Saturday, June 30, 2007

More Spike Lee Stuff

Mark Armstrong is questioning -- in a civil way -- my earlier post on the announcement of Spike Lee to direct the Broadway revival of Stalag 17. In fact, in the comments, Stewie writes,

"Broadway is a big place, relatively speaking, a commercial place, a place for tourists and trash and, yes, quality stuff. I think it can accomodate a film director who wants to try his hand at stage work. To react like prissy horrified purists about Lee directing on Broadway is just silly. There are plenty of directors on Broadway and Off who get by on mediocre work. I do agree that Lee's fame could be put to better use in an Off Broadway house. OB needs the publicity more than Broadway."

Beyond the fact that anyone who necessarily disagrees with Stewie is termed a "prissy horrified purist" -- always attractive to haul out the homophobia when the rhetorical advantage is not on your side -- what I was saying in the first place is that the lack of blogosphere discussion about Lee coming to Broadway was a little weird: If Spielberg or Scorcese were to announce a Broadway directorial project, I imagine there would have been more discussion. In addition, Aaron Riccio, in the same comments section, is quite right that the concern, even before Lee gets into the rehearsal hall, even before he gets his name on the marquee is that he appears positioned to be

OVERWRITING the existing play, aided in part by the surviving writer of the original Stalag 17. It's a slap in the face to the original work, and though playwrights have certainly revised their work before, the Gray Lady made it seem like this was due to pressure from the money-hungry producer and Lee's imagery ("More cursing!") instead.
It would appear -- and here I yield the floor once more to Aaron, who points out that there are real differences between the Times' account of what is going on and what Riedel and Playbill have written -- that Lee had to be lured on some level into working on the piece, and this was the price he extracted. When I posted originally, it seemed to me that a discussion about that was blogospherically missing, too, and I wanted to start it up.

Now, as far as my comment about P. Diddy and Howdy Doody, would you people please get a life? For me, wordplay is the sine qua non of discourse, provided there's an opportunity to ensure that the discourse is professional, which is what I am trying to do with this post. Nor do I intend to apologize for injecting levity into the discussion or debate; doing so would homage the Lord of the Flies groupthink that sometimes comes over all of us bloggers. Which brings me to Isaac Butler's comment on his blog:

I'll just come out and say [it]: Regardless of whether he means to or not, I think Leonard Jacobs is being racist. He is using specific racial signifiers to criticize the Lee decision and using his blackness (will he cast a rapper? What up, yo?) for the express purpose of mocking him. I think it's important to note that I don't mean that Jacos is a racist, which is to say someone dedicated to oppressing black people. I just mean that he's cracking racially charged jokes on his site, which is a racist thing to do. He should apologize for the posts.
Yes, I suppose that was a racially charged joke, but that would also mean that white people cannot, and do not, use the phrase "What up?" or "Yo" in everyday speech, and I hardly think that's true. Further, by posing the question of whether Lee would cast a rapper is not "being racist"; it's a legitimate question necessitated by the growing trend toward stunt casting. (Read Larry Getlen's terrific news story on this here.)

I got an email yesterday from a friend (who is a friend of Stewie's), and while I won't quote him directly (seeing as how Stewie got all homicidal when I quoted him), his email jokingly accused me of being a racist and then he said that he thinks this politically correct upset with my choice of words is just stupid. Racists are racists; they don't need wordplay to make their views known. I'm not a racist and that's that. If you believe otherwise, that's on you.

Jon Stancato just arrived for breakfast. Will post more on this later.

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Troubador said...

If you're going to use a "racially charged" joke to make a comment about celebrity directing/casting on broadway, then you shouldn't be surprised that people take you to task on the racist implications of the joke, rather than the major concern of your post.

The fact that you obscured your main argument is a failure on your part to communicate your intention, and if you weren't intending to be racist then you were being careless and sloppy.

I also thought Isaac was bending over backwards to be civil.

Leonard Jacobs said...

I have responded to Isaac in my current post and that's all I have to say about that. I don't think it was sloppy at all. Isn't the purpose of a blog to be able to relate current thinking without the polish of a dissertation? Or are you holding me to some sort of superficial higher standard because I'm a journalist? If so, that's crap.

Troubador said...

I don't automatically assume that journalists have standards.

The standard I would apply is one you use in your later post when you reference David Cote's comments about religion:

"I merely questioned the positioning of such a comment in a review in which the thought would not be germane."

You believe that using "racially charged" language in your piece on Spike Lee was germane to your argument, I think it muddied it.

As for whether you were beng sloppy, consider your sentence:

"Yes, I suppose that was a racially charged joke, but that would also mean that white people cannot, and do not, use the phrase "What up?" or "Yo" in everyday speech, and I hardly think that's true."

You begin the sentence by agreeing with Isaac that your joke was racially charged, but end it by arguing that it isn't racially charged at all. I think that's sloppy.

Leonard Jacobs said...

I think you're wrong.