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Michael Levin Headshot

Who the Hell Put These People in Charge of Popular Culture?

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An Asian-American group in Seattle has appointed itself the Lord High Executioner for culture, pronouncing the Gilbert and Sullivan classic light opera The Mikado repugnant to their sensibilities.

One of the Mikado's most beloved numbers features Ko-Ko singing that he's "Got a little list...of society offenders...who never would be missed."

Add to that list the group protesting The Mikado.

Where does political correctness end?

The Mikado is a period piece, depicting race relations and cultural awareness as they existed in Great Britain 130 years ago.

It's not a statement of how white people view Asians in Seattle in 2014. Mostly, when white people and Asians encounter one another in Seattle these days, they hire, date or marry one another. So much for racial disharmony.

But if you're going to censor The Mikado, why stop there? Why not remove from the stage anywhere in America any creative endeavor that could possibly hurt the feelings of anyone, anywhere, anytime?

Actually, we don't have to remove all those shows and songs. All we have to do is change the titles or the lyrics so no one could be offended.

Porgy And Bess. Now that's offensive. The song "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" is an embarrassment in both racial and grammatical terms. We could replace it with "Bess, You Are My Person Of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters," or POSSLQ, to use the carefully crafted term of the U.S. Census Office. Less romantic, less authentic, but politically unassailable.

Fiddler On The Roof. In a nod to locavores and vegans, and in a new version sponsored by Whole Foods, Tevye the Milkman becomes lactose intolerant. After the Czar requires Jewish families to install parapets on their roofs to avoid bearded people falling off while singing, Tevye prays for relief not to a patriarchal God but to a nondenominational concept of a Higher Power.

Eugene O'Neill's classic will be revised as follows: Long Day's Journey Into Rehab, the story of an Irish father who finds sobriety after five hours of overacting.

Ode To Joy. The Schiller poem accompanying the choral movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony goes from "All men should be brothers" to "Why can't we all just get along?" It's almost hummable.

The Vagina Monologues will not be performed tonight; instead, we good evening and welcome to the Vagina/Penis Dialogues.

To rectify the overabundance of heterosexual relationships in Shakespeare's plays, we give you Romeo and Romeo. Performed in repertoire with Juliet And Juliet.

So as not to offend animal rights advocates, high school students will now study Harper Lee's modified classic, To Rescue A Mockingbird.

Victor Hugo will also be edited, so as to assuage the feelings of the physically challenged. His classic will be retitled The Differently Abled Person Of Notre Dame.

How about Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, With Subtitles In Braille For People Who Can't Actually Hear The Sound Of Music?

The Gifted And Talented Person From Oz?

War And Peace? Too militaristic. From now on, just Peace.

Instead of the Washington Redskins, please welcome to the stadium... "The Team That Used To Be Known As The Washington Redskins." Ditto the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves.

I think you get my point. Works of art must be judged in the context of their times and presented without fear of offending the delicate sensibilities of one over-caffeinated pressure group or the other.

If you really don't like The Mikado...or Porgy and Bess...or Fiddler...or seeing representations of people in ways that offend you...here's a simple solution that won't tread on the artistic rights of performers or theatergoers in your neck of the woods.

Just stay home.