Dagger in hand

A man of prodigious fortune, coming to add his opinion to some light discussion that was going on casually at his table, began precisely thus: "It can only be a liar or an ignoramus who will say otherwise than," and so on. Pursue that philosophical point, dagger in hand.

--Michel de Montaigne, Of the art of discussion.

Stab back: cmnewman99-at-yahoo.com


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Thursday, March 11, 2004
West Side L.A. Story

They're doing a version of Bernstein's magnum opus in Lucas's music program at school. Of course, they had to make a few changes to render the material appropriate for fifth graders. It's okay to sing and dance about gang rivalry, but we wouldn't want anybody dying from it. We certainly wouldn't want any suggestion of racial or ethnic tension. No need for that Bernardo character at all, in fact. (Come to think of it, Jets and Sharks would make good names for soccer teams, wouldn't they?) And most important, we absolutely can't have any glorification of the Greatest Of All Evils. You know what I mean. The one that required the following lyric rewrite:

When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way
From your first knucklesmack to your last dying day.
So instead of "Make Love, Not War," we now have "Make War, Not Smoke Rings."

I can understand the desire to branch out musically, but if you think certain material is inappropriate as written, don't use it. What is the point of butchering it like this? Even leaving "artistic integrity" out of it, how is the end result any less pernicious to young impressionable minds than the original? Now we have essentially a musical comedy about gang violence that studiously ignores the bloody bereavement that such violence causes in the real world. These kids live in L.A. Granted, the Crips don't do much recruiting on the Santa Monica Promenade, but still. If I were a Concerned Busybody Parent, I'd have half a mind to strut in there in high dudgeon and complain about this morally contextless glorification of gang membership.

But I'm not, and Lucas saw the real movie a long time ago. He's even been to Italy, where people still smoke. So I'm really grateful, in a way. They're teaching him a valuable lesson about the silliness of bowdlerization.

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