Tag Archives: plays

“Antigone In Ferguson”: Embedding The Lie

Mike Brown’s father during a discussion after the performance.

“Antigone in Ferguson”  premiered at Normandy High School, Michael Brown’s alma mater, in September of 2016. Now the Harlem Stage is presenting it in New York City, Off-Broadway. A play is a play and art is art; artists are going to enable juvenile, half-baked and even destructive political ideas and themes, and playwrights will turn their perceptions of reality into stagecraft that they often are far more qualified to execute than the task of making sense out of the world. This drama was conceived and directed by the activist playwright Bryan Doerries in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri four years ago,  overlays the structure of the ancient Sophocles Greek tragedy with a distorted version of Brown’s death and its aftermath. The goal, says the sympathetic—complicit may be a better word—New York Times, is “to open the door on the thoughts and feelings aroused by the shooting of the 18-year-old Mr. Brown by a white police officer, and by the protests that followed. ”

The play is championed by the Brown family, which means that in part it exists to perpetuate a politically useful lie and the  apparently invulnerable narrative that Brown was the innocent, sweet-natured victim of a racist cop who murdered the teen in the streets of Ferguson, and then got away with his deed because the white justice system is bent on killing young black men.

This quite simply is not what happened. The racialist Obama Justice Department was eager to be able to show that the officer was a killer, but in the end, despite the sympathetic spinning of the news media for months, the evidence did not support that conclusion, and no charges could be brought. Mike Brown, stoned and freshly off roughing up a storekeeper, resisted a lawful arrest, tried to grab a police officer’s gun, and then, when he focused his imposing 300 pound mass on charging the smaller cop who arrested him, got himself shot—stupidly, needlessly. His friend on the scene, however, quickly concocted the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” exchange that never happened, and as that false version slowly twisted its way from slogan to protest to debunked myth, the facts of Brown’s case were neatly discarded for a narrative that advances the cause of division, anti-police bias, racial hatred, and more. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Reflections, 8/5/2018: Abdication, Arrogance, Airbrushing

1. If you want to seed a civil war, this is how you do it…Why is this incredible story just an item on the daily ethics potpourri? For one thing, I don’t see why much commentary is necessary, or should be. I don’t typically  write about robberies or murders, or other outright unethical acts that all but the worst sociopaths can recognize in a trice as unethical.  I feel the same way about this, from the Wall Street Journal:

A mob surrounded ICE’s office in Southwest Portland June 19. They barricaded the exits and blocked the driveway. They sent “guards” to patrol the doors, trapping workers inside. At night they laid on the street, stopping traffic at a critical junction near a hospital. Police stayed away. “At this time I am denying your request for additional resources,” the Portland Police Bureau’s deputy chief, Robert Day, wrote to federal officers pleading for help. Hours later, the remaining ICE workers were finally evacuated by a small federal police team. The facility shut down for more than a week. Signs called ICE employees “Nazis” and “white supremacists.” Others accused them of running a “concentration camp,” and demanded open borders and prosecution of ICE agents. Along a wall, vandals wrote the names of ICE staff, encouraging others to publish their private information online.

Federal workers were defenseless. An ICE officer, who asked that his name not be published, told me one of his colleagues was trailed in a car and confronted when he went to pick up his daughter from summer camp. Later people showed up at his house. Another had his name and photo plastered on flyers outside his home accusing him of being part of the “Gestapo.”

Where were the police? Ordered away by Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler, who doubles as police commissioner. “I do not want the @PortlandPolice to be engaged or sucked into a conflict, particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track,” he tweeted. “If [ICE is] looking for a bailout from this mayor, they are looking in the wrong place.”

The phrase, “particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track” mandates impeachment on its face. It is not the mayor’s proper role to decide who deserves the protection of the city against lawbreakers. “There is no place for personal, political bias when it comes to providing public safety services to our communities,” Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner said in a statement on Facebook. “In that respect, our Mayor, who is also our Police Commissioner, has failed miserably.”

Also:

  • How many readers of Ethics Alarms saw broadcast news accounts of this incident and the Portland mayor’s conduct? It is the tendency to set out to bury and hide the worst examples of progressive and resistance excess that is the smokiest of smoking guns showing the degree to which journalists are actively attempting to indoctrinate and mislead rather than inform.
  • Do the citizens of Portland really condone this?

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/2018: Mockingbirds, Headlines, And Reasonable Doubt

Good Morning, Scout!

1 Assorted blog stuff. I’m going to have to fly to Boston next month for the hearing on my motion to dismiss the specious defamation suit against me by an Ethics Alarms  commenter to whom my responses were no more defamatory than what I have said to many of you when provoked…Every now and then some blog or social media participant with a huge following links to an old post here, and I am swamped with visits from a lot of individuals with no serious interest in ethics. They almost never comment, and if they do, the comments typically don’t meet my posting standards. Still, they swell the traffic stats, and I’ll take ’em. In 2017 I had none of these fluky hit avalanches, after a 2016 that had several. This time, the post suddenly drawing interest is a 2014 essay about a letter written to director Terry Gilliam in 2005. You just never know…Expect a lot of Comments of the Day this weekend: I am way behind, and I’m sorry. Tough week.

2. Keep hope alive! Yesterday’s New York Times front page headline perfectly embodied the fake news-by-innuendo tactic that has marked the mainstream media’s efforts to pander to the “resistance.” The Special Prosecutor’s fishing expedition just subpoenaed the business records of the Trump organization relating to its dealings in Russia. Says the Times headline: “Investigation nears President.” Ooooh! Scary!

Hype, and unprofessional. This is the “He’s getting closer! And closer!” narrative the anti-Trump journalists have been flogging for a year. Yeah, I guess any time an investigation involves someone’s business it is “near” the owner, but why would that obvious fact justify a headline?  The reality is that Trump’s organization had business dealings in Russia (legal and unremarkable), the fact that Mueller is looking does not prove or suggest that those dealings had any connection to the campaign, and Mueller could have asked for these records a year ago. There is nothing ominous about the request from the President’s perspective at all, unless, as this whole fiasco has presumed from the moment Democrats seized on Wikileaks and fake Facebook news as the designated excuses for Hillary’s inexcusable defeat, there really was “collusion.”

That an investigation has been launched does not imply, suggest, or indicate wrongdoing. The news media’s reporting continues to suggest otherwise because they want the President to be guilty of something heinous. Imagine that: there are Americans who want their elected President to be proven guilty of wrongdoing.

3. To kill a “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Harper Lee’s estate filed a complaint last week in federal court in Alabama, arguing that a Broadway bound stage adaptation of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by “The West Wing” creator and “A Few Good Men” writer Aaron Sorkin violates a contract, between Harper Lee and the producers that stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book. (I wrote about the complexities surrounding Atticus Finch’s character in a 2015 post.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 3/5/2018: An Oscar Hangover, A Panamanian Mess, An Australian Play, And A 7-11 Moment

Hello!

1 Let’s get the Oscars out of the way. I didn’t watch, choosing instead to finish streaming Netflix’s excellent “Seven Seconds.” I have skimmed the transcript and checked the reporting, however, and these items leap out..

  • On the “red carpet,” Ryan Seacrest was snubbed by the majority of the stars he tried to chat with them. Seacrest was accused of sexual harassment by his ex-personal hair stylist last year. His employer hired an independent counsel to investigate, and could not confirm her allegations, so he kept his job.Never mind: he was snubbed like a leprous skunk at a picnic anyway.

This is a flagrant Golden Rule fail. Not one of the over twenty stars who walked by him while he was trying to do his job would feel fairly treated if they had been in his position. It also is as perfect and example as there is of how the #MeToo movement is a witch hunt, not interested in facts, or fairness, just power and the ability to destroy without due process.

If I was going to watch the Oscars, the treatment of Seacrest in the pre-show would have changed my mind. These are awful people. To hell with them.

  • The disgusting and smug Jimmy Kimmel hosted, because he’s “America’s Conscience of America” despite seeking ratings by encouraging parents to be cruel to their own children for his amusement.

He began the night with a penis joke.

  • As I noted in yesterday’s Warm-Up, the Oscars are now part of the effort to divide the nation. Bigotry is good, as long as it’s trendy bigotry:

…Presenting the best director award, Emma Stone introduced the nominees as “these four men and Greta Gerwig.” Nice. Misandry is funny! (Gerwig lost. GOOD.)

Maya Rudolph assured the presumably racist white viewers, “Don’t worry, there are so many more white people to come.” Bite me, Maya.

…And, of course, “Get Out!,” the racist film that I have already written about more than it deserves, won Best Screenplay, because representing all white people as monsters is award-worthy.

  • In the past I have devoted whole posts to the Academy’s snubs in its “In Memoriam” segment, which is supposedly Hollywood’s final salute to film artists who made their final exits. At this point, I really don’t care what the Academy does, but the loved ones and fans of the snubees care, and that should matter to the Academy. Here is the complete list of omissions that at least someone has complained about. I’ve highlighted the ones who really should have been included:

Bill Paxton
Stephen Furst
Powers Boothe
Juanita Quigley
Ty Hardin
Francine York
Miguel Ferrer
Skip Homeier
Anne Jeffreys
Lola Albright
Lorna Gray
Dina Merrill
Conrad Brooks
Robert Guillaume
John Hillerman
Jim Nabors
Rose Marie
Adam West
David Ogden Stiers
Dorothy Malone
Della Reese
Dick Enberg
Tobe Hooper

The names fall into five categories. Bill Paxton is in one of his own: he was left out of the list due to a silly technicality: he died right before last year’s Oscars, so it was too late to include him in 2017, and some jerk decided that since he was a 2017 death, he couldn’t be honored this year either.  The second category is flat-out mistakes: Dorothy Malone won a Best Actress Oscar; if that isn’t enough to be listed, what is? Director Tobe Hooper was responsible for a film that revolutionized horror movies, “The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre,” and also directed “Poltergeist.” He was an important director. When two of your films launched sequels, remakes, sequels to remakes, and endless knock-offs, Hollywood should show some respect: it made millions because of Tobe Hooper.

Category 3: John Hillerman and Powers Boothe were successful and prolific film actors in some major movies, though both are remembered best for their TV work. There is no good argument for omitting them.  In the fourth category are TV actors who made a few mostly  forgettable films: West, Jeffreys, Merrill, Ferrer and Hardin. I can see the argument: they will be honored at the Emmys.

Stephen Furst deserves a category all his own. He played a memorable character in a classic, iconic film: “Flounder” in “Animal House.” That should have been enough to earn a place in the roll call.

That’s it for the 2018 Academy Awards.

Let us never speak of it again. Continue reading

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KABOOM! Brandeis Cancels A Play About Political Correctness Because Students And Faculty Protested That It Wasn’t Politically Correct

I do want to thank Curmie, our esteemed drop-in commenter who is a drama teacher and chronicler of ethics outrages from the world of education, for ambushing me with this head-exploding story from Brandeis University. And my head had been doing so well.

Playwright Michael Weller had received a Creative Arts Award from Brandeis, and when he wrote a  a play, “Buyer Beware,” that satirized the political climate on U.S. campuses the University scheduled it to make its premiere there. The satire concerns a student who discovers the works of  iconic 50s era comedian Lenny Bruce, and attempts to stage a  production in the spirit of the taboo-challenging comic. The production offends  students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the Brandeis-like university, which worries that the controversy will offend a crucial donor. The script, channeling Bruce (think George Carlin but more abrasive, and not as funny) called for a white character to use “nigger” in several instances. The play quotes Bruce’s famous manifesto against strictures against mere words: “Imagine if we just kept saying these words over and over again, sooner or later they’d become meaningless noise.”

Without reading the script, it appears, so many students protested that Brandeis administrators, proving that their spines and principles were noodle-flexible, capitulated and cancelled the production, when the statements of the protesters should have made it obvious that such a play was desperately needed. For example, Andrew Childs is an Undergraduate Department Representative for the Theater Arts Department and a member of the season’s play selection committee, told the student newspaper,

“The issue we all have with it is that [Weller] is an older, straight…, able-bodied and white man. [ Wait! Isn’t it okay to be white?] It isn’t his place to be stirring the pot.”

What are they teaching at Brandeis? Only certain genders and races can “stir the pot”? Continue reading

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Is “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” Being Produced By The Most Unethical Theater Company There Is?

Atlanta’s Out Front Theatre Company’s production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told”  opens on April 27, but Paul Rudnick’s 1998 silly comedy that recasts Bible stories with all gay characters is being protested as blasphemous. The outraged in this case is the conservative Catholic group America Needs Fatima, whose members are particularly offended by the spoof’s portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a lesbian. It has an online petition demanding that Out Front’s Artistic Director Paul Conroy cancel the production.

Sure. Like that’s going to happen.

“I fear God’s wrath will fall upon us if reparation is not made,” the hysterical screed concludes. Over 40,000 hysterics have signed it. Yes, I’m sure that God has nothing better to do than to punish humanity for a theatrical production of a 20 year-old comedy in Atlanta. The group then threatens to oppose the play “loudly, peacefully, and legally in as large a protest as we can help make possible” if the production goes forward. Idiocy, of course. Last I heard, nobody is forcing anyone to go to see the play, and the First Amendment is pretty clear about the ability of the law to censor performances based on content. The contention from the religious right in this case mirrors the Left’s fervent efforts at the moment to censor speakers they don’t agree with and “hate speech.”

If you don’t think that you will enjoy a play, the remedy is not to go see it. Simple as that. Trying to interfere with the production in any way, or to prevent those who want to see a production in which Adam and Eve become Adam and Steve, is unethical. It is also directly contrary to the principles the United States was founded to ensure.

Okay, that settles that.

Now about Out Front Theater Company….

Continue reading

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