Sexist Broadway Musical Lyric Ethics: Carousel’s “Soliloquy”

“Soliloquy,” also known as “My Boy Bill,” may be my favorite Broadway musical song of all time. (I don’t know, it’s between that and “Losing My Mind” from Sondheim’s “Follies.”) It certainly is among the most ambitious of all the songs from the genre, an emotionally wide-ranging, musical equivalent of a Shakespearean  monologue. Both the song’s lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein, and especially its composer, Richard Rodgers, were at the top of their form when they created it, and the top of their form can match any songwriter who ever lived. It’s also a tour de force for the singer, a seven-and-a-half minute musical mountain that only the very best even dare try to scale

The song comes at a key moment in the plot of “Carousel,” when the brutish and none-too-bright hero, Billy Bigelow, has learned that his wife is pregnant. The arrested-development adolescent muses about the joys and ultimately the responsibilities of his impending fatherhood, and having accepted the fact that his child might be a girl, makes a fateful vow at the song’s climax: Continue reading

Paige Spiranac, The King’s Pass, Self-Promotion And The Not So Great But Incredibly Hot Female Pro Golfer Principle

Well,  Paige, if you read Ethics Alarms, which I’m sure is popular fare on the ladies’ pro golf tour, you would know the answer. To the average member of the public, yes, being a winner absolutely ‘holds more weight” than being a good person.

Your sport is golf, not baseball, but a famous baseball manager said, “Nice guys finish last.” It’s not football, either, but an even more famous football coach said, “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.” [Aside: the quote is most frequently identified with Vince Lombardi, and it is very likely that he used it. Late in his career, however, he rejected that sentiment in favor of more measured statements, On the Lombardi website there are many quotes about winning, bu not that one. Lombardi wasn’t the originator anyway: UCLA football coach Henry ‘Red’ Sanders was, around 1950.]

In general, though, in  and out of sports, what you have articulated is “The King’s Pass,” or “The Star Syndrome,” which is one of the Ethics Alarms rationalizations, as well as one of the five most common and most damaging on the entire list of 100. It says, in the short version,

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head. In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.

Paige Spiranac comes to her lament from an interesting perspective.  The 26-year old is a former golfer on the women’s pro tour. When she was competing, she often complained that she wasn’t taken seriously because of her appearance. That seems to be half true: she wasn’t taken seriously because of her appearance and because she was suspected of being more interested in building a career as a sex symbol than as a golfer. This is part of our culture’s sexism problem. Beautiful women are stereotyped and seen as sexual objects first and serious professionals second, if at all. Yet some beautiful women exploit their attractiveness to advance in their profession. That’s a valid choice, but they can’t ethically complain that people see their face and form rather than their skill and character when they are the ones putting the former on prominent display.

Eventually Paige decided that her middling success on the links would be over-shadowed profit-wise by her moving into the bathing suit modeling, fashion, and social influencer areas. I have no idea why she decided to strike out on that course. By the way, here’s Paige in her old career…

…and her new one:

Continue reading

Ethics Note To Feminists: When You Don’t Protest Misogyny Against All Women, We’ll Doubt Your Motives The Rest Of The Time

This is Tom Arnold. You remember him, right?

Like accusations of racism and xenophobia, claims of sexism, gender bias and misogyny are increasingly useful to activists as swords as well as shields. Especially egregious recently have been the claims of Elizabeth Warren and her supporters that it was bias against women, and her not her own redolent awfulness as a candidate and a human being, that had the Massachusetts Senator running behind an ancient Marxist and poor, addled Joe Biden.

This is a problem when the objective is to build a fairer and a more ethical culture. Contrived accusations of sexism makes society more leery of genuine and justified complaints. Worse still is when alleged women’s activists shrug off or ignore the sexist attacks on women who they don’t admire or agree with.

The hypocrisy was in evidence when the repugnant HBO progressive scold Bill Maher referred to conservative women Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann as “cunts” and “twats” while his audience of enablers hooted. Feminist groups were silent until criticism from people like me (not me, but people like me who actually have more readers than the population of Mayberry) prompted a couple of them to make mild statements chiding Bill. Two years ago Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond made a disgusting sexist joke about Kellyanne Conway, no feminist activists, nor Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris or any prominent progressive women, criticized Richmond. Conway, like palin and Bachmann, deserved to be denigrated because of their gender, apparently.

Over the weekend, B-list celebrity Tom Arnold issued this tweet:

Nice. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Joe Biden

“You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier!”

—-Fading Democratic Presidential nomination front-runner Joe Biden, lashing out at a New Hampshire voter whose questions annoyed him.

First, the important question: what the hell is a “pony soldier”? The answer is “nobody knows.” Nor does anyone know why this insult, epithet, whatever it is, leapt into Joe’s mind, but then it’s Joe Biden. Who can say what vestigial RNA from his prospector ancestors are knocking around in Biden’s gray matter? He thinks “malarkey” is hip slang; I’m waiting for him to start shouting “By crackie!, “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!” and “Tarnation!”

I found a website that attributed “pony soldier” to a John Wayne movie—no, you morons, the Duke’s movie was “The Horse Soldiers.” “Pony Soldier” is a forgettable 1952 Western starring Tyrone Power. Nobody, but nobody, quotes  Tyrone Power movies, and Power had as much business starring in a Western as David Niven. So it looks like this is just a spontaneous nonsense insult, like in “A Few Good Men” when Tom Cruise shouts, “You’re a lousy fucking softball player, Jack!” at Kevin Bacon after an argument  that has nothing to do with softball.

Now on to the incident itself. Today Biden was handshaking and chatting at a pre-New Hampshire primary stop in Hampton. A woman asked him,“How do you explain the performance in Iowa and why should the voters believe that you can win a national election?”

It’s a fair question, since the only reason on God’s green earth that anyone would seriously  consider a doddering, blathering, fading and rapidly aging old pol like Biden as a  rational nominee is that he would be preferable to the Doomsday Meteor.

“You ever been to a caucus?” Biden replied. When the voter said she had,  Biden snapped, “No you haven’t. You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier!” Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The CNN Democratic Candidates Debate [Corrected]

The full debate transcript is here.

(Or you could read “Moby-Dick” instead,  here, which I highly recommend.)

  • After enduring a long analysis of the December debate, the Ethics Alarms assembled shouldn’t need a sequel so soon— I don’t know what the Democrats think they’re accomplishing by having two of these guaranteed fiascos within a three-week period.

Virtually everything said last night we’ve heard before; every impression of this weak,weak,weak slate of candidates was already established.

  • Yes, it’s good to have the field whittled down to a manageable six, but it also wrapped in neon the hypocrisy of the Democratic party. The party of women  had just two women on stage, one a near impossible dark horse, and the other old, white, and whether Bernie said so or not, unelectable. The party “of color” had  no black, Asian, Native American  or Hispanic representatives on stage (, I won’t make the obvious Elizabeth Warren crack, only allude to it here, which I guess is the same thing.) The supposed party of the young presented four candidates over 70. The party that hates the rich had one billionaire and three millionaires among the six. The party that wants to smother the First Amendment right to spend money to promote political candidates (or attack them) by voiding Citizens United includes one aforementioned billionaire who has literally bought his way into the debates, and another, Mike Bloomberg, lurking in the wings.

This is not, in short, a party of integrity. Res ipsa loquitur. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: That Peloton Commercial

Hmmmm.

As regular readers here know, I often criticize TV ads for sending unethical messages or endorsing unethical conduct. I have even been accused of being hypersensitive on the subject. With the controversial Peloton commercial above,  I missed it, if there was  an it to miss.

The surprising thing is that a lot of the objections to the ad are coming from the Right. If I had bothered to think about the Peloton commercial, I would have perhaps detected that it was sexist, with a critical husband demanding that his already apparent fit and lovely wife get in better shape, and she dutifully complying. Indeed the Left was annoyed: Yashir Ali, who writes for HuffPo and New York Magazine (and you know what THAT means) captured the spirit of the objections:

Another tweeter wrote, “So sweet. My husband was inspired by the Peloton ad to get me a pair of pants in a child’s medium and a handwritten note that says “Don’t fucking touch me till you can fit into these.”

The Right, however, was equally disdainful. Allahpundit wrote,

The weird part is the … eagerness with which she shows her gratitude. It’s lovely to be grateful for an expensive gift, but she’s *really* grateful and *really, really* wants her husband to know it. It’s not just that she feels compelled to record herself using the bike repeatedly over a span of many months. She looks curiously anxious doing it, even when smiling into the camera. At the end of the clip, when she finally shows him the footage, her eyes are trained on his reaction, seemingly desperate for his approval. Is, um… How do I put this? Is everything okay between these two?

Another conservative wag, Steven Kruiser, wrote, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2019: “Happy Birthday Little Sister!” Edition

Good Morning!

Today marks the birthday of my younger sister, whom I have referred to here frequently. Growing up with her and following her life and career imbued me with an early and ongoing appreciation of the effects of sexism and pro-male bias in society, and I’m indebted to her for that. She has always equaled or surpassed me in ability and enterprise, yet often watched me receive more credit or praise for the same things she could do and did without similar acclaim. I know she resented me for that (probably still does—she won’t read Ethics Alarms, for example), and it frequently bruised our relationship over the years. She also taught me about moral luck: in general, I have been persistently  lucky, and she has not, and the difference was so evident that I learned very early in life not to congratulate myself for how the dice fell. She is finally happy in retirement, is about to welcome the first grandchild for this generation of Marshalls, her two adult children are healthy and prospering, and her beloved Nationals just forced a Game 7 in the World Series. She will have a happy birthday. Good. She deserves it.

1. Tales of the double standard, and the imaginary double standard. MSNBC and much of the progressive noise machine has decided to paint Rep. Katie Hill as a victim of a “vast right wing conspiracy,” in Hillary’s immortal phrase, and a vicious husband. If he indeed was the one who shared the salacious photos of Hill involved in various sex acts,  vicious he certainly is. But how can anyone say, as lawyer Carrie Goldberg does, that  “Katie Hill was taken down by three things: an abusive ex, a misogynist far-right media apparatus, and a society that was gleeful about sexually humiliating a young woman in power…None of those elements would be here if it were a male victim. It is because she is female that this happened’? Nonsense, and deceptive nonsense.

Hill resigned because a House ethics investigation was underway regarding her admitted sexual affair with a Congressional staffer and an alleged affair with her legislative director. She was not going to be kicked out of Congress for either or both; she probably resigned in part because she knew the investigation was going to turn up more and worse. The Naked Congresswoman Principle also played a part, as I discussed here. Does anyone really believe that equivalent photos of a male member of Congress displaying his naughty bits in flagrante delicto (my late, great, law school roomie loved saying that phrase) with both sexes would be shrugged off by his constituents and the news media? Who are they kidding?

Hill was arrogant and reckless, and is paying the predictable price, though she was not smart enough to predict it. Trail-blazers—I’m not sure being the first openly bi-sexual member of Congress is much  of a trail to blaze, but never mind—are always under special scrutiny and have to avoid scandal at all costs. Did Hill ever hear of Jackie Robinson? Allowing those photos to come into existence showed terrible judgment; using her staff as a dating resource was hypocritical for a member of the  #MeToo party and workplace misconduct too.

The fact that she is being defended tells us all we need to know about the integrity of her  defenders. Continue reading