Tag Archives: vaudeville

My Mickey Rooney (1920-2014) Post: “Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly”

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney...

Some of the many faces of Mickey Rooney…

Ethics Alarms has almost 15,000 tags, which means that a lot of diverse topics hard been discussed here in connection with ethics issues. Saddened as I was to learn of the passing of the great Mickey Rooney, truly one of the most talented and versatile individuals in entertainment history and the last of MGM musical stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I can’t justify honoring his ethics; by all accounts, Mickey was not as admirable a human being as he was a performer. Still, Ethics Alarms has a Mickey Rooney post, from 2011, and when I read it over just now, I still liked it. Thus I will honor Mickey by reposting my defense  of perhaps his most criticized performance. For one of his best, watch this. Yes, Judy’s in it too. (TCM has made everyone take down their Mickey clips, but so far, this Russian pirate site still has it. I know, I know—but Mickey would approve. This ethical breach is for you, Mick…) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire, U.S. Society

Ethics, Stereotypes, and Holly Golightly

"Andy Hardy, the Asian Years"

A Bronx woman, Ursula Liang, has started a petition against Brooklyn Bridge Park’s “Movies With A View” series showing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 Audrey Hepburn classic that gave us “Moon River” and one of actress Hepburn’s most endearing performances. Why? Well, the movie, which has long been popular for summer screenings in New York City and elsewhere, also contains a pre-political correctness performance by Mickey Rooney as Holly Golightly’s comic Japanese neighbor, “Mr. Yunioshi.”

Rooney’s performance, in my opinion, was cringe-worthy even in 1961, one of director Blake Edwards’ not uncommon excesses in vaudeville humor, placed in a context where it didn’t belong. It is a scar on an otherwise marvelous film, but there is nothing inherently wrong with comic stereotypes. Stereotypes are a staple of comedy, and have been forever; the question is whether a particular stereotype is cruel, gratuitous, harmful, or funny. Some stereotypes are cruel and funny. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, History, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Race, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

The Evolving Ethics of Joke Theft

Kal Raustiala, a Professor at UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute, and Chris Sprigman, a Professor at the University of Virginia Law School, are counterfeiting and intellectual property experts who hang out at the Freakonomics blog, and their latest post discusses how the world of stand-up comedy deals with joke theft. Some of the commentary will remind you of the Monty Python sketch in which a professor dryly lectures (with demonstrations) on the art of slapstick, but their observation is important: professional comics have developed a series of standards, enforced informally by such methods as shunning, shaming, and confrontation (and the occasional punch in the face) to discourage theft of a form of intellectual property that cannot be efficiently protested by copyright or trademark law. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, The Internet

South Carolina’s Brilliant/Ridiculous Law

I haven’t decided if it is unethical for a state legislature to pass laws that are so ridiculous that they undermine the legitimacy of democratic government, but if it is, then South Carolina meets the standard.

A new law is now on the books there, called the “Subversive Activities Registration Act.” It requires terrorists in South Carolina to register with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office before they start plotting to violently overthrow the government, or risk a $25,000 fine:

“Every member of a subversive organization, or an organization subject to foreign control, every foreign agent and every person who advocates, teaches, advises or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means, who resides, transacts any business or attempts to influence political action in this State, shall register with the Secretary of State on the forms and at the times prescribed by him.”

But never fear, you terrorists: all you have to do is fill out this form, and send in your $5.00 processing fee.

On reflection, I think the statute is unethical, because its description of subversive organizations is so broad and confusing that it would be prudent for any member of a political party or employee of a foreign corporation to pay the $5.00 just to avoid the hassle of having to prove that the law is unconstitutional. Thus South Carolina can pick up millions of dollars thanks to a badly (but perhaps intentionally badly?) written law of dubious legality.

[The theory behind the registration requirement might be a slightly inflated version of the classic Depression-era vaudeville sketch, “Pay the Two Dollars!”written by Billy K. Wells. A man is unjustly fined $2.00 for spitting on the subway, but his lawyer insists that he plead innocent. As the court battle keeps incurring increasing penalties and greater expense, the man keeps begging his lawyer, “Pay the two dollars!” ]

(Ethics Alarms thanks  Popehat for finding this.)

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics