Tag Archives: new york times

On Rent: The High School edition.

I had a cold earlier this week, and decided it was the perfect time to watch a bootlegged copy of Milk that a friend had lent me. [Note: I am not condoning bootlegging.]  It’s an excellent film, most notably because of Sean Penn’s skills as an actor. He has a way of completely embodying a character; to the point where it’s easy to forget that it’s Sean Penn. The story is simultaneously uplifting and sad; whether or not my emotions were out of whack due to sickness, I’m not sure, but I found myself sobbing on my couch, and thinking about the film long afterwards.

When you live in a city and have gay friends, you might forget sometimes that gay rights are even an issue. I was shocked when Prop 8 passed, and even more shocked that any state would want to prohibit gay couples from adopting children. Really? We want to keep financially stable people who desire to raise a child in a loving home from doing so?

Most of the time, I can’t believe that a debate over gay rights still even exists. It feels like it should have been over and done with forever ago, like suffrage or segregation. To me, homophobia is no different from racism or sexism. If we have no tolerance for the latter two in modern governmental affairs, why should we tolerate the first?

And that’s the disheartening part of Milk. That 30 years have passed and, as a society, we’ve only progressed a few baby steps beyond, in terms of how we view gay people. And there’s proof of that in the New York Times today, in this article, about American high schools opting to stage watered-down versions (read: they’ve taken out that orgy song) of Rent (perhaps in attempt by it’s producers to keep the spirit alive, since it closed this year on Broadway), and the uproar it’s caused.

At least three of the planned high school productions, in California, Texas and West Virginia, have been canceled after administrators or parents raised objections about the show’s morality, its portrayals of homosexuality and theft, and its frank discussions of drug use and H.I.V., according to administrators, teachers and parents involved in those cases.

Theft and drug use may be moderately understandable reasons (one could note, however, that often-produced musicals like West Side Story and Guys and Dolls, are exactly devoid of immorality) and H.I.V. is not surprising, given the ridiculous persistence of abstinence-only education in this country.

But the remainder of the article seems to stress that homosexuality part.

Ron Martin, the theater teacher and director here at Corona del Mar High School, found out just how controversial “Rent” can be… He said his principal, Fal Asrani, had objected to the show because of its treatment of “prostitution and homosexuality.” “When I heard that, I stopped her and looked her in the eye and said, ‘First, there is no prostitution in ‘Rent,’ and second, homosexuality is not wrong,’ ” Mr. Martin said. “She made no comment.”

Asrani, of course, denies bringing up homosexuality. Susan Collins, a superintendant from West Virginia (who was unfamiliar with rent until “last year,” a fact I find amazing), is against Rent in high schools as well, though she takes the passive-aggressive approach.

Mr. Dillon said in an interview that when he told Ms. Collins there were two gay couples in the musical, “she got flustered and worked up and expressed concerns.”

Ms. Collins said she had no personal problem with the homosexuality in “Rent,” but she was concerned that families in her West Virginia school district would not find that content and other themes appealing.

Is it just me, or does “flustered and worked up” not sound like no personal problems with homosexuality?

The silver lining to this is that high schoolers are rebelling – they’re forming Facebook groups, and fighting to stage Rent, which could translate to a younger generation supporting gay rights – evidence that those baby steps from the Harvey Milk years are still transpiring.

Where have all the ladies gone? [Heading out of the workforce]

From the Phlog:

Today, the front page of the New York Times declares boldly:

“Across the country, women in their prime earning years, struggling with an unfriendly economy, are retreating from the work force, either permanently or for long stretches.

They had piled into jobs in growing numbers since the 1960s. But that stopped happening this decade, and as the nearly seven-year-old recovery gives way to hard times, the retreat is likely to accelerate.”

Initially depressing? Yes. But not quite cause for despair – it doesn’t sound like we’re entering some sort of strange 1950’s timewarp, wherein we’ll need to consult our guide to being a good housewife and learn how to set a dinner table properly, just yet. In fact, it’s the opposite: women are realizing that they deserve better jobs and better pay.

The interesting thing about this article is that, while some women are giving up working to spend time with their kids, for many that’s not the reason (though it makes for a good cover). The current state of the economy has lead to stagnant wages, so many women are quitting to go to school, so they can find a better job, or quitting because they think they deserve a higher-paying job, and they refuse to settle. Even more interesting, the Times says, “the pattern is roughly similar among the well-educated and the less educated, among the married and never married, among mothers with teenage children and those with children under 6, and among white women and black.”

“Joyce Call, 39, of Howell, Mich., near Detroit… took an accounting job in January 2006 at Forming Technologies, which supplies plastic to auto companies.
The pay, $14 an hour — more than $25,000 a year — was acceptable, she said, but not the raises, which came to only 28 cents an hour over two years, or the Christmas bonus: $150 the first year and nothing the second.
‘I was treated poorly,’ she said, explaining her departure.”

So, it’s sort of an unintentional, unorganized strike, and it’s also sort of awesome – women are willing to pull out of the workforce if jobs can’t live up to their standards. But will it work? We’re not experts on the economy, but the prospect of better jobs turning up for women (or men, for that matter) anytime soon seems bleak. But what do we know?

Read: Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy

Not our poster child…

Via the Phlog:

“Exposed,” the front page story of this weekend’s Times magazine (already posted online) feels like one long LiveJournal entry by former Gawker editor Emily Gould, and the internets are already abuzz about it. The ten-page story details everything from Gould’s experiences at Gawker, to her high-drama relationships, and it’s peppered with photos of Gould lazing about, with slightly greasy hair and flower tattoos on display, trying a bit too earnestly to look seductive and nonchalant with her laptop. She writes:

“Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.”

All of this seems like a preamble to a tabloid-y, Fox News-type sensatinal piece: “Blog addicts! For some 20-somethings, WordPress is replacing reality.” And in a way that Gould does not state directly in the story, it sort of is. Or, much to the chagrin of Phoenix bloggers, perhaps the Times hoped it’d be a generational commentary. New York Magazine worried yesterday: “What troubles us about Gould’s oncoming article is not that it will be a rehash of everything we’ve seen before. It’s that people will mistake her perspective on the Internet, writing, and fame as the perspective of an entire generation of bloggers.” Exactly! That’s what troubles us too! Gawker’s already calling her our poster child! And the NYT just payed her gads of money to write the words “I” and “me” a gagillion times (actual number: 430, according to the math whizzes at NYMag).

Unsurprisingly, the comments look fairly positive on Gould’s personal blog so far, but on the NYT site things are not looking so good: “I expect more from the New York Times. This article was nothing more than the ramblings of a moronic juvenile who calls herself a writer. I hope that the New York Times is not paying her for this piece. I long for the days when writers were people who had something to say,” writes Joseph from Manhattan. “Dreadful, narcissistic, uninteresting stuff,” writes “hazbin” from New Jersey. “An overlong article about the author talking about how much she enjoys talking about herself. Attention whore, indeed,” writes Dave from New Jersey. And that’s just the first two pages.

Here’s the irony: Here we are, blogging about Emily Gould and Gawker and, well, blogging, and wishing that the media would stop covering everything Gawker media does. We’ll step away if you will?