Monday, March 30, 2015

Ray Badran rape joke furore reveals comedy scene's PC culture

One of the reasons I really like blogging as a medium is that you can actually say what you want to say. If people don't agree with it, fine. If they're deeply offended and even hate your guts for what you said, then they'll snark at you in comments. Also fine.

This is definitely not the case in standup comedy. The culture is heavily, drearily PC. Sheesh, you're treading on egg-shells the whole time in that joint!

That right-on and very selective outrage is mind-stunting, creativity-killing poison for all the arts, of course. But it's particularly toxic (and sad) when it dominates a genre like standup which should be anarchic, rebellious and disrespectful to all po-faced finger-waggers across the political spectrum.

A good illustration of how depressingly childish and nasty it can get involves a comic called Ray Badran. See, at a recent gig for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival he told a joke that some idiot in the audience didn't comprehend. Seizing an opportunity to advertise her spurious sense of moral superiority she basically heckled him (in a rather unique way). He lost his cool and now all hell's broken loose.

The offended audience member, a woman called Cecilia Devlin, claims to have staged a silent protest by sliding under the table. Her malignant pettiness comes through loud and clear. She wasn't staging a protest. She was trying to wreck his act by drawing attention to her own! And she succeeded.

That said, you gotta give her some cool points for inventiveness. Most twits who are too literal-minded to actually get a gag and instead get all offended just yell stuff out or storm off in a huff. But this sustained display of passive aggression certainly subverted that dominant paradigm. It was a kind of anti-performance performance art, really. It was culture jamming of the highest order. She could prolly even get a grant for it ...

Hmm. You never know, it might even become an official artistic genre in its own right! Knowing how many sour-faced, witless, whining hand-wringers there are pumping their pompous poison into the performing arts here there may even be a Festival of Faux-Feminist Table Sliding before too long. We shall see.

But back to Badran's proscribed behaviour: Depressingly, quite a few comics have sided with the sinister forces of censorious sanctimony. And predictably the festival's big enchilada mouthed the requisite PC cant:

This week Comedy Festival director Susan Provan said organisers did not support racist or misogynistic material.

"We would never censor anyone but usually when inexperienced comedians attempt big topics, they tend to fall flat. People will vote with their feet."

That line about censorship is bollocks. Provan declared a fatwa on jokes about Islam remember. And saying people vote with their feet just begs the question: Why didn't Ms Devlin walk out if she was so offended?

Seems remarkably malicious -- not to mention weirdly masochistic -- to hang around under a table, poisoning the atmosphere like a fetid fart in a jammed elevator. For Provan, whose purported position is to promote comedy and encourage creativity, it's quite remarkable to implicitly side with an obnoxious arsehat whose clear aim was to ruin a performance, don't ya think?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fictional drug smugglers usually evil. Odd, considering who creates them

Have been watching the latest Rebecca Gibney mystery-thriller called Winter. Actually enjoying it quite a bit. I love this kind of TV show, and not just because of the whodunnit aspect. Being a fusty old conservative the moral polarization appeals to me. While the good guys are far from perfect, they are very clearly on the right side of the conflict. And the bad guys -- be they serial killing psychos, ruthless terrorists or other sinister subspecies of low-life -- are most definitely bad. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer that kind of clarity to the moral equivalence and ambiguity you see in so many edgy, hip productions in other genres. 

In Winter, as in many similar shows, the bad guys masterminding the murderous mayhem are making squillions out of the illicit drug trade, among other things. Without a doubt drug smuggling is one of the unequivocally evil occupations in this genre. If you're a drug king pin, well, you're the scum de la scum of society. And if you're one of his goons or salespeople you're not quite that bad, but you're still seen as an irredeemable waste of skin.

Given the pervasiveness of this televisual stereotype it seems quite odd that so many arty wankers in the industry are outraged over the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

You've got to ask: If they don't think smuggling drugs is such an evil thing, then why do they participate in productions that invoke that perception, and very strongly? So strongly, in fact, that in many cases murder is often seen as completely justified, with the hero or heroine ultimately sending the villain to hellfire and damnation in a hail of bullets!

This contradiction doesn't apply so much to actors, of course. Evil characters can be the most memorable and fun to perform, after all. And the surest way to a crap performance is to telegraph your personal judgement of the character as you play him. But scriptwriters, producers, directors and the like must be quite conflicted over this issue, surely. They tell stories, and stories make statements -- even if they're in genres not seen as primarily political.

If they think drug traffickers are not the apotheosis of evil, then why do they keep presenting them in this way? They couldn't be working only for the money, surely! Or maybe their near unanimous condemnation of Indonesia's punishment of drug traffickers is not as sincere as it is presented to be ...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rolf Harris's epic abuse of public trust

Have been fascinated by this whole Rolf Harris scandal. I've found myself being deeply unsettled by it, actually. And I'm sure many other people feel the same way.

Not that I was a big fan or anything ... It's just that I have a few very early memories of Harris's songs, and saw him perform once live when I was only 7 or 8 years old. These recollections are so redolent of that whole time. They are like mental cornerstones, foundational memories.

To think that he was preying on innocent, defenceless fans at the time, before and since really sends a shudder through my spine and jolts my childhood recollections. It's like a sinister cloud moving backwards over the past. I think a lot of people feel this way.

The thing that makes these revelations particularly disturbing is that he presented such an affable, trustworthy persona. And that's exactly what he used to gain opportunities to prey on girls and young women, and then get away with these attacks afterwards. It was actually diabolical.

It's one thing to have the urges he had. Creepy and wrong to start with. But to act on them, and repeatedly? Even worse. To top it all off he did so without compunction, confident in the knowledge that no one would believe his accusers. After all, he was the one and only Rolf Harris, surely one of the most widely loved and famous children's entertainers in the entire world.

That was a truly epic betrayal of trust. And that surely must have compounded the suffering of his victims. To be sexually assaulted is obviously an awful thing. But to constantly see the perpetrator's grinning mug on the TV, knowing that everyone from the Queen down thinks he's the bee's knees? Well, that must be utterly soul-crushing. How could you not think the world was an evil place?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Skywhale landing in Balloon Spectacular a case of life imitating satire

I'm sure you would have heard of the infamous Skywhale. Well, it's in the news again.

See, it was flying as part of the annual Balloon Spectacular. It made a rather inelegant landing in the Canberra suburb of Florey.

Needless to say, the huge ten breasted cetacean was a bizarre sight, and many people stopped to look more closely at it after it had landed.

The photo included in this report is quite striking. The humans are tiny in comparison to the bizarre creature's immense boobs. Instantly put me in mind of this memorable scene from the Woody Allen movie Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

A perfect example of life imitating satire, eh?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Scandals involving Woody Allen and Bill Cosby treated very differently

As is completely obvious from my last few blog posts, I'm fascinated by this whole Woody Allen vs Dylan Farrow saga and how it's playing out in the media. So I've been looking for info about it on a regular basis. Last night while Googling I stumbled upon an article that mentioned a similar scandal involving another famous comedian, Bill Cosby. Apparently it has been getting a bit of coverage lately because of the ongoing Woody Allen issue.

What happened was this: Starting close to a decade ago several women went on the record to accuse Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them. His alleged modus operandi often involved stealthily placing drugs in their drinks! After some legal wrangling that involved the paying of a settlement he managed to make the unseemly business go away.

Even though this scandal was reported when it first unfolded, this is the first I've heard of it. So there was hardly an international media feeding frenzy going on back then. Nor is there now, by the way.

This seems very odd to me, particularly when you consider all the publicity given to the Allen-Farrow saga. And remember, the present kerfuffle is basically a rehashing of what went on 20 years ago. There have not been any new revelations in it. (Also, at the time the courts found him innocent of the charges, concluding that Dylan had probably been coached in what to say, or had concocted the story herself.)

That said, there are many people who believe he was guilty anyway. And they may be right. But the disparity between the two stories in the level of media interest is quite remarkable. While sexually assaulting an adult woman is not as heinous as the sexual abuse of a seven year old girl, it's still a very serious crime. And this accusation didn't just come from one woman, but several. Then there's the fact that he paid a settlement. Cosby's guilt seems almost certain while Allen's seems quite unlikely. Given Cosby's immense fame, you really have to wonder why we haven't heard more about this whole issue.

I think there are a couple of reasons why we haven't. Firstly, it could have something to do with the different personas of the two comics. Woody Allen played a sex obsessed neurotic for decades. And he was clearly drawing from key aspects of his own personality. His lust for much younger women was obvious from the plots of his movies (most notably Manhattan) and of course there was the whole romance with Soon-Yi Previn. Then there's the fact that he just looks like he could be a paedophile. So it doesn't take much to make you believe that he actually is.

Cosby, on the other hand, never obsessed about sex in his comedy routines. They were all about being a poor black kid in "the projects" or being a daggy dad who was amused by his adorable children and wife. Given the lovable, fatherly image that he painstakingly created, you just can't imagine him slyly spiking young women's drinks and sexually assaulting them when they were out cold, or close to it.

Then there's the racial aspect. Could it be that many in the mainstream media, being overewhelmingly of the liberal persuasion, are just too frightened of covering the story for fear of being perceived as racist? I think this could have quite a bit to do with it ...

What do you think? Any other ideas?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guilty or not, Woody Allen benefits from culture of tolerance

Still on the subject of Woody Allen and these sex abuse claims by Dylan Farrow: Regardless of whether he is guilty of child sexual abuse or not, the scandal has got me thinking about how the industry he works in deals with such accusations.

With this issue currently hogging the headlines, there is widespread condemnation of the director. And there seems to be potential fallout for others who have worked with him recently. For example, some industry insiders feel that Cate Blanchett, who starred in Allen's Blue Jasmine, may lose a deserved best actress Oscar as a result of the scandal.

That said, there's little or no talk of Allen's directorial career ending entirely -- or even suffering significantly. Unless the stoush winds up in court again and he's found guilty of being a vile rock spider and thrown in the clink, he's still going to keep making movies.

This whole issue was widely reported back in 1992 anyway. He was legally exonerated to a great degree back than. Still, much of the mud that was thrown certainly stuck to him. Yet his career recovered pretty quickly afterwards.

Numerous well known and accomplished actors and other film professionals jumped at the chance to work with him, even quite soon after claims that he abused his step-daughter Dylan were reported across the globe. You've got to wonder how many of them secretly harboured the belief that he was guilty of child abuse yet still collaborated with him.

Then there's the case of Roman Polanski. He clearly was guilty of child abuse -- the rape of a 13 year old girl, to be exact. He even fled the USA to avoid justice.

While he never got to make another movie on American soil, he has still directed many critically well-received flicks in the decades since. As well as working with the cream of the world's film technicians, his movies have starred household names such as Gerard Depardieu and Harrison Ford.

Then of course there was his recent extradition saga. Numerous Hollywood liberals sang his praises, sometimes even publicly slagging off his victim!

The industry seems to be just as tolerant of child sexual abuse as it is of the use of illegal drugs. Hate to sound like a moralistic ol' bore, but that's pretty disturbing, don't you think?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen and the planting of false memories

I'm finding this whole Dylan Farrow versus Woody Allen battle fascinating -- unpleasant though it is. In the last week or so they've been hitting back at each other, and other family members are taking sides and offering statements to the media.

One of Mia Farrow's adopted children, Moses, has sided with the film director. He, like Allen, paints an unsavoury picture of his mother Mia as hateful and controlling.

But just because she seems to be a nasty piece of work doesn't necessarily mean that Dylan Farrow is lying about being abused. And if she sincerely believes she was abused by Woody Allen at age seven, does that put the matter beyond doubt? Many people would say that it does.

But the fact remains that memories can be planted. There have been many high profile cases in which this was shown to be the case.

Clearly, people can be manipulated to an almost unbelievable degree -- sometimes by others with the very best of intentions. This phenomenon has a lot to do with power. Some individuals are relentlessly domineering in ways both overt and subtle. They become so adept at their manipulation techniques that they seem to own the minds of those whom they control.

Take the case of convicted killer Simon Gittany. He had near total psychological control of Lisa Harnum. Then when she found some inner courage and planned her escape from him, he murdered her. Not only that, he has managed to convince family members of his innocence and even has a new and beautiful girlfriend (eerily reminiscent of his victim in physical appearance) zealously defending him on national television!

Clearly, some people are past masters at getting deep inside the psyches of others and bending them to their will. It looks very much to me like Mia Farrow is one of these people.