Subtle isms and why YES, ALL Trump voters

I haven’t posted here in a while. I’ve spent more time on Facebook and Twitter, in my personal accounts. Some of this bunkering has been because work has been really busy for the last several months. But some of it–a large amount of it–has been that I’ve been worn out from the nightmare that’s engulfing our country. The anger and arguments that spilled over into an electoral college (but not popular vote) win for Donald Trump have gotten even uglier since January 20th. What has been called a “24-hour news cycle” for years seems to have been stretched into infinity; you can’t go a day–or seemingly an hour–without some awful story of how the government is about to turn the clock back on something valuable or a nasty Trump tweet that’s got more exclamation points than actual facts.

And so it was that when I sat at a friend’s house, enjoying an annual catch-up with her and other longtime friends, that my heart was made heavy by the events in Charlottesville. I’ve been to C-ville a number of times, and I remember what it was like when Kroger was the only grocery store. I still remember something odd that happened while waiting for my parents to finish buying groceries at the Kroger and wandering over by the local papers with my sister. One of them had a picture of a Confederate monument and the caption read something about a celebration on the anniversary of “the South winning the Civil War”. Say what?! My sister and I blinked a lot, but refreshing our eyes didn’t change that those words were printed there. The South, it seemed, hadn’t yet given up hope that they somehow pulled it out at the last minute. And maybe they did.

It’s not just the South that has KKK and Nazi’s. In my liberal adopted home of Massachusetts, we have people who drive around with enormous Confederate flags flying from their pickup trucks. There’s a “Free Speech Rally” set for tomorrow morning on Boston Common, and the Massachusetts chapter of the KKK plans to be there. Let that sink in: The Massachusetts Chapter Of The KKK. In the bluest of blue states, yes, we have racists here. And for many who’ve lived here all their lives, they can point to the continued segregation in Boston proper–where each neighborhood has its own distinct dominant look: Irish in Southie, Italians in the North End, Rich Whites in Back Bay, Portuguese and Latinos in Allston/Brighton, Blacks and Hispanics in Roxbury, and so on and so forth. The melting pot exists at the 10,000 ft level, but at sea level things look different.

I got a couple of lessons in the gray area between subtle and overt isms when I was in college. Freshman year, my roommates checked me for horns and hooves. They’d never met a Jew before, and they were surprised to see that I looked just like them. Sophomore year, I sat by confused as my next-door neighbors shouted at the football game on TV: “Look at that spoon go!” I asked them what a spoon was, after they’d used the term a number of times. One of them looked at me and said casually, “A spoon is a nigger.” I told them that was just about the dumbest thing I’d ever heard, and I never looked at those guys the same again. Central Pennsylvania felt to me like it was well below the Mason-Dixon Line.

During the course of his campaign, Trump made disparaging remarks about seemingly everyone except for white men like him. He made rude comments about women–exemplified by his attacks on Megyn Kelly, he made rude comments about Hispanics–starting off with a bang by accusing Mexicans of being rapists, murderers, and all around bad hombres, he made rude comments about Muslims–vowing to institute a ban to keep them out of the country, and more recently he created a moral equivalence between Nazis and white supremacists and the demonstrators who came out to protest against them. When Trump voters pulled that lever, checked that box, or filled in that oval for him, they voted for all of that.

But surely, not all Trump voters are racist or sexist? Sure they are. You don’t have to sport a swastika tattoo to be a Nazi. There are ways to have these ignorances so deeply ingrained that you don’t even recognize them in yourself until it’s far too late.

Subtle racism is in the person who crosses the street or grips their purse a little tighter when walking by a person of a different color. Subtle racism is in the stiffening of the spine when your child holds up a doll whose skin color doesn’t match yours. Subtle racism is when you look at a resume and think you know that person’s background based on the name at the top of the paper. Subtle racism is in assuming anyone who doesn’t have lily white skin must speak Spanish.

Subtle sexism is found in the business pants for women that have no belt loops for work badges and no pockets for cell phones. Subtle sexism is when a little boy can’t get a butterfly painted onto his face but is instead forced to get skulls. Subtle sexism is when the majority of girls’ shorts get a 3″ inseam that then becomes a trip to the principal’s office thanks to the overt sexism of school dress codes.

I’m not saying that people who voted for someone other than Trump are somehow immune from these isms–subtle or overt–but those who voted for Trump accepted his flaws as being fine. When someone vomits hatred through a microphone, if you choose to accept that as either “not a big enough deal” or “not a problem”, then you’re rubber-stamping it. You don’t have to raise your arm in a Nazi salute to give comfort to Nazis by failing to challenge them. You don’t have to tell your daughter that you value her less in society when you vote for someone who treats women as disposable tools for his sexual pleasure. You don’t have to tell your Muslim coworker that you don’t value him when you vote for someone who promises to find a legal way to ban Muslims from even entering the country.

Donald Trump told everyone who he was, and those who voted for him did so despite all the warning signs that he would value only one targeted demographic as important–and everyone else would get (at best) second-class citizenship status. So yes, all Trump voters. If the economy was their “big issue”, they deprioritized the value of non-whites, non-Anglos, women, and non-Christians in our society. They at least subtly sent the message that sexism, racism, and xenophobia aren’t enough of a problem to be a deal-breaker. It’s the Art of the Faustian Deal.

But we all have a choice–regardless of who we chose in November. We can stand up and be counted.

Stand up and speak out against Nazis and white supremacy.

Stand up and speak out for our queer friends who are being told their marriages and their military service aren’t valid.

Stand up and speak out for our daughters to remind them they’re able to accomplish ANYTHING they set their mind to.

Stand up and speak out for our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors who worship at any number of different houses to reinforce that the Freedom of Religion in the 1st Amendment isn’t footnoted to read “Christian-only”.

Failure to speak out, failure to stand up are ways of choosing the side where hatred and ignorance come to play. Wringing hands and clutching pearls over the awfulness of it all won’t change a damn thing. Taking the high road doesn’t mean that you sit on the side of the road while Nazis march in front of you unchallenged. A better world won’t be built on hatred, intolerance, and bigotry. We can all choose to build the better world. But it damn sure won’t come under the “leadership” of Donald J. Trump.

Pick a side.

Stand up.

The children of the world are watching.

Movie Review: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

For the first time in a REALLY long time, I had one of the kiddos along for the screening, so this review is in a slightly different format–to give the perspective of the target demographic: a 10-year-old.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” is another chapter in the life of Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker), a much beleaguered twelve-year-old boy who’s alternately tormented by his overly well-meaning parents and his insufferable, annoying older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright). This time, the Heffleys are hitting the road to go halfway across the country for the 90th birthday party of Greg’s great-grandmother, Meemaw (Mimi Gould).

The movie opens with the entire family (plus one of Greg’s friends) having a family-friendly dinner at a local restaurant that seems like a cross between a Chuck E. Cheese and a series of unmanaged troughs; this restaurant seems to be all at once the best friend and worst nightmare for the parents of young children. While hunting for his little brother in the overflowing ball pit/swimming pool, Greg manages to get a loose diaper stuck on his hand. The Power of the Internet soon takes over: he’s memed in a heartbeat as “Diaper Hands” and what little rep he has is shredded in the process.

The timing of this trip to Meemaw’s couldn’t be better. Greg needs some time away–and his mother, Susan (Alicia Silverstone), sees this as a perfect time for the family to reconnect offline. Naturally, she doesn’t know initially about how her husband, Frank (Tom Everett Scott), is sneaking in work while on the trip, nor does she know about Greg and Rodrick redirecting the GPS so they can have a shot at making it to a gamer convention that’s not quite en route. Her innocence at virtually every turn is rather incredible and it bespeaks the story’s origins as an elementary-school staple; mom always has your best interests at heart, and she’s way more innocent about how the world works than you think. (Reality is never this uncomplicated, but I digress.)

What follows the family’s departure from the homestead is a series of gaffes, missteps, and mishaps that alternate between funny and cringe-worthy. Even with some laughs, this movie may make parents reconsider taking a lengthy car trip with the kiddos. Speaking of kiddos, I have a ten-year old with thoughts of her own; my interview and her (only very lightly edited) responses can be found below–as well as both of our ratings.

Me: You’ve read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”. How do you think this stacks up versus the book: better, worse, about the same…or just different? Remember that not every movie made from a book has to be just like the book; it can be enjoyable on its own, even if it changes a few things here or there.

DD: It is definitely different from the book, with a few changes near the end (I won’t give that away). The story is similar to the movie, but overall the book is a little bit more exciting than the movie. If I had to choose between watching the movie again or reading the book, I would choose reading the book because it’s more interesting than the movie.

Me: Was there anything particularly good or bad about the movie, such as any scenes that made a particular impression on you? Remember not to give away any spoilers about the ending!

DD:

The only bad parts were parts where it was unrealistic:

  1. The Agricultural Fair. I have been to several Agricultural fairs before, and they were total opposites of this. Normally, they are so crowded you can barely get through, it takes you half an hour to get food, and the rides are so full you only get to go on a few. Not this one; it was WAY TOO open. The booths were miles away from each other, and there was barely anyone there! The lines for the rides were so short, you could probably go to every ride in under an hour.
  2. The Motel that they stayed at during the trip was overly gross. It was so UGLY and DISGUSTING. You could see small tiny holes in the bed that were burned. In the bathroom, there were cockroaches all over the floor, and the pool HAD NO WATER IN IT! The only things that were actually IN the pool were mice (or rats) and old wrappers/bags of food.

The good parts were:

  1. The scenery. It was just gorgeous!
  2. The pig. It was SO CUTE! The only thing I didn’t like is that in the book, the pig is in a little bit more than half of it, and in the movie, he/she’s in a small number of scenes.

Me: Did you think the actors did a good job portraying their characters? Any standouts–good or bad?

DD: I think most of the actors did a good job at portraying their character appropriately and to the age they are set to be. The only mishap I had was with Rodrick. He is supposed to be 16-17 and is acting like he is 19-20. Also, he is supposed to be a crazy teen, but seems more like a teen that is loud and obnoxious.

Me: Is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” appropriate for kids? If so, what age would be the youngest you’d recommend?

DD: I would recommend this movie for kids age 7+. I wouldn’t go any lower, due to a couple of scenes and some language (there are no swears, but even so), I think that it would be a little much for them. I think that kids like me, ages 9+, might like/dislike it based on the books (I have read them all).

Me: On a scale of zero to four stars, where zero is “I NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS AGAIN”, and four is “THIS WAS THE BEST MOVIE EVER AND EVERYONE SHOULD GO SEE IT” (and where half stars are allowed), how would you rate “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”?

DD: I would rate this three stars out of four. I don’t like it as much as I liked the book (like I explained in the first question). It was entertaining, but even so, there were some parts that didn’t make me go “WOW!” or “COOL!”; they just made me go, “So…what does that have to do with the story?!” This is just my opinion, but people are different, so you might like it better or worse than I did (depending on your taste of movies).

Me: For my part, I’d rate it two stars out of four–but I’m not the target audience; I’m just the money and the ride. Thanks for your help, kiddo!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” opens in theatres on Friday, May 19, 2017. It is rated PG for some rude humor.

Stage Review: “Annie”

Annie

If you’re looking for a family-friendly musical, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more accessible than “Annie”. An adaptation of the comic strip, “Lil Orphan Annie”, the musical is the story of the 11-year-old girl who finds her way into the home (and the heart) of the billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

The show opens in 1933, during the Great Depression, in the orphanage where Annie and her friends live under the “care” of the sadistic Miss Hannigan. Annie sings her bedmate to sleep with the sweet ballad “Maybe”, as she daydreams about the parents who left her behind with only half a locket and a note to remind her they loved her. Having been abandoned 11 years before, Annie imagines how wonderful her parents and her life could be–if only she weren’t trapped in anonymous squalor. She and her fellow orphans then burst out into one of the most well-known songs from the musical, “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”, describing the roughness of their institutionalized upbringing at the end of Miss Hannigan’s ruler slaps.

As the show continues, Annie does eventually break out–but her freedom is short-lived, and she returns to Miss Hannigan’s control just in time to be spotted by Warbucks’ secretary–who’s on the lookout for an orphan to join the billionaire for the Christmas holidays. And though the taciturn Warbucks didn’t intend on a girl orphan, he warms quickly to the plucky youth and even gets to the point of offering to adopt her. Annie has other plans in mind, though, as she’s still holding out hope that her parents will return for her one day, prompting Warbucks to offer a giant reward to entice her parents to come forward. Miss Hannigan’s crooked brother, Rooster, and his gold-digging girlfriend step forward to pose as Annie’s parents to get at the booty. Of course, hijinx then ensue.

“Annie” is well-known for a host of high-pitched, kid-driven tunes–particularly “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow”, both of which are amiably performed by the touring cast. (I saw the tour in Boston, at the Boch Center Wang Theatre.) And in general, all of the songs are performed well from a technical standpoint. The kids are predictably adorable, and various members of the cast provide the requisite amount of hamming it up needed to earn laughs.

One area where the show has some room for improvement is in its pacing. The songs feel rushed–in some cases to the point where the spoken dialogue feels like something the cast has to get through as fast as possible so they can speed-sing the rest of the script. The time between songs should contribute to the energy, but at points it feels like the cast is so pressed for time that the ability to demonstrate the emotional depth of their roles is diminished. Erin Fish’s Miss Hannigan is awfully cranky, but she doesn’t come across as particularly committed to the meanness sung about her character, one of several characters who come across as thin and one-dimensional. Gilgamesh Taggett’s Warbucks, in particular, seemed abnormally stiff when delivering most of his dialogue, but he lit up for the songs.

Even so, the songs and music are still as infectious as ever (and I’m sure there were at least a couple of kids in the audience who were inspired to ask later what a “Hooverville” was). The set design was really fantastic–with beautiful detailing and a slick modular design that made the set transitions fairly seamless. And particular moments have stand-out levels of hamminess (be on the lookout for Timothy Allen’s vivacious Harold Ickes) and Bunny Baldwin’s max-adorbs Molly. As one would hope for the show’s lead, Angelina Carballo’s “Annie” was a bundle of energy, and she shone like the top of the Chrysler Building. Or maybe that was just the light from the smiles of the kids walking out clutching their “Annie” dolls and singing the songs.

Three out of four stars

“Annie” is playing at the Boch Center Wang Theatre through May 21, 2017. Tickets are available via the tour’s website and the Boch Center’s website.