Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

Never not sorry

Media | The cultural revolution demands conformity and denies grace
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 12/14/18, 03:31 pm

Be careful, little fingers, what you type, for an angry mob of trolls is reading all your social media posts. This month, the trolls went after comedian Kevin Hart and college football Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

Hart, who has starred in blockbusters such as Jumanji and numerous comedy specials, stepped down as Oscar’s host last week amid backlash for tweets he wrote years ago (2009-2011) about how he would react if his son was gay. The schtick was part of his standup routine at the time and included things like hitting his son over the head with a dollhouse. Since then, Hart has apologized for the remarks and taken them out of his comedy act. When critics—and, reportedly, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—demanded another apology last week, he initially balked, saying the jokes were old history.

“I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve, I don’t know what to tell you,” Hart said. Eventually, he did apologize yet again but said he would not host the Oscars after all.

University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray faced a similar predicament when, less than 24 hours after winning college football’s highest individual honor, journalists dug up controversial tweets from when he was 14 and 15 years old. In the tweets, he attempted to insult others by accusing them of being gay. Murray quickly deleted the postings and apologized, saying “I used a poor choice of word that doesn’t reflect who I am or what I believe.”

After the reports surfaced, some journalists rushed to Murray’s defense.

“I don’t know what motivates, what drives these so-called reporters … to, at a moment of somebody’s highest achievements, go search for their lowest moments,” ESPN analyst Will Cain said on the air Tuesday. “Breaking news: Teenagers, 14- and 15-year-olds, say stupid things.” Cain’s fellow ESPN commentator, Steven A. Smith, agreed: “It’s inhumane what folks try to do to these kids.”

Both Murray and Hart intended to belittle homosexuals—Murray to degrade his peers and Hart to get a laugh. That’s not OK to do to anyone, and no one I’ve seen defending Murray and Hart said it was. But the public shaming of people for mistakes that date back to childhood or for which they have already apologized shows a frightening lack of grace in a culture that so often promotes tolerance and acceptance.

“It is very much like the kind of Soviet demands for ideological conformity that marked the Cold War,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member, said last week on his podcast The Briefing. “There had to be public apologies, public contrition for ever holding a position that was in violation of party doctrine.”

The media seem to have moved on from Murray’s past tweets, focusing now on his plans for a professional career in either football or baseball. (He plays both.) As for Hart, he might end up having the last laugh as the Oscars tries to find a replacement host. The show’s ratings are low and the pressure on its host is high, often bearing the brunt of critics’ wrath if the live show doesn’t go well.

“Oscars host has become a not very desirable job in Hollywood. Very few people see an upside,” said Matthew Belloni, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld predicted that in the end, the controversy would hurt the Oscars more than it hurt Hart. “I think Kevin's going to be fine,” Seinfeld said in an interview with NBC News this week. “But find another Kevin Hart, that’s not so easy.”

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Going out of style

The Weekly Standard, a traditional conservative magazine that often criticized President Donald Trump, announced Friday it is shutting down after 23 years. Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes founded the magazine in 1995, two years into the presidency of Bill Clinton. Though it had a relatively small circulation for a national magazine—just over 100,000 in 2012—it had tremendous influence in Washington, D.C., during the presidency of George W. Bush. In 2003, Kristol told The New York Times that Vice President Dick Cheney sent someone to the office to pick up 30 copies of The Weekly Standard every Monday. But the magazine’s circulation and standing in Washington has waned as it doubled down on its critique of the Trump administration.

“This is a volatile time in American journalism and politics,” editor-in-chief Stephen Hayes wrote in a letter to employees obtained by CNN. “Many media outlets have responded to the challenges of the moment by prioritizing affirmation over information, giving into the pull of polarization and the lure of clickbait.”

The magazine will publish its final issue on Monday. —L.L.

Associated Press/Photo by Robb Cohen/Invision Associated Press/Photo by Robb Cohen/Invision Joe Elliott (left) and Rick Savage of Def Leppard perform in Atlanta in July.

Top rockers

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced Thursday it will induct Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music, and the Zombies in 2019. Jackson, who was nominated twice before for the honor, joins her brother Michael and the Jackson 5 as a Hall of Famer. Def Leppard received the most support of any nominee, earning more than half a million votes from fans, which are incorporated into more than 1,000 ballots from artists, historians, industry professionals, and past winners. The British heavy metal band with a pop sheen was a huge seller in the 1980s with songs like “Photograph” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The induction ceremony is scheduled for March 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland. To be eligible for nomination, an artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years ago. —L.L.

Golden girl

The Golden Globe Awards will introduce a new special honor for TV achievement at next month’s ceremony. The award will be named for its first recipient, comedy icon Carol Burnett. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association said Tuesday the Carol Burnett Award, the small-screen counterpart of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for film, will honor annually someone “who has made outstanding contributions to television on or off the screen.” Burnett, 85, is a five-time Golden Globe winner and was the first woman to host a variety sketch show, The Carol Burnett Show, which ran for 11 seasons on CBS starting in 1967. —L.L.

It’s alive!

The organizers of a Russian youth technology forum this week trotted out a man dressed in a fancy costume to get the audience hyped, fooling some into thinking they were watching a real, autonomous robot. The state news channel Rossiya 24 described “Boris” as “one of the most advanced robots in the world.” The news group insisted its reporters weren’t actually fooled and were just being playful. But it has removed the segment on Boris from its YouTube channel, according to Meduza. —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sat, 12/15/2018 12:40 pm

    An honest scientific materialist would agree that Boris is actually the most advanced robot in the world.  But then, to allow him into a contest alongside lesser, created robots would beg the question, "Who created Boris?"  And a good scientific materialist cannot allow that to happen.