What’s the T? I Honestly Don’t Know

LGBT.  It is so common as a part of a title, organization or event that it has truly become its own word.  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  That’s what it’s supposed to mean, but often it is used interchangeably with “gay” at events, in the media and in addressing civil rights.  As a result, the issues and challenges facing transgender individuals are often marginalized or skipped completely even as we claim they are a part of our LGBT community.

The journey of being gay is obviously familiar to me.  I can relate on some level to some aspect of most gay people’s journey.  However, in attempting to consider the journey of someone who is transgender, I can only consider it as an academic exercise.  I have no frame of reference for the journey of feeling in opposition mentally, emotionally, spiritually or in any other manner with the biological gender of my body or the gender assigned to me at birth.  I can hear the concept, but cannot realistically imagine what that conflict and journey must feel like.

As a result of that initial inability to relate, and my lack of information on the challenges it creates, it is much easier for me to be the person saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question or making the wrong comment.  I would imagine that some of my inquiries at this point would come off to a transgender person like the truly uninformed heterosexual question of “so, who is the woman?” does to a gay man.  I know the question isn’t inherently homophobic or even bigoted, as mine to them would not inherently be transphobic, but the colossal lack of information and understanding it represents makes it difficult to start the conversation.  The transgender community must feel this to an even greater degree with me and others.  Trying to frame someone else’s journey through my own terminology and experience leads to unintended offense and a difficulty in communicating.

Also, as a gay cisgender man, I honestly have not given a great deal of thought to the transgender part of our community, and this makes me, along with others like me in the LGB part of the community, a part of the problem the transgender community faces with society at large.  Several recent news stories have demonstrated how woefully uninformed many are about our brothers and sisters in the “T” part of the LGBT equation.

There are obvious and basic errors, using the incorrect pronoun for example, but it quickly gets into a world of terminology and discussion where I admittedly have no idea what I’m talking about.  The recent interview Katie Couric did with actress Laverne Cox and model Carmen Carrera easily demonstrated how a lack of understanding of transgender issues can quickly go awry.  There was a quick outrage about the inappropriate nature of Ms. Couric’s reference to genitalia.

I don’t think many, even those understandably upset by the invasive question, believe Ms. Couric to be a hack journalist interested in sensationalist storytelling, but she still erred in the discussion.  My first reaction in watching it was to think, “well, they are discussing transgender issues, she’s asking where they are in the journey of bringing their entire being into alignment with the gender they are.”  It shows my own lack of awareness.

A further consideration of the question makes my initial reaction obviously ludicrous, as did Ms. Carerra and Ms. Cox’s articulate and thoughtful responses.  If I were doing an interview about being gay, I would consider a question about which position I prefer in bed quite irrelevant to my ability to discuss the gay issues at hand.  It’s not a direct correlation, but it’s close enough to show how my being uninformed would allow me to be insensitive or offensive.  If someone with Ms. Couric’s professional experience can get it so wrong, it demonstrates the great challenges the transgender community faces in communicating with people unaware in the way so many of us still are about their experiences.

The Couric debacle is a matter of propriety and avoiding prurient questions.  However, the more recent tragedy shows just how dangerous being unaware can be as it leads to terrible consequences.  The story of Dr. Essay Vanderbilt began as a journalist’s probe to understand a new golf club.  It started with a putter and ended with a piece that outed a transgender woman after she committed suicide before the publication of the story.  The original piece is here.

The internet praised the story for two days and then exploded in response to the treatment of the transgender woman at the center of the story.  Calls for the death of the writer were made, critiques from other press professionals were offered, transgender individuals and advocates weighed in (my personal favorite for its intelligence on both transgender issues and the ethics of journalism is this one by Christina Kahrl) and then the editor-in-chief of Grantland wrote an apology and explanation for how the story came to be published here.  Assuming there was no genuine ill-will on the author’s part, it demonstrates at the very least that even just ignorance is dangerous in a very real way to this community of individuals who face so many struggles different from my own.

Certainly the exact circumstances that lead an individual to suicide are complex, but statistics state that 41% of the transgender community have attempted suicide, a fact that even without the specifics of Dr. V’s case should be sobering and alarming as the rest of us consider our level of awareness in regards to the transgender journey and experience in our LGBT community, our greater communities and our nation.

I would heretofore have said I am a supporter of transgender individuals and transgender rights, but I must admit it’s more in theory than in any concrete way since my awareness of legislation and progress related to transgender rights is only through what appears as large national stories.  I know when a transgender individual is singled out related to ludicrous bathroom legislation, or brutally attacked for not “passing” in public, but I’m not as aware of the many instances where gay rights and non-discrimination is advancing without including the same protections for transgender individuals.

This is where it matters most and where ignorance like mine is contributing to holding a community back.  It’s important that news be reported respectfully and sensitively in regards to the preferences and privacy of transgender individuals, but their rights?  That’s about all of us.  I can’t, and others like me can’t, fight as allies for their progress and equality if we don’t understand the issues they face.  If we as a community are going to claim transgender individuals as a part of the welcoming LGBT rainbow, then some of us need to be more informed than we are about the journey, experience, rights and challenges of the transgender community so we can join those who are informed in contributing to actual progress.

In many of the comments related to the recent stories, transgender individuals and allies responded with “educate yourself!” to many of the uninformed.  So, as a gay man who should certainly be sensitive to the challenging journey of other minorities, I am doing just that.  

It’s past time that I and other members of  the gay community like me with little knowledge and experience regarding transgender issues make sure we know more of the “T” so that we can ensure that we are as sensitive to an often overlooked segment of our community as we ask the rest of society at large to be to all of us.  I’m working to ensure “the silence of our friends” never applies to me so that when I claim to be an ally, it truly means something.

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The Richard Sherman Reactions

Disclaimer:  I am not a sportsball fan.  I don’t have any teams or affiliations, and I fall into that category of people who get excited for the Super Bowl because of the commercials and the concert.  So it was by pure chance that I was at a birthday party on Sunday with the end of the football game between the Seahawks and the 49ers on that allowed me to hear Richard Sherman’s “rant heard round the world.”  The room had stopped to watch the final moments of the game, so I watched the short clip in real-time, thought, “wow, what a jackass” and then went back to likely discussing something along the lines of NBC’s planned live production of Peter Pan next year.

Hours later, I checked back in to the world of social media to find that the discussion of Sherman’s short rant had exploded.  The initial reaction seemed negative – some more strongly so than others – and then the pendulum began to swing back the other way with an aggressive defense of Sherman in response to the racist and pathetic vitriol from some across a multitude of Internet platforms.

In the days since, the conversation has moved into a much larger discussion of professional athlete conduct and expectations and race relations and the strong denigration or nearly saintly adoration of Mr. Sherman.  It seems the reality, as ever, is somewhere in between.

There have been a great number of articles telling the incredible story of how Mr. Sherman went from excelling in a Compton high school to Stanford to the NFL to be a player whose skills are well-regarded and a man who can be admired for his personal conduct and carriage.  This one from Isaac Paul was my first round of information from The Huffington Post. Those pieces are excellent material to fill out my perception of Sherman.  However, they don’t change my initial “wow, what a jackass” reaction to the outburst; they simply allow me to now consider that the outburst was out of character.  Many of the writers though, seem to imply “so you shouldn’t see it that way because he is an intelligent and articulate success story that should be seen as inspirational.”  Paul goes so far to suggest that “most of America thought they were learning about the arrogance of another NFL player. But in reality, what Richard Sherman did was teach us about ourselves. He taught us that we’re still a country that isn’t ready for lower-class Americans from neighborhoods like Compton to succeed.” The inspiration story is impressive, and the evidence supports that there are those who judged Mr. Sherman for purely race-based reasons that should continue to be addressed, but to leap to the suggestion that anyone who saw it as arrogance is contributing to some kind suppression is reaching awfully far in the opposite direction.  Sherman can be an exciting inspirational story, and still have been a jackass for a minute on Sunday.  That additional context can’t inherently be wielded as a club against those of us who found his exclamations inappropriate or unacceptable.

There have been many, especially sports writers, who have defended the outburst with relief because so often they get the same old platitudes about “a good game” and “a good effort” and “one game at a time” as a reason it was a great moment.  It’s not a defense, but it’s framed as one, because reporters love getting moments that are great television and easy reporting.  I’m sorry for the world of 24 hours sports coverage with time to fill, but the fact that they got a great clip to run continuously doesn’t change my initial “wow, what a jackass” reaction either.

The response I find most interesting, that seems to be growing is the “we ask these athletes to engage in an activity that puts their life at risk for our amusement…” apology defense.  This is another place where the discussion seems to be swinging into crazy territory.  First, the athletes chose this, Sherman included.  They chose to play this sport.  They chose to pursue it to its highest level.  They chose to accept ludicrously large amounts of money to play it professionally.  They aren’t going to actual war even if they have to treat playing the game that way in order to be in the correct mindset to succeed.  That is still their choice.  They are responsible to their coaches and owners and then the fans.  Of course the fans are important because it is their attention that makes it such a lucrative business which allows them to make as much money as they do.  But this idea of the “poor little athletes, we ask so much of them” is evidence that this conversation surrounding this one outburst has reached truly hysterical proportions in looking to explain away a single outburst – on all sides.  Some have gone all the way to “he shouldn’t have to apologize at all” like this well-articulated one courtesy of Think Progress which states in part that the ideas of “professionalism” and “class” set by fans and the media for athletes are essentially bogus.

The thing is, they aren’t bogus.  We teach it to every kid who learns to play a sport from the very beginning of flag football or T-ball or soccer or whatever.  Sportsmanship.  After it’s over you say “good game” and you win and lose with grace and humility no matter how they other team reacts.  We teach it to everyone.  At the adult level it may be called “professionalism” or “class” but it’s still the same idea of being a good sport that every kid is taught.  Sherman seems to be a great guy with an awe-inspiring story, but for a moment, his behavior was unsportsmanlike, even if it was honest and authentic and real.  The reality of his personal experience and feelings in the moment can’t, and shouldn’t be challenged.  His expression of them?  Absolutely.

And really, that’s not just a sporting thing, it’s a human thing.  If a defense attorney wins a case and then says at the press conference “it’s because I’m the best attorney in the city,” even if their case history supports it, many will with respond with, “wow, he’s a jackass.”  If Meryl Streep accepted an Oscar and said “it’s because I’m the greatest actress alive.”  While many consider that to be true, others would still think, “wow, what a jackass.”  If you are the best at something, you don’t need to proclaim it, others will do it for you.  Your actions speak louder than your words.  Winning is strongest statement.  Being the best is evidenced in countless metrics and accolades across every aspect of life and competition.   Arrogance from the gifted, the talented or the excellent is often met with derision because it’s possible and preferable to be the best with humility.  The goods to back up being an arrogant ass doesn’t make you less of an arrogant ass.  Anyone who proclaims to be “a genius” or “the best” runs into a problem because those who disagree immediately begin to poke holes in the proclamation.  Whether it’s Lady Gaga in one of her “art’s in pop culture in me” moments or Sherman’s brief declaration of superiority, the statement of one’s own genius invites criticism.

Pride in your work is important, the manner in which you express that pride contributes to the perception of your character.  Singular episodes that don’t fit the overall perception can be dismissed as being exceptions to the rule.  It seems with all of the other things that Richard Sherman is and does, this moment was an exception.  Claiming it wasn’t a ridiculous and unsportsmanlike outburst because some people’s responses were racist which caused the entire episode to be larger than it should have been because it triggered another national moment in the important race relations discussion is like taking two plus two and saying it equals rainbows.

The discussion surrounding the horrible aspects of the overreactions is important, and in actuality more important than the sporting event that spawned the opportunity for the discussion.  Continued conversations surrounding race relations, subtle racism, racist terminology and racial privilege and perception are important to our national dialogue.  There is also room while addressing those substantive issues to acknowledge that many, myself included, found the outburst to simply be an unsportsmanlike moment from a normally articulate and obviously successful young athlete with an incredibly bright future in the his field.  You can read Sherman’s own telling of the events, intelligently expressed here.

Sherman has made the rounds providing articulate and thoughtful explanations for the moment and an appropriate apology for addressing a singular beef in such a public manner that has provided a distraction from the success of the team as a whole that shows the kind of man he is off the field and demonstrates that it was an out-of-character moment.  It’s absolutely possible, despite many defenders protestations to the opposite, to think some people’s reactions were terribly wrong and that Sherman himself was a little wrong at the same time.  So, with the addition of all of the information and race discussion and Sherman’s journey I’ve adjusted my original reaction to “wow, what a jackass, but just in that moment” for a definitely impressive man and athlete.

And I’ll be honest, not being a span of sportsball, Sherman’s out-sized personality and antics do make me a little more excited to suffer through that game so many people look forward to watching before and after the upcoming Bruno Mars concert.

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The Best of 2014

That’s not a typo – I wrote it and you read it correctly.  The best of 2014.  Every year ends with a bazillion lists of the “Best Of (insert subject/topic/basically anything that can be listed)” for that year.  It’s a chance to look back and see what were the most incredible things of the year and enjoy them again for a moment.

What if we did it all year long?  I was strolling through West Hollywood this weekend with one of my best friends, as we do for coffee and catch up time, and we began joking about how each activity was “the BEST of the YEAR!” – essentially because it was the only time each of those activities had happened so far this year.  This was our best stroll of the year.  It was the best Saturday of the year.  It was the best time being in West Hollywood this year.  It’s possible we took it ludicrously far – as we have a tendency to do – and ended up at “the best time crossing this street this year” and “the best time looking through the window at people working out at the gym while we are not this year” and so on.

We laughed, well, giggled really, at ourselves.  Today though, it made me consider the benefits of this outlook slightly further.  What if we operated that way all year, instead of just to fill the time between Christmas and the new year?  According to the Internet and some people with too much free time, the first Monday of the new year is the most depressing day of the year.  They have a name for it – “Blue Monday.”  It just passed and now most adults are looking at a long stretch of the year with no official days off until Memorial Day.  The drunken days of St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo don’t actually count as holidays for as many people as social media would suggest.

What to do until then?  Well, this ridiculous game we were playing about “the best of the year” suddenly feels like a fun challenge.  The goal should be to make each opportunity/day/event qualify as the best of the year.  Here in January, it should be easy to achieve, and provide a bit of amusement over declaring small things or silly outings “the best of the year.”  It can provide a little merriment to a trip to the grocery story or the gym if you can declare that savings or that workout “the best of the year.”  Then, as the year moves on, it can be a challenge to see what you have to do or achieve in order to declare a day “the best day of the year” or a week “the best week of the year” or a meal with friends “the best dinner of the year.”

Then suddenly, a bunch of things have happened, you’ve gotten a bunch of things done, and there have already been a ton of list-worthy highlights that have happened on the way to summertime setting you up for a second half of the year that has to be more than a little awesome in order to compete with the first half.

Yes, it’s silly.  Of course, it’s ridiculous, but that’s sort of the point – and the challenge.  I stood in line at Starbucks today and after my first sip declared out loud that this was “the best coffee I’ve had all year!” because it was.  It amused me for a few moments and then it was just the tiniest bit easier to dive in to the list of things I needed to accomplish today.  After which I said “this was my most productive day. Of. The. YEAR!”

If you’re as easily amused as I am, it’ll provide moments of whimsy and just maybe push you to find new and more exciting things to do in order to keep saying it.  People may think you’re crazy, but that just leads to more and more opportunities to say “this is the craziest thing I’ve done ALL YEAR!” Try it!

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Revisiting Resolutions

It’s the fifth of January.  2014 is officially and definitely in full swing.  The greatest procrastinators among us may have given themselves until Monday to begin enacting all of the lofty resolutions made in a carb and sugar-filled state of holiday enthusiasm, but for most, the process of attempting to make said resolutions a reality has begun.  If you’re anything like me, you already hate it.

Now, if you’re the type that regularly succeeds in bringing to life all of the great changes inherent in the kind of resolutions specific to a new year, congratulations!  You also probably change your oil on time, buy stamps before you actually need to mail something and don’t actually have anything you hate about yourself when you look in the mirror.  This particular set of musings is not for you.

It’s for the rest of us.  The ones, like me, who have started many years with a “to do” list of things running the gamut from lofty professional goals to finally getting rid of longstanding unhealthy habits.  Some years I have had long and detailed lists, others it has been a single epic priority – and nearly without fail, I don’t succeed in accomplishing them.  I don’t think I’m alone in this, given how little mention there is of New Year’s resolutions until it is time to make the ones for next year.  We shout them from the rooftop with a Jerry Maguire-esque level of commitment at the start of the year, and then quietly proceed to never mention or address them again.

Here we are then, five days in.  I let myself slide past January second because it was a travel day returning from celebrating the start of the new year.  So really, I started a handful of resolutions on the third.  And I already resent them.  As I have done so many years before.

Now, as it isn’t my first time at the resolutions rodeo, I have learned that some things inevitably do not work for me.  Long lists – never.  Huge sweeping changes – incredibly unlikely.  Bargaining with myself – well, it moves in the right direction.  However, inevitably, sometime in the third week of January, my best laid plans have fallen right back into the patterns I was hoping to change.  By the first of February they are a distant memory.

Why is that?  I manage to accomplish things every year.  Well, most years.  I set goals, make plans, and see a great deal of them to some kind of fruition.  I change personal habits.  Why is it that the specific nature of New Year’s resolutions seem so much harder than any other work, personal or lifestyle goals and changes through the year?

For me, I think it comes down to that I’m simply not ready.  I put them down as New Year’s resolutions because it is a universal time of goal-setting and life-changing.  Just read back through social media from a week ago and you can see the grand pronouncements about losing weight, working out, drinking less, making more time for friends, spending less time on social media (unironically stated of course on social media); it is a cornucopia of making changes.  Personally, I pull things from that ever-present list in the back of my mind that starts with “I really should…” and those are the things I put on the list.

The thing is, none of them are new to the list.  They did not just suddenly occur to me in the few days leading up to the start of 2014.  I have known for quite some time they are things I want to do or do something about – at some point.  However, they haven’t risen to the level of urgency that requires actual action, and thus, saying “I’m going to do all of them this year” belies the fact that I may not be truly committed to them – even though I theoretically want to be.

So, I put them on the list, I reorganize my day to accommodate them, and then at some point I stop.  I think the main difference is, when I decide in March that I want to work out more consistently for the vanity of swimsuit season or in August that I want to incorporate healthy or options into my diet or in October that I want to shift my work focus in a new direction – these things manage to actually happen because the importance of the result has reached the tipping point that requires action.

At the start of the New Year, all of these things sound nice, and I know I should do them, but if they weren’t important enough to do in December, a magical line in the calendar does not really change that fact all that much.

So this year, rather than attempt to demolish everything and build from the ground up, knowing I’m likely to quit before the foundation is poured because frankly, I like a lot about my current life approach – even some of the things I “should” change, I’m bargaining with myself in smaller ways.

Rather than upending my life and creating a vision board full of things it’s not humanly possible to accomplish in a single twelve-month period, I’m starting small.  I’m setting a few manageable goals, and I’m not calling them resolutions.  They are just goals.  Just regular old, run-of-the-mill goals, like the kind that occur to me on a random Tuesday afternoon during the rest of the year.  That way, when I miss a day, or forget for a while, or intentionally backslide because I’m annoyed with doing it, I don’t have the easy excuse of “well, there’s always next year” to wait ten months and try again.  I set the goal, and it’s really up to me to decide to keep doing it.  Each day.  For me.

After all, it is a good time to start fresh and so I’m taking small steps toward some of the big changes.  When (and yes, I choose to say when to support getting there) I achieve success in the first steps, I’ll set some new goals.  Hopefully in February.  And maybe, just maybe, I can fool myself into climbing a few of those mountains I keep ignoring by not letting myself realize I’m doing it – a few small steps at a time.

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Making the Yuletide Gay

The perennial classic “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, appropriate first introduced by icon Judy Garland in Meet Me In St. Louis suggests that we “make the Yuletide gay” though in modern times, it would be more appropriate to note that “gays make the Yuletide.”  (Warning, rampant stereotyping coming post haste.)

All of the trappings of modern secular celebrations of Christmas play directly to the industries and arts in which members of the LGBT community have a far larger statistical representation than in the general public.  Party planning, interior decorating, food and wine, the performance arts of dance, music and theatre and everything remotely associated with retail from gift wrapping and displays to personal shopping for the perfect gifts.

“The gays” deck the halls, trim the trees, put on the shows, host the perfect parties or attend in the most festive of ensembles bringing wit and amusement worthy of Oscar Wilde to any holiday fete bringing the best dishes, the greatest conversation and general merriment all around.  Whether others realize it or not, gays make Christmas look, sound, feel and taste – like Christmas.  Just consider tinsel – it was invented purely to make already festive decorations even shinier and you can’t even say it without lisping that S a little harder than necessary.

However, in between the fun and fantasy of donning our gay apparel, for many in the LGBT community, the wonder and joy of Christmas is a bittersweet time.  Certainly there are those who are loved, accepted and celebrated fully by family and there are others who have made the choice to not have a relationship with family members who do not accept them.  For those who are somewhere in between those two extremes, the moments some consider the “reason for the season” can be a social and emotional series of questions with complicated and difficult answers to be navigated every holiday season.

I want to see my family, but will my boyfriend be invited?  My girlfriend is invited, but begrudgingly, do we stay with my family?  Can we afford to stay somewhere else?  How long do we stay?  I’ll see the family, but do I go to the gathering with the extended family and suffer the series of “how come a wonderful girl hasn’t snatched you up yet?” questions?  Is this the year I drop the “I’m gay” bomb off at the big holiday party?  Do I hold my tongue when they comment on my haircut as unladylike?  Suggest I tone down my mannerisms?  Do I attend the Christmas Eve service?  Or mass at the church I felt so rejected by in order for the whole family to be together?  Do I deliver an ultimatum?  Maybe just one more year of coming without her.  Without him.  I’ll come right before Christmas and leave right after.  Maybe if I have kids it will be different.  I’ll just not bring up politics.  Or my relationships.  Or anything about my life.  I’ll just grin and bear it.  They’re my family, for a few days I can make them happy even if it doesn’t make me happy.

For those whose family relationships are either wonderful or non-existent, it can seem like a self-created series of problems.  However, if you buy into the reason for the season – religious or secular – of giving with nothing expected in return, sometimes trying to give in ways that cannot be wrapped in packages requires more than you might expect.  It may go unnoticed, and it may go unappreciated.  Of course, that is the nature of love, isn’t it?

The holidays can be wonderful and challenging for any and all for myriad reasons, but to my fellow LGBT community members making difficult decisions to show love and bring light where it may not be returned for familial, religious or sundry other reasons, I wish you, and all of us, joy.

Don your gayest apparel and enjoy the season, even if it is a series of compromises that makes everyone somewhat happy if not completely.  After all, if we get everything we want, what is there to wish for next year?

Merry Christmas.  Happy Holidays.  And a Blessed Christmahanakwanzika to you and yours, however you choose to spend it!


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The Great Duck Dynasty Debate

As everyone with a computer or cellphone knows, Phil Robertson has been suspended from appearing in the A&E series Duck Dynasty as a result of anti-LGBT statements he made in an interview with GQ magazine.  The explosive response to the various stages of this process have been as varied as they have been expected.

The LGBT community was outraged by the statements.  Christians who operate from a dogma-first position and Bible literalists jumped to his defense.  In the middle of this process, A&E reacted quickly and decisively to Robertson’s statements.  Amid all of the vitriol and bluster, this is the great victory.  A&E made the business decision (and regardless of the personal positions of the the members of the great corporate hierarchy, it is still a business decision) that it was in the best interest of the network, their advertising revenue and their audience to not have someone in a high profile position on their most successful series who publicly espouses this kind of belief.

This is a huge win for equal rights.  Really, it is.  Typically this kind of scenario has required a much lengthier growing outrage over an individual’s actions or comments before action is taken.  Then, it has often been a talk show apology tour with a perfectly crafted non-apology and then a return to business as usual.  This situation is excitingly unique.  This time, it is not the LGBT community having to continually attempt to shift the status quo.  This series of events shows that the status quo is actually changing.  A&E knew what the overwhelming public response would be an acted almost immediately.  This time, the might and weight of advocates for equality was deemed stronger from the get go.

This has thrown a particular set of conservative religious individuals for a complete loop.  This time they lost so fast they are finally in the position of fighting the uphill battle that the rest of us have fought so many times.  They have to convince the rest of us that he should not be ridiculed for his position and that A&E would be better off having him.  It has led to a debate that we have been dancing around for quite some time and blown it wide open.

Conservative leaders are calling it an infringement of his freedom of speech or his freedom of religion.  This is a last ditch effort to ignore a fact that has been rising into the marketplace of ideas for some time – a complete literal interpretation of the Bible includes tenets that are at times racist, misogynistic, homophobic or completely ludicrous.

A literal Bible reading was used to deny women the vote, African-American equality and interracial marriage.  It is still used in support of anti-marriage equality legislation as a losing battle is fought against equality in marriage.  When it comes to LGBT rights and issues it is finally, painfully becoming clear that the majority of our modern society does not see this as acceptable.

This has led some to a ludicrous reinterpretation of the first amendment to include a great deal of wishful thinking.  The right to free speech still does not include the right to speak without any reaction.  Once again, for the umpteenth time, you get to say whatever you want, that is your right, and then the rest of us get to tell you what we think about it.  If your speech is hateful, bigoted, insane or just stupid – we get to tell you that.  You can say whatever you want, wherever you want, but the rest of us can treat you like the unwashed lunatic in the town square wearing the sandwich board that says the unicorns are returning to enslave us all.  Your right.  Then our right.

Telling you we don’t agree with what your religion thinks, or more specifically how you interpret and apply what you think your religion thinks (that’s a convoluted way to happily acknowledge that many Christians do not practice their faith this way or hold such beliefs) is not impinging on the free exercise of your religion.  You get to assemble and worship.  You get to believe absolutely anything you want.  You get to interact with your creator or the billions of aliens Xenu brought to earth in any way you choose.  However, if your religion holds beliefs that deny the equality of all human beings, when you articulate those beliefs in public you are going to be mocked and derided for the bigoted aspects of your faith.  But you get to keep articulating them.  You just may learn, as Mr. Robertson did, that your platform for sharing them is diminished or removed completely.  There is no right to exercise your freedom of religion before an audience.  If no one wants to hear it, no one has to listen.

Above and beyond that, when you express a belief as “not my opinion, but God’s” it does not make it more valid, nor is it an excuse to hide behind.  Whether your opinion is from Allah, Buddha, Jesus, L. Ron Hubbard or the fancy faeries that flit about the meadows of Stonehenge, when you speak it – it’s your opinion.  You don’t get to shrug and say “it’s not up to me.”  Opinions aren’t fact.  The right to any opinion does not come with the right to ensure that opinion is agreed with or respected in any way.  Not only that, you can and will suffer the consequences if you express an opinion the rest of society finds abhorrent.  I can tell you that I think people taste delicious, and everyone I know has the right to stop attending my dinner parties.

Opinion, speech, reaction, consequences.  We get to judge each other’s opinions, speech and even religion when it is expressed as a part of the public, pop culture, political or social media dialogue.

To those who have said “who cares what he thinks?”, it is our history of reacting loudly and strongly with ever-growing support to castigate anyone in a high profile position in the public eye who acts or speaks with bigotry toward the LGBT community that helped us arrive at this moment where A&E knew what the response would be and made a decision to take Mr. Robertson’s platform away and denounce their association with him.  Expressing outrage leads to change.  Making an example of every example brings us closer and closer to a time when bigots have the good sense to keep their bigotry to themselves or inside a diminishing circle of like-minded individuals.  We win by making it clear it is not okay every single time it happens.

And finally, a brilliant and perfect example of an historically acceptable bigoted opinion in judgment of a minority group in our nation was met with swift and decisive reaction.  Well done A&E.  For those who find the reaction to and consequences of Mr. Robertson’s ignorant and judgmental religion-based opinion head spinning, I hope you don’t have vertigo because the head spinning has just begun.

One final serious thought – what was GQ doing interviewing anyone from Duck Dynasty in the first place?

Posted in Human Behavior, In The News | Tagged , , , , , , , | 73 Comments

Eviscerating The Sound Of Music Live

NBC aired a live performance of The Sound of Music last night, and theatre performers and aficionados panned it in spectacular and vitriolic fashion.  It quite clearly became a competition to see how creatively each person could say they hated it more than the next person.  I find that disappointing and somewhat sad.

The hatred was almost completely and exclusively directed at Carrie Underwood.  I will happily agree that her acting was elementary at best.  She earnestly and one-dimensionally delivered all of the lines and hit all of her marks and made it through an entire three hour show (I point this out because in an era where professional actors cannot make it through a three minute SNL sketch without obviously reading cue cards, it does show she was committed to this endeavor), but no, she is obviously no Julie Andrew or Mary Martin.  However, I will give her credit for surprisingly excellent vocals in the original Martin keys rather than the film keys adjusted for Andrews.

That said, this production would not have happened without Carrie Underwood.  There is not a single Broadway performer that NBC would have bet this risky undertaking on.  Not one.  Five-time Tony Winner Audra McDonald would not have had the opportunity to deliver the best version of “Climb Every Mountain” from any production ever without Carrie Underwood’s name and face out front.  So hem and haw and hate all you want, it happened because of that former American Idol’s name, success and relevancy in pop culture.

I do understand the frustration.  Yes, there are dozens of far more talented performers appropriate for the role who would have given the show the core of life and nuance it needed to truly soar.  I hear the well-articulated argument that those knowledgeable or trained in theatre should not have to be happy with “what we get” if what we get is not good.

The problem is this argument is naive.  Theatre has been losing it’s relevancy in the national art discussion and pop culture dialogue outside of New York City for a very long time.  The cost of seeing theatre in New York, or even the vast majority of the national tours now, makes attending the theatre an option only for the wealthy or the middle class willing to splurge.

It’s also important to recognize that this production was an enormous risk.  For the network and for Carrie.  A live theatrical event of this size and scope has not been broadcast live on network television since long before the advent of social media.  It just isn’t done anymore, and for the theatre purists unaware or uninterested in the Hollywood TV/film part of the business – those of us on the west coast can guarantee you that this was a hard sell to make happen at all.  And let’s not pretend that the Broadway world is immune to the benefits of stunt casting to get people in the seats for everything from limited run plays to the Tony’s.

All of it is sad.  All of it is frustrating.  The impact of film and television on theatre, whether in who gets cast, or what show gets adapted for Broadway because it stands a chance of recouping the enormous investment it takes to make it happen does limit the ability of innovative or challenging or risky theatre to reach the masses.  It just seems that all of that frustration about all everything from Shrek The Musical to trained and talented theatre actors who cannot get seen for great film and television roles was unloaded last night on Carrie Underwood, and that just is not completely fair.

In the end, hopefully NBC will see last night as a huge success.  18.5 million people watched the show, the largest non-sports NBC Thursday night since the Frasier finale in 2004.  (For the record, it would take twenty 3000-seat theatres nearly a year of performing every night of the week to reach that many people.) Along with all of the theatre performers and fans who tuned in, there was also a rare opportunity for people who cannot afford to go to the theatre or who may not think it would interest them to check it out.

The danger of last night’s reaction is that so many networks now pay a great deal of attention to the reaction of social media.  The result could be that they do not read “do it better next time” in the incredibly hostile reaction last night, but instead simply hear “don’t do it, we’ll never be happy.”

I’m not saying don’t complain.  I’m not saying the arguments about better casting choices are not true.  I’m not saying you aren’t entitled to say loudly and repeatedly how much you hated it.  However, I wonder how many people who absolutely hated what they saw took the time to tweet, facebook or write to NBC and say “thank you so much for being the first network in modern memory to attempt to bring the magic of live theatre performances to a larger audience, and we hope you’ll take even greater risks next time to ensure the performances live up to the material.”  If all NBC hears is “it was terrible” they just may decide it isn’t worth doing again.  That’s a loss for all of us.

The complete annihilation of the entire event also belies some successes.  Audra.  Audra.  And Audra again.  The use of the set in the limited sound stage was great, and quite a bit of the camera work and blocking was incredibly intricate and interesting.  A couple of the transitions actually managed to convey the magic of the theatre.  Yes there are many things that can be done better, but if they don’t attempt it again – that won’t ever matter.

I just find it sad that while my greatest respect is often reserved for artists trained to give an entire performance all the way through live in front of audience, it seems so few last night were willing to give an inch at all for the practical realities of the business of art and applaud the effort.  We’ve all greeted someone after a show and had to search for the compliment that wouldn’t be a lie and would still make the person feel good so they could continue doing the show feeling confident in their work.

“I’m glad they did it.”  No matter the wide ranging opinions of the success or complete failure of the endeavor, this is something those that truly love the theatre should truly be able to say.  It becomes harder and harder to interest new audiences in the work we do without a star name or a known title.  If this was the first glimpse a lower middle class kid somewhere with no access to live theatre had of our world, I will stand by that it was indeed still a very good thing.

And I hope Katharine McPhee called Carrie Underwood this morning and said, “Girl, I know, don’t worry, you’ll get through it.”

Posted in Entertainment, In The News, Television | Tagged , , , | 218 Comments

How We React When Celebrities Die

There is a wide array of reactions that accompany the death of a celebrity.  It’s possible to understand a great deal about the impact of the particular celebrity by the nature of the reactions.  The circumstances can cause reactions to be focused in a particular direction – unexpected tragedy causing death is met with shock and an outpouring of grief, death in old age is met with reminiscence and retrospective.  Each situation is unique, but with the modern ability of every individual to express an instant reaction, there are certain “types” of people that are emerging in the social media sphere that can be counted on to appear with any celebrity death.

1) The “irrational expression of profound grief” person.  This individual did not know the celebrity in question, but the reaction they express – typically with a multi-paragraph Facebook post or long series of tribute tweets – is more in line with the loss of the closest of friends.  They typically post repeatedly, moving on to posting every YouTube clip of the deceased they can find when the posts just prove not to be enough.  They are akin to the person wailing at the funeral louder than the spouse of the deceased.  It’s not the reaction is inherently wrong, they just seem ridiculous in the manner they choose to express it.

2) The “I crossed this celebrity’s path once” person.  This person had a brush or interaction with this person and tells the detailed version of the story before expressing their grief.  Their are subsets of this person in the form of the “humble brag to show you why my grief reaction is more valid than yours” and the “I just want to share that my impression of this celebrity was very positive, so your grief is valid” person.

3) The “I knew this celebrity” person.  This person did actually know said celebrity at a level beyond passing acquaintance.  Their expression again includes the subset of “so I’m making this all about me, and send me your condolences at my grief that is so much stronger than yours” and “I want to share my stories and lessen my grief by sharing with others who are grieving.”  This category often includes actual friends of the celebrity, other celebrities whose quotes are sought out by the press and minor celebrities seeking reflective attention.

4) The “what’s the most inappropriate joke I can make?” person.  This person usually waits until the news has spread just far enough for everyone to suddenly be interested, and then they drop the most offensive joke they can think of into the mourning of others.  The attempt at shock humor for attention is usually based in the circumstances of the individual’s death, the reason the person was famous in the first place, or if all else fails by linking them to some other shock/buzz form of humor.  The fast and furious jokes at the death of Paul Walker are perfect examples.  I’m all for no-limits comedy, but as with other delicate subjects for humor, the greater the risk of the joke being perceived as just offensive, the more substantial the underlying point should be.  “Someone died and I know how to make it funny” really doesn’t qualify.

5) The “I’m an expert on this person and will now take this opportunity to let you know why you should have known so much more about this celebrity” person.  This typically happens with the death of someone whose greatest point of celebrity was sometime in the past.  Great artists, singers and actors whose careers peaked before cable television and the internet are the most likely candidates.  This person expresses their grief and fandom by showing the rest of us what we were missing all along.  They often scoff at those who are not familiar with the celebrity’s work.

6) The “I’m a superfan” person.  This person is a sibling of the “expert” person, but their expression is usually about a currently relevant celebrity so it lacks the aspect of teaching you about them.  They know you know the person’s work, but they want to tell you everything they ever loved about the person, often starting with the most known work all the way to the obscure minutia that only the most committed of fans would know.  They show how much better a fan they were than you, and often use it to justify the transition into being an “irrational grief” person.

5) The “thousands of people die every day and this person’s death shouldn’t be more important than theirs” person.  You know the one, they usually list a statistic of how many people die daily, or annually, or by the same method as the celebrity.  They are attempting to prick at social consciousness and point out what they perceive as an inequity or overreaction to a particular death.  They do not believe the reaction and attention is justified.  They appear most often in conjunction with deaths of unexpected tragedy, and are often directly reacting to the collective expression of all of the “irrational expression of profound grief” people.  They are also being a little bit patronizing, as if saying, “you shouldn’t be feeling as strongly as you do about this person you didn’t even know.”

6) The “there is (insert other world problem or tragedy here) happening, and while this death is sad, should all of the news be about it?” person.  This person is really just saying they didn’t care that much about this particular celebrity and they are annoyed with the amount of news coverage and discussion being given to it because of the interest of the grief-based reaction personality types.  They often agree with and relate to the “other people died today” person.  They use the comparison to another national or international issue or tragedy to belittle the grief being expressed by the “experts”, “superfans” and “over-grievers”.

The reality is, celebrity deaths do a strange thing to us collectively in our culture.  The more unexpected, the greater the attention because of the “what could have been” wondering it fires in the imagination.  How much more could they have done and been that we would have loved?  Heath Ledger, Cory Monteith, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Paul Walker received this for different reasons.  The death of elderly celebrities, much less so.  We have a strange relationship with celebrities.  We love them, we respect them, we revile them, we obsess over them each at different times and for different reasons.  We can each fall into different reaction categories depending on our own relationship with the work of the celebrity or perception of them.  We expect much from our celebrities, but we don’t expect them to die any more than we expect the people in our own lives to die.

The loss of a celebrity becomes a communal opportunity to discuss them and their work and our opinions on them.  It also often shows who we are as individuals.  I may think your reaction is ridiculous, but who am I to judge it?  I never understood the extreme reaction some people have to the death of a celebrity they do not personally know until Whitney Houston died.  I did not expect the strength of my own reaction, and then I considered how much she was the soundtrack to my life.  I’m sure it looked silly to others.  But who cares, right?  Regardless of our individual opinions, respecting the right of others to feel the way the feel should not be that difficult because who are they hurting?  Belittling them, mocking them or deriding the subject of their grief does not make them grieve less, it just makes you look like a terrible human being.

Each time we lose someone, in our own lives, in our artistic lives or in the public square of art and celebrity, it’s an opportunity to reflect on and remember the fragile nature of our own humanity.  With the rapid decline in respect for each other occurring online and in social media, when a moment happens that is big enough that we are all aware of it, why can’t we all be human together for a moment and let those moments be just that – a moment of humanity – instead of looking for a reason and a way to mock, laugh at or belittle each other for feeling something.  Because collectively we seem to be feeling less and less these days, leading to a new sense of pride in our ability to be insensitive.

Sure some people are ridiculous, but given all of the different ways we as a society are ridiculous, this isn’t the worst of our offenses and it may just make us be kinder to each other for a moment.  Regardless of the reason, that is always a good thing.

Posted in Human Behavior, In The News | 1 Comment

Eating Our Feelings

Unless you are one of that small minority of Americans who has a perfect family where you love every single person absolutely, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that carries stress that can range from paper-cut-irritating to the feeling of standing on a land mine where there is just no right way to handle it without getting your head blown off.

First, there’s where to spend Thanksgiving.  If all of your family does not live in the same vicinity, someone has to travel.  Stress.  And money.  And of course the weather always makes this a catastrophe, almost every year for the last ten in fact. (Why has no one proposed moving Thanksgiving to a less horrifying weather-riddled month like August?)

Then once you get there you have to pretend you like everyone in your massive extended family, and, let’s be honest, that’s rarely the case.  So you put on that happy face, the one you normally save for the co-worker who likes hearing himself talk, and do your best to avoid those wretched people when it’s finally time to sit down to eat.  Here’s hoping you don’t have one of those place card hosts who will take that tiny bit of free will away from you.

For those not spending it with family, there’s the complicated decision of which friends to invite over or to visit.  Turning down Thanksgiving invitations is awkward, but do you really want to go bite and smile your way through a serving of Vegan Tofurkey?  It may not be as bad as that family function you begged out of using work or finances as an excuse, but it’s likely to be close.  Some friends don’t get along, so keep them separated.  Then a string of questions that would challenge even Emily Post to provide perfectly polite answers for crop up to make it worse – is it weird to bring that friend who has nowhere else to go?  Is it okay to stop by and eat a plate at four different houses to make everyone happy?  How short can your visit be without being rude?

Then, who’s doing the cooking?  And does everyone else have to bring something?  And if so, what?  And who doesn’t eat what?  With the advent of gluten-free everything, Thanksgiving is now a minefield of what is not suitable for whom, and who will be a complete jerk about it too – because, of course they will.

For those in transitional life periods, an additional series of queries pops up.  Do you bring that new person you are dating, making it more serious than you might be ready for?  Do you not bring them, and risk insulting them?  Do you accept their invitations?  Are you ready to meet the potential in-laws?  Will your own family behave?  Do you have answers for all of those pesky “what are you doing with your life and why aren’t you more successful” questions?

The difficult thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s just a meal, so there’s no inherent activity to distract from the inevitably weird, insulting, probing or challenging conversation topics at whatever gathering you finally decide on.  It’s always the person with the most ridiculous opinions who wants to launch into a tirade on religion – I’m an atheist and you’re a moron for not being one, Wicca is my new passion, Jesus save me YESTERDAY!  Or Politics – the Tea Party knows exactly how to save this country, Ron Paul had some great points and he didn’t write those newsletters, Hillary Clinton is the ONLY option and you hate gay people if you don’t agree.  Or just the state of anything and everything in America.  They have a captive audience, and they aren’t afraid to use it, and the rest of us bite our tongues thinking “just get through it, it doesn’t matter anyway” while weighing the pros and cons of verbally ripping them to shreds before the desserts finally arrive.

That barely even covers the day, since there’s the pre-meal and post-meal activities that have to be planned.  Watching the parade, or gathering to cook, or watching the game, or throwing the ball in the yard in an epic display of sportsball masculinity.  The possibilities, both wonderful and truly horrendous are endless.  And finally, when can you leave?  Before dessert?  After the meal?  After the dishes?  After the game?  There’s that other stop we just have to make to appease some other family member or friend, but when is an appropriate exit without someone being offended???

The stresses associated with having Thanksgiving plans are innumerable, but they are rivaled easily by the stresses of those who do not have plans.  Family crises, or fractures or tragedies can make it an exhausting day emotionally even without plans that have to be navigated like a tightrope.  For many it is a day that serves as a reminder of who is missing even more than who is present.

So let’s acknowledge, if just for a moment, before Facebook floods with showy “thankful” posts, and Instagram fills with perfectly laid tables of entirely too much food, that Thanksgiving is an extremely weird and difficult day for many people.  If you are not one of those people, good for you, truly, so maybe take a moment to reach out to the people you know for whom it is not a perfect day and give them a moment they can be thankful for.

If you are one of those people for whom it is a day that seems like an emotional mountain that is going to take serious effort to climb, if it’s even possible, remember – you are not the only one, and you are not alone.  The only suggestion I can give for situations like this where advice provides no comfort is this – do what everyone else will be doing anyway: eat your feelings.  I mean, every family every where can’t be wrong on that part.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  (Or, have a wonderful day ignoring everyone and everything in order to do exactly what YOU want to do by yourself!)  Whichever seems most appropriate.

Posted in Human Behavior | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Mary Poppins Was a Lazy Narcissist

I had the opportunity to see Mary Poppins on the big screen last night, and it was a delightful viewing.  I realized I have not seen it since early adolescence, and I will admit I was shocked to come away with a very different perspective.

Mary Poppins was a lazy, narcissistic bitch!

Allow me to explain.

We meet Ms. Poppins atop a cloud fixing her makeup.  Certainly looking good is important, but this does rather become a theme.  Below, general madness occurs amid a healthy bit of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the Banks household.  Jane and Michael write their advertisement (please read that with the appropriate British accent, because it sounds so much better), it goes in the fire and the stage is set for her dramatic entrance.  In the morning, a line of well-qualified applicants arrive appropriately early, showing initiative and desire, and she sends all of them packing to cut to the front of the line. A little entitled are we?

The interview begins, and the only two points from the ad she manages to address are rosy cheeks and cheery disposition – fifty percent devoted to appearance.  She seems all business and effectiveness, to the point of really being quite presumptuous and rude.  She ends it dismissively and just assumes, no doubt based on a history of getting whatever she wants when she wants it, that she has received the position.

The first thing she does on arriving in her room is complain about the decor, her charges waiting dutifully as she makes the environment more suitable for her own comfort.  She needs better lighting, and what narcissist doesn’t know this is key, leading to the piece de resistance – a giant ornate mirror.  Not content with the single giant mirror, she immediately pulls out a handheld one and gets distracted by her own reflection for a moment!

Is it even necessary to discuss the “practically perfect in every way” moment?  I mean, she has it permanently inscribed on a tape measure!  She’s a grown women, obviously not getting taller, so she knows it will be the answer every time she feels the need to show off.  In front of impressionable children of course.

Finally, it’s time to work.  Sort of.  Instead of teaching the children to make up a fun game out of actually putting their things away, she doesn’t actually lift a finger after she sets the rocking horse upright.  Or more precisely, all she does is lift a finger.  And snap.  And all of the work is done for her.  If that isn’t the epitome of lazy, I don’t know what is.

She leaves the children to finish snapping away the chores, and as things run amok, she once again becomes obsessed with herself in the mirror.  Three mirror moments in five minutes.  That’s narcissism folks.  Not only that, as we learned from Michael Jackson, the Evil Queen and Christina Aguilera, you can learn a lot about a person from what they see in the mirror.  Ms. Poppins has a bitchy, competitive, totally show-offy reflection.  Draw your own conclusions.

It’s finally time for an outing.  Like all good nannies, she takes them for a trip to the park.  Or to see her boyfriend.  One or the other.  Bert does his best to actually amuse and entertain the children, while Ms. Poppins roles her eyes – something she spends a great deal of the movie doing – and huffs at how ridiculous he is before begrudgingly tossing them all into the drawing.

Rather than guide the children through this wonderland of adventure, she immediately lets them run off.  Now, Jane and Michael always seem to be wonderful kids with a normal sense of adventure, but I’m pretty sure it’s the actual job description of the nanny to keep a watchful eye.  Ms. Poppins, now bedecked in the best outfit of the four it should be noted, instead goes off on a date with this man of the streets.  On her very first day of work!

She and Bert dance their way through the countryside as he sings glowingly of her and how wonderful it is to be with her.  She smiles patronizingly, waiting, and then when it’s her turn to sing she emasculates him by singing of how sure she is nothing will happen between them.  Clearly this is not their first meeting, so she is just stringing the poor man along with breadcrumbs!  Bert continues to give it his all for her with an exhausting song and dance number, heedless of his uphill battle.

After lunch she finally checks on the children, takes the horses off the merry-go-round and then after entering a horse race in the middle, she uses her looks and charm to cheat her way to the win.  Then she gives a nauseating helping of false modesty as she stands and poses like a Kardashian arriving at an airport with an arm full of flowers in the winner’s circle.  Rather than give an interview she makes up a nonsense word.  If Amanda Bynes had tossed out that word, we’d be having her committed.

The day in the drawing finishes and the children return home, delighted with their day.  As they ready for bed, reliving the wonder of it all, Mary proceeds to plant seeds of doubt by denying that any of it actually happened.  That’s a surefire way to teach a child to question their own sanity.   And all of that is just the first day!

Let’s move quickly through day two.  Ms. Poppins leaves the house with her two charges, clearly with directions from Mrs. Banks to stop by the piano tuner and make several purchases.  Instead, she drags them off to see her bipolar lispy gay uncle who is obviously not quite right.  Family emergency or not, she pulls them along on her personal visit and accomplishes none of the tasks requested by her employers by the time they return home.  That seems like a lovely lesson in personal responsibility.

Mr. Banks attempts to address his frustrations with Mary’s unorthodox, and as we have seen, ultimately lazy methods, and her answer is to huff at his questions and then foist them off on him for the day rather than answering his questions about her methodology and doing the job she is paid to do.  “I never explain anything” she declares.  I mean, he is her boss, even if he is short-sighted and a patronizing misogynist.

The catastrophe at the bank happens, and who finds the children?  Not Ms. Poppins, she’s enjoying her self-created day off.  Once again, it’s Bert taking care of the children.  They return home and naturally head for the rooftop where even Bert seems unsure how far away from the house they should be traveling with the children.  Not Mary, she drags them across dangerous rooftops and then sits center stage like a queen as once again men compete and outdo themselves showing off for her. (And let’s not forget she once again gets out her ever-present compact.  Even if it is to move herself dangerously closer to being in blackface.)

After the rooftop party, she allows dozens of dirty strange men into the house of her employers for a massive party, exerting her bad influence on the other household employees.  I’m sure all of the sweeps are lovely, but this isn’t her home, and even a teenage babysitter knows you make everyone leave and clean up from the party before the homeowners return.  Not Mary, she doesn’t care.  She brashly acts like she has not done anything wrong.  They’re having a good time, why end it?

The giant turning point of the story comes not from Ms. Poppins, but from Bert’s heartfelt sharing and guidance with Mr. Banks after all of the madness calms.  It’s the realization in this moment with Bert that changes Mr. Banks and leads to the wonderful family moment that ends the film.

Certainly it can be argued that Mary created the moments that led to the enlightenment of Mr. Banks.  It can also be argued that she wanted a cushy job where she could do as little work as possible while hanging out with her friends, visiting family and enjoying the attention of men of all kinds while judging the lives of her employers.  All of her shenanigans would just be madcap disorganization if Bert, ever hopeful that cleaning up her messes might make her see him as something more, had not stepped in to drive the actual message home, after all, Mary doesn’t explain anything.  She said so.  Then she quit after three days.

Oh, and that spoonful of medicine? Yeah, hers was alcohol. Maybe it had a sugar rim for her rum punch and that helped it go down for sure. Drinking on the job makes her at least a bit of a lush too.

The faults keep piling Ms. Poppins. Practically Perfect? Methinks not. Lazy?  Yes.  Narcissistic?  Definitely.  Bitchy?  I mean, more than a few times, it has to be said.  Mary Poppins is certainly no Super Nanny.

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