Wednesday, July 28, 2021

TV: Basics

Watching NETFLIX's THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER we realized that things really are not what they seem. For example, what's worse than trash? How about trash that doesn't know it's trash. THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER isn't even good trash. VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, the film, is good trash.


NETFLIX's latest offering is based on Jojo Moyers' romance novel from 2008. So why does it strive so hard to be so much more? Maybe a new rule for characters in pot boilers should be don't quote and discuss Ernest Hemingway's A FAREWELL TO ARMS AND Evelyn Waugh's SCOOP? Maybe keep the pretentious factor to a bare minimum?

In the film, a journalist (Jojo Moyes, when not writing romance novels, is a journalist, Pauline Sara Jo Moyes) finds old letters between lovers. Yes, when not dropping literary references, it also thinks it's some involved production a la THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN. When the front story finally -- finally --gets started we're dealing with an unhappy wife played by an embarrassed looking Shailene Woodley. We understand the embarrassment, but if you take the job, maybe commit to the role? Callum Turner breezes through his scenes making it clear that he's not aware enough to grasp that he's slumming. It's a romance novel, he just needs to be cute and he achieves that. There's not much more he could do with the role (not much more anyone could do with it) so breezy is probably the best choice.

The only performance worth noting it delivered by Joe Alwyn. He plays the husband making Woodley's character so unhappy so he's the ogre and gives him something to build a performance around.

Despite Turner's looks and Joe's performance, it doesn't add up to much. Instead of embracing the genre, it tries to remain detached and above it all. Distance is achieved, yes, but is distance really the reason anyone watches a romance film?

We realize how things are not what they seem last week when BREAKING POINTS aired a segment entitled "Briahna Joy Gray Dishes On Where Bernie Went Wrong." That seemed like a Krystal and Saagar segment we'd want to watch. But somehow it ended up being a Krystal and Kyle segment. No, we didn't want to watch. But Briahana Joy was an insider in the Bernie Sanders campaign and we wanted to hear what she said. The trade off was that we had to endure Kyle's 'jokes,' constant interruptions and mugg(ing. And the interview produced very little as a result.

Apparently, just like Joe Biden's CNN townhall. We say "apparently" because, like most of America, we didn't watch. The show's ratings were low -- even among chatter junkies -- they elected to go with MSNBC or FOX instead. A live broadcast featuring the sitting president and no one cared.

So many things pop up on the media landscape these days.

Morgan Wallen. We really don't have time for celebrity gossip. We knew a country music star had been banned from radio and was suspended by his label and we knew he had used the n-word. That's all we knew. We couldn't have even told you his name. We don't listen to a great deal of country music and didn't know his songs or anything. And we would have stayed there, in ignorance, were it not for his apology tour.

Morgan Wallen, we learned, was his name when he appeared on GOOD MORNING AMERICA last week.

We also learned what happened as a result of his interview with Michael Strahan.

Things are not as they seem.

We were under the impression, due to all the uproar, that he'd done something hideous. We imagined him hurling the n-word in anger at some person of color.

Wasn't that way at all. He called one of his White friends that. At his own house.

He didn't say it in hate.

Should he have used the term?

Sorry, we don't think it should be used at all. Whether it's BULLWORTH or Tarantino's films, we don't think the n-word should be used.

We think it's a hateful word with a history of pain.

We are also aware that some African-Americans feel differently. And we are also aware that some argue they are reclaiming the word.

At 28, Morgan has grown up during the reclaiming.

We don't think he should have used it. We don't think he should have been banned by the radio. We also don't think you should be policed for every statement you make in your private life.

Morgan doesn't strike us as a very smart person.

All we're judging by is that interview. And that interview wasn't live. An article at MUSIC MAYHEM has already covered some of what got edited out of the interview.

He used a word in private, to a friend. And we all just knew he must be racist?

To us, he just didn't seem very smart.

And why would he be? He's 28-years old.singer-songwriter who has had multiple hits including three number one hits. We assume he's focused on his music. We don't expect Taylor Swift to be very smart either, by the way. And we don't get caught in whatever drama is being created around her at any minute. We expect that people will grow and mature as they age and if they don't, we will call them out. Or if they're a politician, a public servant. Or if they do something with the intent to hurt someone else.

And we'd honestly, based on the hoopla, assumed that's what Morgan had done. We'd assumed he spewed hate and used the n-word as the exclamation point.

When John Fogerty used that word in the 80s to the press when speaking of Tina Turner, he was being hateful, petty and jealous and he was a long, long way from his 20s.

We don't approve of the word. We don't use the word. We think everyone should refrain from its use -- everyone. When a popular rapper that's looked up to and that people want to emulate is using the term, you better believe it's going to cross color lines. It's going to be seen as cool. That's not a new development. You've had non-Blacks trying to 'be' Black for years and years. Ronny Chieng builds a good portion of his NETFLIX comedy special RONY CHIENG: ASIAN COMEDIAN DESTROYS AMERICA. You've had White rockers stealing from Black blues artists, this is nothing new.

It's also true that banning the word can make it popular, we're aware of that and aware that could happen.

What's the answer?

Whatever it is, we don't expect to find it on GOOD MORNING AMERICA.

Morgan was asked by Michael at one point about the surge in his album sales after the incident. And, as prompted by his interviewer, he ran with the nonsense of racism fueled the purchases. It's something a DAILY BEAST columnist also ran with. But, let's be honest, if she was really concerned about racism, she wouldn't work for a pro-war outlet in a country that targets the 'other,' now would she?

Oh, we're sorry, did we impose our pro-peace lens on her?  Kind of the way she's never able to see anything except from her own viewpoint.  "Try to see it my way," sang the Beatles but so many aren't interested.  They'd rather just assume the worst about people they know nothing about.

Morgan was a popular entertainer (he still is). He had fans.

They didn't need prompting to show support for their favorite. In addition, we're not fond of censorship in the US.

With Wings, Paul McCartney  used to get loud cheers whenever he introduced a song -- during a US tour -- that had been banned. The Chicks saw sales of 2002's HOME increase even as radio stations stopped playing "Landslide" due to Natalie Maines' comment onstage in London that she was embarrassed Bully Boy Bush was from Texas. (He was actually born in New Haven.) Some took her (weak) remarks wrongly as "anti-war." If she were anti-war, she would have spoken out against the war at some point but never has to this day. Some bought HOME during the witch hunt against the Chicks due to anti-war sentiment, some bought it because they don't like censorship. In 1991, pressure was brought to censor Bret Easton Ellis' AMERICAN PSYCHO. Some feminists even called for the book not to be published. That was stupid. All it did was inflate sales of the book.

It's a really bad book. It's disgusting, yes, but it's a really bad book in terms of writing with plenty of flab and padding -- see the section on Whitney Houston for instance. The uproar against the book only created a backlash.

Which leaves us in a curious position.

We don't think anyone should use the n-word. We're not calling for a law but aren't we calling for self-censorship then? Yes, we are. And that's something that we oppose -- censorship -- especially artistically. But that's how powerful -- in a negative way -- that word still is. That's how much harm its use can still do. We defend the use of every word -- every other word -- and we defend free speech and we oppose censorship. But when it comes to that one word . . .

Have we given it too much power?

Will there ever be a time when the word won't have such power to harm and hurt?  

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