Isn't it time to ask: Has political correctness gone too far?
I, for one, am proud of every battle fought and won by every minority. (Or in the case of women, underrated majority) But at this point, I believe our PC-crazed society is losing the nuance of what makes life and content interesting. Just ask the TV critic of the New York Times, who recently used the words "angry black woman" in an article about producer Shonda Rhimes -- and was almost hung in effigy. (Forget that the phrase was eventually explained, and the piece was one Shonda's mother would love.)
Just ask actor Gary Oldman, still apologizing for remarks in Playboy, including "Mel Gibson lives in a town run by Jews." And just ask the newly crowned Miss America, who had to go on national TV to explain that she didn't actually haze in college, but wrote "an inappropriate email suggesting the possibility of hazing." (Any beauty contestant who gets thrown out of her sorority is a heroine of mine.) And just ask the Metropolitan Opera House, where protesters are demanding that The Death of Klinghoffer not go on as scheduled in November. They claim the production is pro-terrorism and anti-Semitic. In fact, the opera re-tells a true story in which the Jewish man at its center is the courageous and sympathetic victim.
Let's be clear here: We are not talking about political faux pas -- the Sarah Palin or Gerald Ford variety that simply prove ignorance. We are discussing those sentiments that offend a particular segment of society (Romney's 47 percent qualifies) that are insensitive and out of touch. But let's also be frank: Political correctness is over the top and we are all suffering for this addiction.
I was reminded of this as I recently watched a movie from the 1930s, in which a jealous socialite makes a crack about her former beau marrying an epileptic -- and how she could hardly wait for the first seizure. I burst into laughter, and then quickly looked around in shame. (I was alone.) No one could do that anymore! Similarly, right before this season's debut of Saturday Night Live, an episode from the 1970s, starring Richard Pryor, was shown. More than a few people noticed how much funnier the old one was -- because it was B.P.C.
The network obviously felt protected by the time-capsule element. But it is a challenge for every creative person. Writers Joel Fields and David Lee have revised the 50-year-old musical Can Can, which opens this week at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. It takes place in a Parisian club in 1893, but Lee and Fields made some PC adjustments. For example, recreating a specific dance of the times in which the man and woman slap each other. "We now have the woman win," says Lee. "You have to let the audience know that we know."
If writers can't say what they feel, for fear of offending one or a few groups, material is by definition dumbed down, traded in for the simplistically gross and profane, or omitted. Even with all the publicity surrounding the NFL I would guess there are stories that haven't been written, for fear of being deemed racist. No wonder: It seems sports broadcasters are being suspended as often as the athletes for saying anything remotely UPC.
Clearly, there is no turning back: Everyone writing about Hillary as we near 2016 is going to be tested, not just on accuracy and fairness, but possible insults that likely wouldn't strike a Biden or a Bush. Like many others, I wanted Secret Service head Julia Pierson out because it is right, even if it is not correct.
We clearly need more than mere humans on watch. Therefore, I would like to propose a system similar to Auto-Correct -- which, by the way, can be politically incorrect. (When my son texted to tell me that Kobe Bryant was going to try rapping, it came out "raping.") So how about PolitiCorrect? This would immediately set off alarms when it detects anything that could be construed as potentially insulting to someone out there.
If we'd had PolitiCorrect, Shonda Rhimes would have been quickly described as "an accomplished non-Caucasian person." Miss America would have admitted to "an email suggesting the possibility of hair-raising." Gary Oldman's comment to Playboy would have been changed to "Mel Gibson is in a town run by Juice."