Cancel This

Women who claimed abuse or even bullying used to be seen as fragile, suspect, or asking for it.

Men who even claimed they were bullied were seen as weak, pathetic, not one of the boys and, well let’s just say it, GAY.

And in some neighborhoods, dinner tables, and as we now know, New York State governor’s offices, this is still true.

This time… maybe try to do something?

But we’ll get to NY’s 63-year-old Andrew Cuomo’s “flirting” within the confines of his lair with a young female aide who is a sexual abuse survivor (Note: Meaning asking about her dating and sex life while confessing he was lonely) in a moment.

Not so long ago, the right to speak out and be heard about any of the above subjects, and others, was viewed as one positive way our society had evolved into a more inclusive and just era.   A more perfect union, to quote our Founding Fathers.

Not close to perfect but not bad for a society that was founded on slavery and didn’t even allow women to vote until less than 100 years ago.

Forget about what it did to the gays and still hasn’t done for non-whites.

Doing my best Pete Campbell here

Yet here we are, backing into 2021, and finding ourselves in still yet another age.

One in which continuing to speak out on any of the above subjects has been officially slapped with this new and relentlessly un-clever phrase – CANCEL CULTURE.

This is a term founded on a proposition that it will stop us dead in our tracks and prevent us from achieving anything close to what our forefathers envisioned for us nearly 300 years later.

You, the accusers, want to tell us, nee order us, how to behave and if we don’t adhere to your strict set of politically correct guidelines, you want to EXTERMINATE US!

Cue the audience heads exploding!

In other words, you claimers, you complainers, are no better than Nazis.  In fact, YOU are the Nazis of freedom of speech and behavior.  Not us.

You want to tell us how to speak, what to do and even what to eat.

Well, I guess it’s no accident the Trumps plowed down Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden as soon as they could. 

Just as it’s not a coincidence House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy posted a video of himself this weekend reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.

Oh the places you’ll go!

Never mind that it was Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the late author’s own family company, that decided to pull six of the least popular of his hundreds of books for racial stereotyping the good doctor himself recognized during his life.

Rep. McCarthy had a cancel culture point to make and gosh, darn it, he was gonna make it even if he had to read from one of the books that WASN’T cancelled.

In essence, it’s that anyone who complains about racism, sexism, homophobia or anything of the like in the public sphere wants to rub out American life as they’ve always known it. 

BYEEEEEE

They want to cancel American history, cancel American freedom and soon cancel the very definition of the American Way.

Well, if it means we cease to evolve as a country and stay mired in racism, sexism, homophobia and the way things have always been done then um, yeah, Kevin, sounds good to me.

As Nike, one of our great American corporations you love to brag about to the world (Note: Their embrace of Colin Kaepernick, not withstanding) tells us, JUST DO IT!

This works too

I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years and here is what someone named Neil Brown wrote in the comments section just this past week:

Mmm, another LGBTXYZ “person” who thinks they have anything good to add. Sorry, kid, but you don’t…

Interestingly enough, this comment was not directed at any particular subject I had written on.  Instead it was posted in the About section where, among other things, I define myself as an opinionist, screenwriter, writing teacher and… gay man living in L.A.

Imagine if I had listed the gay part, first?

Live images from Neil’s house

By the way, if you’re looking for Neil’s contribution you won’t find it because I blocked him.  I’m all for discourse, especially with those who strongly disagree with what I have to say, but it occurred to me a few years ago it’s not worth what precious time we have here arguing with morons.

Yet Neil does have the distinction of reminding me for the umpteenth time of what I’ve known practically my entire life.

As a gay person there is nastiness, marginalization, hatred and if one is really targeted, violence around every corner.

You’re throwing softballs here!

This is not even close to being the worst thing I’ve been called over the decades.  It’s just the latest minor example in a slew of major comments and actions I’ve been experiencing about my, mmm, “personage” since I was about 10 years old (Note: That I know of).  Certainly, it wouldn’t even make it on a list ofthings others in the LGBTQ community have experienced in their lifetimes.

Yet if the mere notion of a gay person speaking on anything is enough to so ruffle Neil’s feathers that he is motivated to sit down and actually vent his ire on a blog that he rarely, if ever, reads, what happens when one of those persons says something within shouting range, or does something that could potentially affect or alter he and his brethren’s way of doing things?

You see where this is going.  Or has gone.

Me, everyday?

Gov. Cuomo is not as bad as Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby. 

There’s no proof that Woody Allen committed the crime of abusing his then 7-year-old daughter, even though she says so.  And even though he is now married to her stepsister, who he met when she was a teenager and bedded when she was barely the legal age of consent and was writer-director-star of a quite famous box-office hit, Manhattan, centering on a forty something writer who has a very intense love relationship with a not yet legal 17-year-old girl, back in 1979.  What does that prove? 

That Mr. Allen was just past the age of his fictional doppelganger when he had sex with his stepdaughter and was accused of abusing his daughter?

So?????

(Note: Read about the normalization of that movie romance from a very good female writer here)

Does not pass the smell test

Andrew Cuomo never touched that young female aide in his office and the photo that captured him touching the face of a different female NY state employee at a wedding who said she didn’t want to be touched and didn’t welcome his accompanying question of, May I kiss you, doesn’t mean HE did anything wrong.

Though certainly, it’s not very strong evidence that he did anything right, either.

Which brings us back to the subject of what is wrong and what is right, what is legal vs. illegal and how we act on, speak about and rectify our beliefs about these issues. 

Well, I’m no judge and was only once a member of a jury (Note: Where we ruled an insurance company had to pay this poor family they had turned their back on millions of dollars.  So don’t get me started). 

How I see myself on a jury

But it seems to me that even if we adopted the cancel culture mindset the pink slip cuts both ways.  If you’re engaging in status quo behavior others object to and you feel right to air your grievances against them, you can’t cancel those others from speaking out on what they think.

That wouldn’t be fair, that wouldn’t be just and it certainly threatens us with an entirely new cultural definition – one of the imperfect union. (Note:  No, this is not directed at Woody and Soon-Yi unless YOU choose to SAY it is).

I don’t pretend to know the way forward.  But what I am sure about is that any time your only essential retort back at criticism is you’re being too sensitive, I didn’t realize or that’s the way it’s always been you’re on shaky ground. 

And will wind up cancelling yourself before too long.

Paul Simon – 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Check out the Chair’s newest project, Pod From a Chair , now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

It Can Happen To Anyone

press2

This is our rare Stop the Presses post.  For those times when even the Chair feels compelled to speak mid-week.

The national zeitgeist exploded this weekend with three huge stories – well, actually two huge stories and a third that promised to be.  They were:

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 12.29.23 PM

  1. The Super Bowl
  2. The untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman
  3. The first extended public accusation from a now adult Dylan Farrow that the filmmaker and then “adopted” father Woody Allen sexually molested her when she was 7 years old.

In case you were wondering, the Super Bowl emerged as the one unexciting non-story of the three even though it turned out to be the most watched program in television history with 115.2 million viewers.

But there was little excitement watching the Seattle Seahawks trounce the Denver Broncos 43-8.  How could there be when the winner of a contest is never in doubt?  It made even the commercials feel dull and expected.

Not so with a lifeless Mr. Hoffman, found slumped over in the bathroom of his NYC apartment with a needle in his arm and up to fifty baggies of heroine on the premises.  Nor was it the case with Ms. Farrow’s riveting written outcries and accusations against Mr. Allen and the litany of beloved movie stars who still choose to work with him, as posted  on Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times blog.

We don’t like dull and expected, at least in this country.   But we do love a good celebrity anything.  Which is the primary reason why the zeitgeist is still reeling, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, from Mr. Hoffman’s demise and Ms. Farrow’s grizzly tale of personal family drama.

I don’t mean to sound heartless or unmoved by these two tragedies.  They’re awful, and tragic and worth any series of emotional, physical or verbal reactions people are throwing out onto social media or in person to friends and family.  And I count myself as one among those people.

But still –

They. Happen. To. Everyone.

Tragedy knows no prejudice.

Tragedy knows no prejudice.

Drugs?  Sexual abuse?  This horrible stuff is in the news daily.   Plus, we already knew that Mr. Hoffman has had severe drug problems in the past and as recently as six months ago did a stint in rehab.   We were also aware for years Ms. Farrow and her family believed Mr. Allen sexually abused her and that in the last three months both her mother Mia Farrow and her brother Ronan Farrow have publicly taken to Twitter and Vanity Fair in order to advance Dylan’s accusations back onto the national stage against the seemingly constantly lauded Mr. Allen.

The only real connection to the public zeitgeist here – and it is not shocking at all – is that both of these stories involve celebrity.

We all have a very screwed up idea of what it means to be famous, privileged, wealthy and/or talented in this country.  And it’s only getting worse.  But here are some truisms I try to remember after many decades working among them in the business called, not coincidentally, show.

  1. You might feel like you know a famous person by their work or reputation but in reality you know very little about the real them.  In some cases, they may know very little about the real them.  Or they may know a lot but they are choosing not to share it with you.  That emotional connection you feel through their art is wonderful – but it is the art you’re connected to, not the person.  And art can’t overdose.
  2. Being privileged and wealthy is a double-edged sword.  So is celebrity. Nothing at all comes without a downside.  It is certainly more comfortable to grow up in a sumptuous Manhattan apartment or a mansion in Beverly Hills but it is not always an environment more enviable than your parents’ ranch home in the dull suburbs or the cramped two bedroom/one bathroom you shared with them and a sibling.  Though it is possible that it might be a more desirable environment.  Once again, the fact is that you never will know for sure.
  3.  Think about the worst photo of yourself ever taken and consider whether you’d want to see it blown up several feet bigger at a bad angle for all the world to see and comment about on every social media platform known to man.  (Note: Yes, you might already duplicate and post larger than life versions of yourself publicly in varying degrees of duress or undress… or your friends might) but the world is not terribly interested.
  4. Okay, now that you’ve done that think of the worst thing that has ever happened to you and consider doing the same thing with it – at least metaphorically. (Note: That is, if you can even think of a metaphor.  If not, just use the actual moments of the event and treat it like an endless, tawdry stream of pictures and posts and gossip and news stories on Facebook, Twitter, Entertainment Tonight, The New York Times and The Nightly News that will never quite disappear).

The L.A. Times’ Kenneth Turan on Monday published an appreciation of the many brilliant and diverse roles the mega-talented Mr. Hoffman played in the movies and onstage in his 46 short years.  The headline of the story read: He Could Be Anyone.

PSH poses for a tintype portrait during the recent 2014 Sundance Film Festival

PSH poses for a tintype portrait during the recent 2014 Sundance Film Festival

This did much more than address Mr. Hoffman’s talents for transformation as an actor.  It commented on his death, Ms. Farrow’s past traumas (change the pronoun to “she”), and on any number of public scandals we’ve become fascinated by in each passing year.  Just like the story of what happened to your friend, relative, or casual acquaintance from the neighborhood or office, there is no simple answer as to why.  Nor is there a truly satisfying explanation for any of it

Food for thought.