Arrogant, Deluded And Ignorant Is No Way To Go Through Life, Jennifer Lawrence…

Jennifer Lawrence is a charismatic, versatile, talented movie star, but someone misled her into believing that everything that pops into her head is worth saying, and it isn’t. In this case, it wasn’t just banal or gratuitous progressive blather points, but a wildly false and disrespectful over-praising of her own significance at the expense of actresses that she ought to be honoring rather than insulting.

In a recent interview with Variety magazine, the star of the “Hunger Games” movies (beginning in 2012), “Silver Lining Playbook” and other films said,

“I remember when I was doing ‘Hunger Games,’ nobody had ever put a woman in the lead of an action movie because it wouldn’t work. We were told … girls and boys can both identify with a male lead, but boys cannot identify with a female lead.”

If you don’t know your film history, don’t make statements about film history. It makes one look like a conceited fool, as the social media mob rushed to inform Lawrence. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Cartoonist’s Regret

                                        Hell’s video store

Sometimes Ethics Alarms is on these matters quicker than anyone; sometimes it takes a while. Two years ago, retired “Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson confessed that the above cartoon was the only one he could think of at the moment that he felt he should apologize for. He wrote,

Ace Ethics Alarms commenter JutGory alerted me to Larson’s lament, which had been recalled in this recent post on the site “Screen Rant.” I tended to find that the cartoonist’s apology reflected well on his  ethics alarms, as did the Screen Rant pundit, who wrote,

In the end, he put his ego aside and admitted he unfairly judged the movie and criticized it without ever seeing it. The Far Side creator sharing his mistake shows that even the most talented and self-aware cartoonists can accidentally cross a line without initially realizing it. Thankfully, after seeing the movie for himself, Gary Larson understood an apology was warranted for the Far Side comic.

Jut, however, has a different take. He wrote,

It was a joke that landed well because of popular sentiment at the time it was made. Thinking about it another way, what if he saw Ishtar at the time and liked it?  He could still make the same joke because it would resonate with the public.  It would still be funny. I guess the real question is whether comics are bound by the same rules as a critic.  A critic should know what it is criticizing.  A comic is going for a laugh.  And, to the extent it was an “unfair” joke (I am not sure it is, as the movie had a widely-known bad reputation), is an apology necessary.  Most jokes are “unfair” to some extent.  But, does that, in itself, require an apology.  From a critic, yes; from a comic, no.

Ooooo, I think I may have to agree with Jut.

Maybe.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Does Gary Larson have anything to apologize for?

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Sunday Afternoon Ethics Reflections, 11/20/2022, Part 2: The Rest Of The Stories…

[Part I, consisting of the introduction to today’s random collection and a related selection from the EA archives, is here…]

1. This marks the official beginning of the yearly holiday runaway emotions train wreck for me, with which I have permanent love-hate relationship that grows more intense each year. I inherited from my mother an immediate nostalgia, regret and sense of loss with this season, typically kicking in with the first Christmas song, which Sirius was cruel enough to offer weeks ago. I think that’s why I gravitate to the Karen Carpenter version of “Home for the Holidays,” because her early loss was so tragic, and her unique voice was so emotionally expressive. This coming week is our 42nd anniversary, of which I am proud from a perseverance and integrity standpoint, since almost nobody among our contemporaries are still on their first marriage, Thanksgiving, which will have fewer people around the table than ever before, then the anniversary of my finding my father dead in his easy chair on my birthday, followed by the annual hell of getting 2000 lights on a live 8 foot tree, a task that falls entirely on me now, and then Christmas madness. What fun. And yet I love the memories, the lights, the music, the spirit and the values the season represents.

Rats. Here we go again…

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The Failure Of “Bros”: Why Don’t Minorities Accept The Right Of Majorities To Feel Like They Do?

Gee, what a shocking development! Non-gay audiences haven’t flocked to see a romantic comedy that advertises itself like that!

I’m a movie fan. I have lots of gay friends, family members and associates: I worked in the theater for decades. I respect them all; I support their right to live and love and marry whomever they please; I want them to be treated like any other law-abiding Americans in all things as they are judged solely on the content of their character, and regard discrimination and bias against them as despicable and unconscionable.

But I don’t enjoy watching gay sex and related activities.  I have every right to feel that way. I would no more pay, or take time out of my sock drawer duties, to see “Bros” than I would watch an NFL game, or attend a one-man show by Alec Baldwin. So sue me. But I think there are millions of Americans with similar tastes, and they span the generations.

Apparently the makers of “Bros” convinced themselves that non-gay (I will say “cis” when there is a loaded gun at my head and not before) Americans, who are, believe it or not, the majority, would go to see a romantic comedy about gays because they have been told that they should, and are bigots if the don’t comply. Non-gay America replied, “Bite me!,” and good for them. Continue reading

Weekend Ethics Kick-Off, 9/10/2022: Aftermaths: Dinosaurs, Chess, And Oberlin

How’s this for an aftermath: thanks to the U.S.’s full embrace of alcohol, its social value and its offsetting pathologies, it is the leading cause of traffic fatalities. Indeed, drinking combined with driving kills about one person every 52 minutes here according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, leading to more than 10,000 lives lost each year. Of course, that doesn’t include that many thousands of lives negatively affected by these avoidable accidents, or those scarred, maimed and crippled despite having survived. September 10, 1897 marks the first arrest for drunk driving. London taxi driver George Smith was charged after crashing his cab into a building. Smith  pleaded guilty and was fined 25 shillings. Nobody was harmed. The first U.S.  laws alcohol-impaired driving went into effect in 1910. A professor of biochemistry and toxicology,patented the “Drunkometer” in 1936, and in 1953, Robert Borkenstein invented the Breathalyzer, an improved version that we still use today. Almost everyone I know has driven under the influence of alcohol at one time or another. Most never consider that the only reason they didn’t hurt or kill someone is that intervention of moral luck.

1. “Jurassic World: Dominion” ethics. I mentioned the latest in the “Jurassic Park” franchise in a negative context here, but the fact is that I saw the movie and enjoyed it very much. The film is now considered a conundrum wrapped in an enigma: it is going to soon pass a billion dollars in box office worldwide, and it has the worst reviews and most negative audience reactions of any of the six films in the line. There is a good reason for that: the plot is ridiculous, the sub-plots are even more ridiculous, and the dialogue is hackneyed and moronic. Continue reading

Abused And Abusing: The Bruce Willis Ethics Scandal

I was not surprised when Bruce Willis’ daughter announced this week that he was “stepping away” from acting because of what she called “aphasia.” For actors, that can be a convenient technical term for “I can’t remember my lines, and it’s not my fault,” but in Willis’s case—he’s only 67—many believe it may mean more, like that he is suffering from the after-effects of a stroke or head injury. The reason I was not surprised by the announcement is that the “Die Hard” superstar’s movie appearances have been embarrassing to him and painful to watch for at least 3 years, and there was no discernible reason, other than the fact that he appeared to be not fully engaged.

During the pandemic, when my wife and I were forced to watch far more movies we had never heard of than we wanted to, we quickly learned to avoid any Willis movie of recent vintage, and there are a lot of them. It was puzzling: Willis would be named up front as one of the stars, but he frequently had nothing to do. He looked okay, except that the spark was gone, and Bruce Willis’s spark is most of his justification for being on screen. He showed no energy, moved slowly, seldom changed expression, and delivered his lines flatly. It was suspicious. And it wasn’t our imagination. One tweeting movie fan wrote in February,

While I wasn’t paying attention Bruce Willis became the king of crappy, low budget, direct to video action films. 32 of them since 2014. Apparently he gets most of the film’s budget to show up for a day or two of filming then they build the rest of the movie around that. Nice.

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The 2021 “White Christmas” Ethics Companion, Part 2

[Part I is here.]

Michael West’s thorough exposition of the wartime military weirdness that begins the film in Part I explains why my WWII vet and retired combat officer father, a big a fan of Bing and Danny as he was, disliked “White Christmas.”

Now where were we? Oh, right, “The First Scene”.

The movie moves into its funny guilt extortion phase when Phil Davis rescues his smooth-singing captain from being crushed by a falling wall in a World War II bombing raid, and injures his arm in the process. (It’s not a plot feature, but the battlefield set for the entire opening sequence is itself unethically unprofessional by being chintzy even by movie musical standards: it looks like they are filming a skit for a Bob Hope Christmas Special.  I thought it was lousy when I saw it as a kid. Michael Curtiz deserved better; the man directed “Casablanca.” Show some respect.) Phil then uses Wallace’s debt of gratitude to coerce him into accepting the aspiring comic as a partner in Wallace’s already successful civilian act. This is obviously unfair and exploitative, but Bing accepts the ploy with good spirits, and the next we see of the new team of Wallace and Davis, it is knocking ’em dead and rising in the ranks of stage stars.

2. Wallace and Davis

The act looks terrible. Bing was never much of a dancer, a game hoofer at best, and you don’t feature the greatest voice in the history of American popular music by having him sing exclusively duets. Nevertheless, all we see of the team’s rise is both of them singing and corny dancing inferior to what Bing did with Bob Hope in the “Road” movies.

Never mind. They have a show on Broadway, and as a favor to a mutual army buddy, they agree to watch the boonies nightclub act of “The Haynes Sisters” (Rosemary Clooney as Betty, and Vera-Ellen, of wasp-waist and “On the Town” fame, as kid sister Judy. Did you know that in the “Sisters” number, Clooney sang both parts? And that Vera-Ellen’s real singing voice is never heard in the entire film?). Bing is immediately smitten with older sister Rosemary, but there is a tiff over the fact that younger sister Judy fooled them into seeing their act: she, not her brother, had sent the letter asking for a “favor.”

This is the first revealed of many lies woven into the script. This one is a double beach of ethics: Judy uses her brother’s name and contacts without his permission or knowledge, and lures Wallace and Davis to the night club under false pretenses.

Bing dismisses Judy’s cheat by noting that everyone “has an angle” in show business (“Everybody Does It”) , so he’s not angry. Rosemary is, though, and reprimands Bing for being cynical. That’s right: Vera/Judy use their brother’s name to trick two Broadway stars into watching their little act, and Rosemary/ Betty is annoyed because Bing/Bob (Bing’s bandleader, look-alike, sound-alike brother was also named Bob) shrugs off the lie as show business as usual. True, Betty is technically correct to flag the “Everybody Does It” rationalization, but shouldn’t she be grateful that Bob isn’t reaming out the Haynes sisters and leaving the club in a huff?  OK, nice and uncynical is better than nice and cynical, but Bob is still giving her and Judy a break. As the beneficiary of Judy’s angle, Betty is ethically estopped from complaining that Bing/Bob’s reaction was “I don’t expect any better.” I can, she can’t. He should expect better: accepting unethical conduct allows it to thrive. But Betty criticizing Bob is like Bill Cosby reprimanding a rapist.

As we soon find out, however, Betty often flies off the handle.

3. Sisters

It seems that the Haynes Sisters are about to be arrested because they skipped out of their hotel room without paying, because, they say, the owner wanted to charge them for a burnt hole in their room’s carpet. Phil assumes, without confirming it, that this is an attempted scam by the hotel, though Judy, who relates the circumstances, is already established as a con-artist.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she was smoking a joint and set the carpet on fire. In either event, they still owe for the bill. This happens in old movies all the time ( and in the real life adventures of Judy Garland): the heroes stiff landlords what they are owed, and the landlords are the villains.  Whole generations were raised to believe that skipping out on the rent was the kind of thing good people did.

How many liberals got started with this concept, I wonder? No wonder socialism isn’t dead.

Phil arranges to let the sisters escape (thus abetting theft)  to the train, which will take the  girls to a gig at a Vermont inn. Wallace and Davis stall the fuzz by doing the sisters’ final number (and apparently the act’s only number) in drag. This is aiding and abetting a breach of contract and theft. Nice.

The boys barely escape arrest themselves after their spoof and jump on the same train. (The number was largely improvised by Bing and Danny, and the take used in the film by Curtiz was supposed to be ditched. The famously unflappable Crosby was cracked up by Kaye’s clowning, and reportedly was angry that an “unprofessional” moment made it into the film. Not unethical by Curtiz, though, unless he promised Bing he wouldn’t use the take. (Like, for example, John Landis, who lied to Donald Sutherland and used his gag bare-butt take in “Animal House” after promising not to.) The director’s duty is to the film, not the star. It’s also one of the few moments in the film allowing Kaye to be Kaye.

The lovely sisters are going to Vermont, so Danny and Bing, who gave the entire cast the holidays off with full pay (I doubt that Broadway ever shut down shows over the holidays, which is a prime tourist period, before the Wuhan Virus struck.) What is the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show for? But this is a necessary plot contrivance.) .

Surprise #1 when they get to the inn: no snow. Surprise #2: the inn is owned by none other than General Waverly, Bob and Phil’s much-admired commander during the war, now retired and going broke running a ski lodge where nobody can ski. The general the closest thing to consistently ethical character in this movie, and he, against all self-interest, says that he will pay the Haynes Sisters full salary to play to crickets, though he had an out in their contract that could have saved him half their fees.

If Bob, Phil, Judy and Betty had any honor, they wouldn’t accept it. The Haynes sisters are cashing in, clearly, on sexist male bias. Then again, this is how the Betty and Judy—especially Judy– roll. It’s how all gorgeous women roll in Hollywood films (and, I daresay, in Hollywood to the day.) Is it unethical for women to appeal to men’s brain-numbing hormones with faint suggestions of potential lust and love that the women know is a fantasy, because they also know many men fall for it no many how many times experience proves them to be saps?

I think so.

But then I’m bitter. Continue reading

“Rust,” Guns, And The Barn Door Fallacy

Barn door

The Barn Door Fallacy drives me crazy, and right now a particularly absurd outbreak of it is underway. The phenomenon, named after the old saw about “locking the barn door after the horse is gone,” is the product of pure emotionalism trumping reality: take extreme measures after a rare and perhaps preventable (though not necessarily) tragedy or accident as if doing so will change the fact that the unfortunate event happened. The “defund the police” madness was an obvious example: see, if there are no police, no police officer will ever unjustly kill an unarmed black man ever again! Problem solved! Brilliant!

These over-reactions are many things, all of them wrong. They are virtue-signalling by public officials who care less about solving a real problem than showing their empathy and outrage at something that “shouldn’t have happened.” They are irresponsible, because they advocate rushing into radical “solutions” to problems that are magnified by the proximity of the tragic event, and because the barn door fallacy advocates usually are insufficiently knowledgeable, often shockingly ignorant, in fact, regarding what they are grandstanding about. Moreover, the nostrums frequently are fueled by logical fallacies and rationalizations, such as “We have to do something!” and “If it saves just one life…!”

Much of the time, measures inspired by the Barn Door Fallacy make many things worse without making anything better. That is the likely result of the current Bran Door Fallacy freakout over the fatal gun accident on the set of “Rust,” in which a prop gun wielded by the movie’s star and producer, Alec Baldwin, fired a bullet that killed one and wounded another.

Now many in the movie industry are demanding that real guns be banned from all movie productions. Dozens of cinematographers have signed a pledge not to work on projects using functional firearms. A state lawmaker in California is drafting legislation that would ban operational firearms from sets.

Now, here’s a quiz: how many deaths from firearms have occurred on movie or TV production sets in the last, say, 50 years? Think about all the hundreds, thousands of gun battles and shootouts you have seen or know about. How many shooting deaths?

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Return To”Field Of Dreams”

Field of Dreams2

Baseball had a rare PR triumph earlier this month when it held a regular season game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox in the Iowa cornfield diamond that was the setting for the cult movie favorite “Field of Dreams.” The TV ratings were the best for any regular season broadcast in 16 years. That’s amazing, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Despite rumors of its demise, baseball still has a cultural bedrock of tradition, nostalgia and history unmatched by any other sport, professional or amateur. So many Americans would not tune in to a baseball game if they didn’t still have a flicker of affection for the sport, and if your argument is, “Yeah, but that’s just because of the movie,” the movie wouldn’t have become iconic if a lot of people didn’t care about baseball. As Terrence Mann said,

Now my confession: I’m not a wild fan of the film, nor that scene. The scene in particular is unforgivably stagey and artificial: it’s right out of the (much better) book, “Shoeless Joe,” and not even the great James Earl Jones could make it sound like anything but a recitation. I got annoyed, during the hype for the game broadcast, with “Field of Dreams” being repeatedly called “The greatest baseball movie.” I don’t regard it as that; I think it just barely makes the top five, and I could be talked out of ranking it that high.

For good reasons, many baseball writers, fans and bloggers have criticized the film over the years, and not just because it is shamelessly manipulative. But it is that. Baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, a vocal debunker of the film, writes,

“I will fully admit that a story about a father and son repairing a longstanding rift over a game of catch — with or without the magical realism elements — could form the basis of a MAJOR chills moment in an absolutely fantastic movie. The problem, as I’ve said in the past, is that “Field of Dreams” does not earn its chills moment. It is lazy in that it does not sketch out the dispute between Ray and his dad in anything approaching realistic terms — it’s dashed off in the rushed intro with almost no details — and it does nothing to explain why Ray’s moving the Earth and the Heavens to bring his dad back to that ball field is so important or why it serves as the “penance” Ray must pay for whatever reason. With no buildup or backstory, there’s no payoff.”

But worse, for me and others, is the slipshod handling of baseball history. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was not innocent of taking a bribe to throw the 1919 World Series, he was guilty. He was not a thoughtful, wise-cracking Ray Liotta, he was just north of being a moron. He batted left-handed, and famously so, not right-handed like Liotta. When Frank Walley’s character, a magically reincarnated and youthened old ballplayer named Archie “Moonlight” Graham, whose single appearance in the major leagues was in 1905, is nearly beaned by a close pitch, he says “Hey ump, how about a warning?” Umpires didn’t warn pitchers for throwing at batters in 1905, and not for more than a half-century after that. Sloppy.

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Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2021: “Help! Every Ethics Story I Find Makes Me Want To Jump Into My Shredder!”

Remember that Ethics Alarms is dependent on its many scouts, tipsters, fans and friends to keep the content varied and enlightening. As it is I can’t keep up, and having to engage in principled boycotts of unethical news sources (CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, ESPN, ABC and more) has made research more difficult, since even these blighters of the culture occasionally have something useful to report. Positive stories, those that tell me that society may be heading into the light rather than slithering into the darkness, have been in especially short supply lately, or if they have not, I’m not seeing them.

Speaking of seeing, maybe one reason I am in a rotten mood is that my wife decided that the perfect way to begin the week was by watching the 2008 Canadian film “Blindness,” a smug, would-be ethics film in which much of the world is suddenly rendered sightless by a mysterious pandemic. The movie’s villain is a blind man with a gun, who declares himself “king;” Julianne Moore plays an ophthalmologist’s wife who pretends to be blind so she can stay with her sightless husband as the stricken are rounded up by the government; and the plot has developments like this (from the Wikipedia plot summary):

“A man with a handgun appoints himself “king” of his ward, and takes control of the food deliveries, first demanding the other wards’ valuables, and then for the women to have sex with their men. In an effort to obtain necessities, several women reluctantly submit to being raped. One of the women is killed by her assailant, and the doctor’s wife retaliates, killing the “king” with a pair of scissors. In the ensuing chaos, the building catches fire, with many inmates dying. The survivors who escape the building discover that the guards have abandoned their posts, and they venture out into the city. Society has collapsed, with the city’s population reduced to an aimless, zombie-like struggle to survive.”

Amusingly and predictably, the movie was attacked by organizations representing the blind.

It made me wish I was blind while I was watching it.

1. Wow…the New York Times really is sticking with the debunked “1619 Project” narrative! Nick Rojas writes this in a Times news story:

The Three-Fifths Compromise, an agreement reached during the negotiations in 1787 to create the United States Constitution, found that, for the purposes of representation and taxation, only three-fifths of a state’s enslaved people would be counted toward its total population. It is regarded as one of the most racist deals among the states during the country’s founding.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was not racist, and it is only notorious to the historically ignorant and those who have deliberately misrepresented the facts to advance Critical Race Theory. Giving full representation to slaves in the Southern states would have vastly increased the slave states’ power, and made it more difficult to keep slavery from spreading. Historians are mostly in agreement that the compromise was ultimately in the long-term interests of black Americans and began the process leading to emancipation.

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