those actors are white. Screw ’em.

Are you seeing a theme here? Neither am I. What matters in casting a play, film or writing an adaptation is whether the final result works: How well do the actors play their roles? Is it entertaining? Does it make money?

Now the casting of  Johansson as an originally Japanese character in a Japanese manga comic and animated film is being attacked as racist. Whitewashing, you know. No, in fact the words applicable here are “adaptations,” “movies,” “cultural cross-pollination” and “commerce.”  In this case, not always, but in this case, the accusation of “whitewashing” is pure race-baiting.

More than forty years ago, the real life German prison camp escape engineered by captured WWII British fliers was made into the film “The Great Escape.” Brits were annoyed as production got underway, however, by the presence of heroic American prisoners in the cast, the characters played by U.S. stars James Garner and Steve McQueen. This was, British critics and veterans said, an outrage: Americans had nothing to do with the real escape. The answer by the producers contained three segments:

1. We own the film rights, and can do whatever we think will make the best movie.

2. The film is fictionalized, and makes no representations to the contrary.

3. Garner and McQueen will ensure that the film makes a profit in the U.S, plus they are both great and entertaining young stars.

Good justifications all. “The Great Escape,” as we now know,  is a classic, still honored the real event, and made lots of money. Somehow, British self-esteem recovered.

The Brits also didn’t complain when Japan’s great film auteur director, Akira Kurasawa, made an all-Japanese cast adaptation of “King Lear,” which is about a Celtic king. Wasn’t this–what, “yellow-washing”? Don’t be silly: all good stories can be told in myriad ways, in many cultural contexts. “Ghost in the Shell” is a science fiction fantasy. It is not about real people, and the characters were  Japanese because the author and intended audience were Japanese—you know, like the original “King Lear” was in Elizabethan English.

“Ghost in the Shell” director Rupert Sanders cast Johansson as the cyborg assassin named Motoko Kusanagi in the original and renamed the character “Mira Killian.” It is the “Who doesn’t like Denzel?” non-traditional casting principle, except the even more understandable “Who doesn’t like Scarlet, especially when she looks naked for much of the movie?” variation. The perambulations of critics trying to find something racist about the most obvious box office casting choice imaginable border on hilarious. At some point, actress Johansson decided it was more lucrative and fun being the next female action movie star than starring in solemn costume drama bombs like “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.” Since then, she has been rising as a bankable star in blockbusters like “The Avenger” films and “Lucy.” Quick: name another hot (I mean, of course, popular and bankable) female action star?

I’m waiting…

Writes Matt Golberg in a laugh riot called “Ghost in the Shell is Racist In Surprising Ways””  (another whitewashing screed, equally lame, is here): Continue reading

Oscar Ethics 2015: The Unforgivable Dishonoring Of Maureen O’Hara

maureen ohara

Usually I follow the Oscars telecast with a post on the recently deceased actors and actresses the Academy unfairly snubs in its annual “In Memoriam” session. There is no excuse for robbing anyone of a last bow and farewell, despite the repeated claim that there “just isn’t enough time” to squeeze everyone in. Last night that dishonest excuse for disrespect and incompetence was rendered more absurd than ever: If there’s time for the longest, slowest, most repetitious speech yet by an Academy official, if there’s time for not one but two inappropriate political rants on the podium by award-winners, if there’s time for so many songs that the show seemed more like the Grammys than the Oscars, then there’s time to flash a couple more faces for a second or two.

This year, the omissions were minimal compared to recent years. I noticed the absence of Richard Kiel (1939-2014),

Jaws

…the giant actor who was best known for playing the James Bond villain “Jaws” in two films, as well as less celebrated monsters, aliens and goons. Marcia Strassman, (1948-2014),

Strassman

who made few films (she was predominantly a TV actress (“Welcome Back, Kotter”), but who was the co-star (with Rick Moranis) of the Disney hits, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Honey I Blew Up The Kid,” also deserved inclusion, and Polly Bergen (1930-2014)

Polly Bergen

…who played the terrorized lawyer’s wife in the original “Cape Fear”(portrayed by Jessica Lange in the Scorsese re-make) and had significant roles in several other films, was a bad omission.

Because Twitter users are about 12 or have the memories of mayflies, there was much indignation last night over the absence of Joan Rivers and former SNL standout Jan Hooks. I’d leave the appreciations of both to the Emmys, especially Rivers. A couple cameos and doing the voice of the C3PO parody in “Spaceballs” doesn’t constitute a film career, and snarky red carpet interviews are not movie-making.

Those snubs pale in significance, however, to the disrespect shown by the academy not only to one of its all-time great stars, but to its own history, in the treatment of actress Maureen O’Hara. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “You’re A Marked Man, Charlie Brown!”

The Lone Ranger, a.k.a. Clayton Moore, unmasked.

The Lone Ranger, a.k.a. Clayton Moore, unmasked.

One of the satisfying aspects of this blog for me is how a post will occasionally spark one of its diverse and intellectually agitated commenters to take the original post in unexpected and delightful directions. This gem from Karl Penny is a prime example. In the article inspired by the legal problems faced by the owner of Charlie Brown’s now grown up cartoon voice, I mentioned the actor who was TV’s Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, prompting this lovely anecdotd from Karl. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “You’re A Marked Man, Charlie Brown!“:

“Your comments about Clayton Moore got me to remembering one of the reasons I became such a fan of Clayton Moore, the man, even more than his acting. It’s from William C. Cline in “Those Enduring Matinee Idols”:

“In conclusion, I want to describe a vignette I witnessed during the afternoon that illustrated why Clayton Moore has been so successful and well-loved during his 24-year stint as ‘The Lone Ranger’, and why those of us who cherish serials detected the quality of the man even before then.
As Moore stood talking–with occasional interruption to shake hands with fans, sign autographs, and even speak to a small boy about the dangers of handling real firearms–a young woman timidly approached him holding the hands of a little lad of about seven and a girl perhaps nine years old. The boy gathered up his courage and thrust out his hand boldly. ‘Hello, Lone Ranger,’ he blurted. ‘My daddy says you’re the best. How come you’re not on TV anymore?’

 The little girl just stood there.

‘Thank you, son,” Moore replied. ‘I’m sure your dad is a great fellow, too. Maybe some time later the TV stations will show the programs again. Then you and your sister can see Tonto and me in action like your dad and mother did.’ The little girl continued to just stand there.

Turning to her, Moore noticed the expression on her face–that unique, particular expression that indicates only one thing, blindness. Looking up at the mother, he spoke one word, softly: ‘Total?’ he asked.

‘Not quite, but legally,’ she replied. Continue reading