Tag Archives: plays

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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If You Know Anything About Ethics, You Don’t Even Ask These Questions, Because You Know The Answers Already

virtual reality

Darrell West, a Brookings scholar, believe it or not, queries, “What happens when virtual reality crosses into unethical territory?” It is the topic of his essay, but the question is self-answering. Virtual reality is, by definition, not real. Ethics is about determining right and wrong in reality, in interaction with real people, real consequences and real dilemmas in the real world.

West doesn’t seem to grasp that, and neither, according to him, does the playwright of a work being presented in my metaphorical back yard: Jennifer Haley, who authored “The Nether” playing at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, D.C. West tells us that Haley

“…explores the troubling questions that arise when the main character known as Papa uses advanced software to create a fantasy environment where adult clients molest young children and then kill them….  Should there be limits on human fantasies involving heinous thoughts? Do fantasies that remain in the private realm of someone’s brain warrant any rules or regulations by society as a whole?  Even if the bad behavior rests solely in one individual’s private thoughts, does that thinking pose a danger to other people? For example, there is some evidence that repeated exposure to pornography is associated with harmful conduct towards women and that it legitimizes violent attitudes and behaviors. Does that evidence mean we should worry about misogynistic or violent virtual reality experiences? Will these “games” make it more acceptable for people to engage in actual harmful behaviors?”

These are not troubling questions or even difficult questions, unless one is intrigued by the Orwellian offense of “thought crime.” Here, for the edification of West, Haley, those nascent brainwashers out there who find his ethically clueless essay thought-provoking of any thought other than: “How the hell did this guy get to be called a “scholar”?, let me provide quick and reassuring answers to West’s questions: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Samuel French, Inc.

collage

A ridiculous and offensive example of misuse of legal process and interference with free speech was just flagged by self-exiled Ethics Alarms star, Barry “Ampersand” Deutsch on his blog.

In her one woman play Thatswhatshesaid, playwright Courtney Meaker cherry-picked lines from the female characters in the eleven most-produced plays of past theater season, according to one list, anyway. She mashed them up for effect, the effect being to show how “society forces women to conform to certain harmful and paradoxical gender stereotypes, and America’s most popular plays reflect those stereotypes. Playwrights perpetuate the patriarchy by creating roles for women that reduce them to one version or another of male fantasy or fear, and playhouses make sure those plays have a home.”

Okaaay, I think I’ll be passing on that one! Nevertheless, re-arranging bits and pieces of other copyrighted works to create a different work and message from any of the components is such a well-traveled and obvious tool of the modern arts that to say this play’s content is fair use, legal and ethical should be completely unnecessary. Collages that do this (see above) have been accepted as routine; musical works and videos too. Here’s a favorite of mine…

But law, ethics and art didn’t stop Samuel French, the theatrical publishing company which licenses some of the plays quoted in Thatswhatshesaid. The company  sent a last minute cease-and-desist notice right before a performance, demanding the play not be presented, and also left a threatening message on the voicemail of the show’s sole performer, Erin Pike, promising to “go after” her, “the presenter and the theater and all the folks connected to it.” Despite being warned by the theater not to defy the mighty French, Pike made sure her show went on anyway, like any good and courageous artist should.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

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The Greensboro College “It Stops Here” Ethics Train Wreck

Everybody’s unethical here.

As usual, however, it starts at the top.

It Stops HereGreensboro College in North Carolina  adopted a new policy on student sexual misconduct, and it requires all first year students to attend a performance of  a one hour play, “It Stops Here,” written and directed by student Michaela Richards, based upon “accounts of sexual assault submitted by survivors.”

Ethics Foul 1 (Greensboro): A female-authored play based on “survivors” accounts is a one-sided, biased and ideological work by its very nature. Do we know that the real incidents are being fairly represented, or would the claims of a “Mattress Girl” be included? Presumably proof of “sexual assault” is being validated by the infamous “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama Administration that has led to multiple examples of male students being harshly punished in violation of basic due process principles.  It is entirely written from a woman’s/alleged victim’s point of view, and thus certain to be received as hostile and unfair by male students.

Ethics principles violated: Responsibility, honesty, fairness, competence.

Ethics Foul II (Greensboro): Using a work of fiction to inform students about a policy is incompetent. Fiction is always infused with the viewpoint, agendas and biases of the playwright; in this case, such a work is bound to be political. A sincere effort to instruct students on policy should have no political content at all.

Ethics principles violated: Abuse of power, responsibility, respect, competence.

Ethics Foul III: Forced viewing of a work of art isn’t instruction, but indoctrination. In a play, any audience member should have the option of walking out. This is especially true of a play written and performed by amateurs. “The student actors on stage are telling stories of an extremely sensitive nature that should be viewed in a respectful manner,” the president of the college said. “We expect no less of our students, who should know better than to make light of an extremely serious subject that affects us all.” WRONG. Forcing students to watch a play consisting of a slanted view of the sexual assault issue on campus is not respectful. It is, in fact, an insult and a provocation.

Ethics principles violated (Greensboro): Abuse of power, respect, fairness, prudence, regard for personal autonomy.

When people, especially young people and especially American young people who, thank heaven, are still imbued by the culture with a natural detestation of arrogant authority and the courage to defy it, are commanded to do something they shouldn’t be, like to watch an agitprop play, they tend to resist. They did, too:

Members of the audience frequently heckled the cast and shouted sexually explicit remarks.“Many of the boys started calling out ‘She wanted it, it’s not rape,’ and making masturbation noises,” stage manager Claire Sellers told a local news station. Sellers said the remarks were so excessive that cast members “became physically ill and vomited after the show because they were so vulgar.”

Continue reading

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