• I Sort of Liked Glee

    December 16, 2021 // 9 Comments »


    YouTube sent me down a spiral rewatching Glee clips. I am not a Glee fan per se, but it was one of a handful of shows I watched when my kids were in Peak Mode, old enough to be interesting as people but not old enough to realize I was not interesting. My kids are adults now; did TV help form them?

    It did. And what we all learned and especially how we learned it is a lesson on the failure of 2021 wokeness to achieve change and instead just piss people off.

    First a shout out to technology, which makes it a click away to rewatch most anything ever recorded somewhere. I remember visiting the Museum of Broadcasting in New York, with its vast video library, and walking away saying “Um, this is just YouTube but in a building.” So no flying cars in 2021 and no Jetsons-like meals in a pill, but I can watch TV from the 2000s anytime I want to.

    The odd collection of shows my kids and I watched together included Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Glee, Lost, and Survivor. This was before we owned a video recorder and way before on-demand TV, so each show had to be watched, together, at a specific time on a certain day of the week. Called “destination TV” today, this was important because it made the watching a communal event. Today much media is consumed alone, or “virtually together” by people in different places connected by some messaging app. It’s not the same.

    Of all the shows we saw together, in 2021 Glee struck me as the most influential. When it first aired it was thought of as, at least in a suburban way, edgy. I’m sure eyes all across Brooklyn are rolling but they miss the point. Glee being suburban was the point. It was edgy not because we didn’t already know gay dudes liked show tunes but because it took place in suburbia (Ohio for God’s sake) and was meant to be watched in suburbia by families together.

    And in the early 2000s in that context it was edgy to have a gay high school kid coming out, and two girls in love with each other without either of them looking like pitbulls with mullets. Better yet, for my prepubescent but paying attention to things kids, and their soon to be parenting teenagers parents, we had a chance to try out talking about things without wokeness being shouted at us and accusations that I was a patriarchal fascist. It seems trivial now when trans-everything is part of everything but even as a relatively open household we needed to wade in shallow waters first. It prepared us when things got more complicated. We were less successful in that regard watching Family Guy together.

    There was a lot of reality to suspend in Glee. It’s what made Glee more of a parody at times, and kept The Message from overwhelming every scene. Yes, a nowhere Ohio high school somehow threw together Broadway-level shows spontaneously. Never mind nearby there was a private boys school essentially the equivalent of a West Village bathhouse. It feels awkward today that the Disabled Kid was considered empowered by being pushed back and forth through the dance numbers, never mind that the actor who played him looked like he was 40 by the time the show ended.

    Showing how wokeness changed, despite the stunning number of LGB kids at this isolated school, it was only toward the end of the show’s run a transperson showed up, and with no fights with the lesbian community over TERF or whether to otherwise support trans inclusion in women’s spaces. Simpler times! Systemic racism seemed like a far away thing compared to whether the school would allow Lady Gaga songs on stage. Mr. Schuester, the club mentor, would today be hauled off by Child Services for his near constant groping of underage girls.

    And yeah, one of the actors was a real-life pedo (who killed himself) and another a drug addict (who killed himself.) Some of the actors who played gay and lesbian students were not gay or lesbian. Few wokesters of today would be happy with the base premise “of course we’re all minorities, we’re in the glee club.” All instant cancellation fodder in 2021.

    We do also need to overlook Glee’s disproportionate number of gays and lesbians in a small Midwestern town. Same for the disproportionate number of Asians and blacks there, and how when one actor left the show he was replaced by another new kid of the same demographic. The racial demographics of the real Lodi, Ohio, where Glee was set, show 97 percent white and zero Asians. I’ve been to Lodi; if it is not 97 percent straight people it is 97 percent people who pretend to be straight. Less than half population there in real life graduated from any high school, never mind one so devoted to the arts.

    But I get it, Glee was just a confection, a network mainstream TV show designed to sell stuff. But Glee was also proto-media, a hint of the agenda all media would assume in just a few years, albeit with a much blunter instrument.

    One of Glee’s best-presented story lines was about the redneck dad slowly accepting his gay son coming out. It was warm-hearted where it could have been like an AOC screed. Same for the various bullies who came to understand those unlike them. That seems a better way to influence rednecks than today’s version where some angry alliance would burn dad’s house down for being homophobic while Lin Manuel-Miranda “while not condoning violence” tweeted out his support for the violence.

    Glee’s message was consistently one of tolerance. Things would work out, there was no need to burn the place down over a bad pronoun choice. Radical intolerance expressed via cancellations, boycotts, and firings is never the solution for others’ intolerance.

    As cliched as that sounds, played out over time, it sings a lot better than tweets demanding death to all cisgender males will 25 years from now. “I’m better than you because I’m queer” isn’t any different than “I’m better than you because I’m not.” If you can’t see the failure of hypocrisy in modern wokeness you should go back and watch Glee again.

    Now imagine the bum-bum-bum Glee bumper music to end this.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy

    The Price of Wokeness is Stupidity

    December 13, 2021 // 5 Comments »

    One of the great things about not being obsessed with racism is not having to go through the mental twisty turns required to see racism in everything. Of course not being obsessed with racism still allows me to understand that racism has played a sordid role in our country’s history. I can understand anger and the sting of discrimination because I, too, am a human being. But I don’t have to pretend moving from New Jersey to Manhattan to find a new job was for a free black man in the 19th century was the same thing an Irish immigrant underwent boarding a “coffin ship” hoping to survive the journey across the Atlantic knowing his only alternative was to die of starvation amidst the Potato Famine.

    That unexpected example infiltrated my life a week ago because of an article I wrote criticizing New York’s Tenement Museum for including an exhibit about a (black) person who was neither an immigrant nor lived in the tenement building the museum occupies, two of the criteria that kept the museum from telling the story of say any Haitians, Spaniards, Japanese, and blacks until now. The museum has told, magnificently, the stories of a handful of the 7,000 actual residents of its building on Orchard Street since 1988 — German, Irish, Jewish, and Italian families. I should know; I worked there as an educator in 2016, quitting after the Trump election turned the institution into some sort of woke bunker fighting imaginary fascism.

    After my article suggesting the black family from New Jersey’s story could be best told elsewhere, I became a racist. I’m not, but no less than the liberal coven at the Daily Beast sort of called me that. They wrote a story calling my argument nonsense, said I’d provoked an ugly fight by even asking questions, took a headline from a New York Post reprint of my article and attributed it to me as a quote, mangled another quote, and hinted I might just be a disgruntled employee seeking revenge over a minimum wage job I quit almost six years ago. Every story needs a villain and in 2021 that would be a old, white, straight man writing for a conservative outlet. The Beast even selected their “race and diversity” editor to interview me. They go hard in the paint, these folks.

    That’s how I found out how difficult it was to be woke. In order to shoehorn the Jersey guy into the immigrant world, the Museum told the Beast that the black guy, who was born free in America and was never a slave, left New Jersey for New York in 1857. The Museum claimed “though he was not an immigrant in terms of leaving one country for another, he was still embarking on a new life in a society with social norms that differed from what he was accustomed to.”

    So an immigrant from New Jersey? That sounds like the set up for an SNL gag except wokeness has no sense of humor. If you surgically remove the woke, here’s what the Museum should have said. Jersey, seriously? The immigrant experience involves being desperate enough to leave absolutely everything you have ever known behind on often a one-way trip, including but not limited to language (the early Irish immigrants spoke mainly Gaelic), culture, religion, food, profession, and family, cross an ocean at direct risk of life, and fight your way out of the status that you’re given when you step ashore in a new land overtly hostile to your presence, except for those standing by to exploit you as you cross that stern barrier at Ellis Island. I cannot see anyone seriously claiming that was the experience from someone moving from New Jersey to Manhattan, black or white.

    Well, check that. A white woman (photos show 11 of the 14 Museum senior staff are white, ten are women) so guilty her Museum doesn’t have a black guy in it that she is willing to ignore the base realities and somehow claim a guy who took the ferry over from New Jersey is an immigrant. That is what wokeness drives otherwise intelligent people to do, twist facts to match a narrative (“we have a winner, folks, nobody suffered more than black people”) rather than allow facts to create a narrative (America treated its 19th century white immigrants poorly, visiting upon them many of the same discriminations as it did slaves, because class and capital, not race, is controlling.)

    No less than The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) said it is also concerned about the Tenement Museum’s replacing its Irish single family tour with a hybrid story of Irish and black families. The Museum was quick to respond they aren’t doing away with the Irish, just pushing them toward the back of the bus a bit to make room for some 2021 white guilt. “The history of anti-Irish Catholic bigotry in the U.S. is little told,” stated the AOH. “The Museum proposal to eliminate it in favor of a ‘hybrid program’ only furthers the trend of airbrushing it from American history… The Museum’s strategy of pitting the story of one heritage against another is a recipe for enmity, which is the last thing we need in these divisive times. It would indeed be sadly ironic that the telling of the story of the 19th-century history of ‘No Irish Need Apply’ at the Tenement museum should fall victim to a 21st-century incarnation.”

    I am glad I remain unwoke. Unwoke, I see no special reason to celebrate a transperson won Jeopardy. I see no progress in an endless series of wordplays that means nothing actually changed, things like “raised awareness” or “increased representation.” Unwoke, I do not skip a beat when some made up superhero character is cast as Asian or gay or disabled. I remain free to ask troublesome questions. Wokeness, and flippant accusations that anyone who disagrees is a racist, shields society from asking questions, and creates a stage where any intellectual bull is accepted as long as it sells the narrative, whether at the Tenement Museum or the Daily Beast.

    At its heart wokeness is anti-intellectual, almost medieval, with today’s canceled comedians or perhaps the Irish of the Tenement Museum, as the modern Galileo.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy

    Appearance of Action is Not Action

    November 23, 2021 // 1 Comment »

    It’s bad enough when someone actually thinks reposting a “I Stand With…” meme is an act of woke resistance. But when the problem is enlarged to societal-scale, it hurts us all. Nothing actually broken actually gets fixed, and a deep sense of cynicism is injected into the souls of once-believers when they realize they’ve been conned. We live in an age where the appearance of action is mistaken for action.

    So we are left to wonder about the point, other than setting the stage for more future cynicism, of the Google “doodle” this past Veteran’s Day. The illustration showed various vets, all appropriately racially ratioed, drawn half in uniform and half in civilian garb. One’s a painter, one’s a baker, and the Marine is shown as trans. The figure has a man’s face but half his body is in dress blue and half in a civvie dress. We’re left to wonder what the point is. Are Americans more sensitive now to the needs of male Marines who wear women’s clothing? Or is the illustration just a naughty stunt like a gay kiss on The Simpsons, a way of angering some made-up version of a conservative who was never invited to the barbeque in the first place?

    The same question begs with TV commercials, seemingly all of which now feature either black actors alone, or as part of interracial LGBTQBLT couples. Just like white folks used to, they suffer from bloating and tsk tsk over which paper towel picks up better. Google and Apple don’t seem to even let old people use their products anymore. It’s all very hip youngers with I-didn’t-comb-it hair skateboarding or creating or influencing. Movies and streaming series’ are exclusively about people struggling with coming out, going out, or staying in. Every POC who has ever suffered has had his/her/their story made into a mini-series with the tag line “Against all odds…” As time goes by, perhaps more older movies can be remade with black actors digitally replacing white performers, like colorizing old B&W movies.

    All the bad statues have been torn down. All the bad high schools have been renamed. Most Americans now know Thomas Jefferson was little more than a rapist, albeit with a way with words we will not longer talk about. All the bad companies we were asked to boycott on Twitter for donating to the wrong candidates or promoting transphobia are out of business. No one ever shops at the Home Depot or Chik-a-Filet or purchases racist bed pillows. And Dems, kudos. You got more women, like Kristen Smyrna, into office. In each election the media tally the faux progress telling us how many whites were replaced with POC, how many female Asians bested men, and so forth towards a mythical Übermensch trans black disabled left-hander who refuses to speak English, the language of the patriarchy.

    But what happens when an entire generation realizes one day it is full of baloney, that none of that changes anything? What happens when people realize after a summer of BLM violence Minnesota did not defund its police, and rising crime in New York lead to bringing back an anti-gun task force once disbanded as a racist tool? When people realize the Glasgow climate conference wrapped up with no real plan to reduce fossil fuels?

    Yet people still too deep into the con to see the con cheer openly for awareness being raised, conversations being started, dialogues opened, and all that as it it mattered. Black Lives Matter took over the hivemind of American media and academia. Major corporate institutions fell over themselves to “go black,” assuring Colin Kaepernick will never have to work a day again in his life. BLM became a third rail — criticize it and lose your platform, your job, maybe your freedom. But not much changed for the good and if you’re counting black-on-black gun violence things got a whole lot worse. Black men are systemically shot and killed in, for example, New York City, and no one seems to care because the triggers aren’t pulled by cops. New York saw its bloodiest week in late April, with a 300 percent surge in shooting incidents from the same week in 2020. About the only thing left for the movement is to arrange the lynching of white supremacy poster child Kyle Rittenhouse.

    Same with climate change. Delegates from around the world, including President George H.W. Bush, met in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 for a first “Earth Summit,” promising to stop wrecking the planet. A new global treaty was made, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. And yet… And yet Glasgow is the 26th time delegates from around the world met to again discuss change, without change. About the only thing left in the movement is to arrange the symbolic coronation of climate change poster child Greta Thunberg.

    It is important to understand these movements did not fail. They were never intended to succeed in the sense of actually ending racism or changing the climate. They were designed as political stunts, fund raising slams, a way to promote some person into celebrity status with the help of a compliant media. That’s the flim flam being pulled.

    We live ever deeper in a fantasy world where progressives convince themselves destroying old symbols, or creating new ones like Greta, will change real life. They have convinced themselves maintaining white supremacy requires having a statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the courthouse and expect somehow with the statue gone so are all the problems. Way back when an old girlfriend did me wrong I threw out all the photos I had of us together. I felt better in the moment but learned a hard lesson: symbols are not real life. Getting rid of them does not fix things.

    The failure of peace, love, drugs, and rock and roll to change the world in the 1960s eventually gave us the cynical and self-centered “Me Generation” of the 1980s. That era’s deeply embedded sense of greed and bland acceptance scarred us as a society. It is no surprise then mired in cynicism pretending to be resistance a generation today defines people like AOC and her squad as a success. In their terms of office they have passed no legislation or done much of anything but self-promotion and fund-raising; AOC voted against her party’s infrastructure bill to make some vague political feel good point instead of helping her constituents. Attention is treated as political currency when it’s just narcissism. Welcome to America, where everything ends up a grift.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy