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!

We’re all uncomfortable

If you refuse to watch art from people you in some way disapprove of, only Tom Hanks and Julie Andrews are left.   

-– The Chair

Make me watch Forrest Gump or The Ladykillers again and I’d probably punch you in the face.

Not to mention, Hawaii and the 1980 remake of Little Miss Marker would be a very tough slog.  (Note: Sorry, Jules).

And truly, if you’re going to watch some classic films why not simply go to the acknowledged mainstream top of the list choices.  Perhaps Chinatown or even… ROSEMARY’S BABY?????????

What’d’ya say Mrs. Mulwray?

Uh, oh.  Both films were directed by Roman Polanski and Mr. Polanski is best known these days by a new generation of filmgoers as the man who had sex with an underage girl and fled the U.S. before he could be properly punished for it.

Rightly or wrongly – and it’s not either one – this issue came up recently in a writing class when we were analyzing story elements of a classic sequence in Rosemary’s Baby where the lead character is raped by….

Well, who did it is not important for the subject of this discussion.  The pertinent part was the past deeds of this director and how much his personal actions influence what a viewer now sees or can’t see in the piece of art being offered to us.

This film still kind of says it all #ugh #uncomfortable

My knee jerk reaction is that we must separate the art from the artist and realize that times change, truth reveals itself in increments and people who live in glass houses, which means ALL of us, shouldn’t throw stones.

On the other hand, to NOT acknowledge that the personal is not only political but pertinent and influential, is to ignore the extreme cultural moments we are living through these days. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody but I’m not so sure I want to support ANYTHING director Bryan Singer does/did again.

As a gay guy, I’ve heard about his penchant for younger men for years and the fabled parties where they gathered with him (Note: Or were gathered up for him).  On the other hand, I was never there and certainly never saw him doing anything inappropriate with a 15 or 17 year old boy elsewhere so who was I to judge?  What is my responsibility?  And does it mean he shouldn’t direct Millennium Films’ upcoming big budget remake of Red Sonja?

I’m with Randy #10yearoldmemes #stillapplies

The Sundance Film Festival this week previewed the upcoming 4-hour HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, which chronicles in painstaking detail Michael Jackson’s sexual relationships with pre and early adolescent young boys when he was in his thirties.

British filmmaker Dan Reed is a respected documentarian and by all accounts the personal testimony of Jackson’s victims, their families, and the similarity and specificity of details make it as devastating to watch as the current Lifetime series Surviving R. Kelly, which centers on that singer/songwriter/producer’s longtime sexual abuse of numerous underage women.

I have not felt comfortable with Mr. Jackson’s music for DECADES given that we were close in age as I watched him parade to endless premieres and show biz photo ops in the eighties and nineties in the company of  9, 11, 13 and 15 year olds boys, sometimes two or three at a time and occasionally strangely holding hands with the odd one as he spoke of playful sleepovers at his dreamy playground of a ranch.

This picture REALLY makes me uncomfortable

I remember thinking to myself, what would someone my age conceivably EVER be doing with those boys overnight and, if it wasn’t overtly sexual, could it EVER conceivably be appropriate, even with their parents’ approval?  What I concluded then and now was that it could not and, hence, I never was able to listen to or watch Mr. Jackson in the same way ever again.

I have no proof and I’m not faulting anyone who jams out to Billie Jean or who will forever see him as the King of Pop.  But there was and is something so questionable in my mind about Mr. Jackson’s personal life that sucks the goodness and fun and joy out of anything I could possibly see or hear him do.  Even the famed Motown anniversary moonwalk – the younger, gentler version of what he left behind – leaves me at best sad for all concerned when viewed in the context of the entirety of his life.

This brings me no joy #notaseasyas123

One teaching colleague of mine recently shared the difficulty of talking to college students about Miramax/Harvey Weinstein when recounting the history of the Hollywood independent film movement.  It’s not that you don’t do it, but how do get them to appreciate what that studio accomplished without the stench?   And how do you write a book about the history of television in the last century and not give The Cosby Show its due?  That’s a topic someone else very close to me (Note: VERY) is dealing with at the moment.

Can we just talk about Denise Huxtable and noone else?

To say nothing of Louis CK  and his recent jokes about the students of Parkland or Woody Allen movies in general.   How do I look at Annie Hall these days?

As a baby boomer I can only speak to Annie Hall, one of my favorite films of all time, and confess that it will forever make me laugh because I am able to block out all reality and focus in on the joy it brought me throughout my life.  Yes, I am that strong or that weak where these feelings overwhelm everything else past and present and take me back to a time when it at least FELT like we were all a lot more innocent and unsullied by the realities of a hopelessly stained contemporary world.

Of course, that is/was a fantasy in itself but at the very least it got me through my twenties and thirties.  Though when you shove Manhattan in my face now  and I’m forced to watch Woody with Mariel Hemingway’s 17 year-old character, (Note: As happened several months ago on cable TV) it’s cringe worthy.  Meaning denial only works in certain cases and, in this case,  I suddenly froze up and couldn’t help but turn away.

Can I hold on to this?

So yeah, in this light I totally get some of my students’ aversion to Rosemary’s Baby and Mr. Polanski.   How many of us Jews interested in movies have ever had a tough time with academic articles fetishizing the filmmaking talent of Adolph Hitler’s favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl?  (Note: Whose Triumph of the Will is coincidentally used as a bittersweet punch line in said Annie Hall)

Perhaps the answer is a film festival featuring Triumph of the Will, Rosemary’s Baby Annie Hall and maybe…oh…Cosby in Uptown Saturday Night?   We can also add in Kevin Spacey ‘s Oscar winning performance in American Beauty and two of Singer’s X-Men movies for good measure.

The audience at this film festival

But how many of us would go?   Not as many as would watch any one of the six in the privacy of our own homes and keep it a secret.

Michael Jackson – “Bad”