Monday, August 28, 2006

plane crash skit: tasteless?

Drudge links to an article on that takes NBC to task for having aired a plane crash parody as part of the opener for the 2006 Emmy Awards ceremony. The crash scene apparently parodies scenes from the TV series "Lost" (only one episode of which I happened to catch while in the States last December).

The writer of the Hot Air post, someone named Ian, notes that the parody aired right on the heels of a deadly plane crash in Kentucky. Ian quotes Mary Katherine Ham of, who wrote:

The Kentucky plane crash happened at 6 a.m. There was plenty of time to alter the intro of the Emmys to something more respectful. It wouldn’t have been polished and post-produced, but it would have been polite.

Ian seconds this:

NBC has armies of writers and producers on a show the scope of the Emmy Awards. They could have come up with something to replace the Lost sketch, and if it was really lame a simple explanation that they had replaced a planecrash sketch out of respect for those lost in the Comair crash would have been right and classy.

Yes, it would have been more tasteful and more classy. But I reject the subtext of Ian's post, summed up when he writes:

On the other hand, if the Comair crash had happened on the Left Coast, would NBC have gone through with the skit?

Come on, Ian. If you're suggesting that "lefties look out for their own," then look in the mirror: righties are no different, and truth be told, I don't think it's a bad thing to be loyal to one's own. If you're suggesting that "lefties are more insensitive than righties," look in the mirror again. In terms of rhetoric and tactics, I often see little difference between the two sides. Cries of "Asshole!" and "Retard!" can be heard in stereo from where I stand.

And, hey-- didn't we just go through a whole flap about free speech and insensitivity with the Muhammad cartoon fiasco? I happened to agree that those cartoonists and those newspapers had every right to publish those cartoons, insensitive though they be. I also felt that the overall Muslim reaction to those cartoons was both an overreaction and rooted in a basic misconception about whether Muslims may portray the Prophet. To be consistent, we should acknowledge that humor in any culture often crosses the bounds of taste, and somebody somewhere is going to be offended by any attempt at humor. This in itself isn't a reason to "act sensitive."

[NB: I watched the plane crash parody clip (which Hot Air, despite its disgruntlement, conveniently provides for your... amusement?), and thought it was pretty funny. It would have been funnier had I been following the "Lost" series, but such is life.]

The argument that NBC could have changed the skit around sounds specious to me. It's not as easy as you think to reassemble the writing team, get the actors all back together (when they've likely jetted/driven off to who-knows-where), and have a viable alternative skit in the space of several hours.

I do, however, agree that NBC did have some options open. They could have nixed the skit entirely, for example. They could have made an announcement about the Kentucky crash, per Ian's suggestion. There were tasteful alternatives available to NBC; I concede that. But was NBC under some pressing moral obligation to pursue them? I think not: imagine cancelling action-oriented cop dramas just because people die in car accidents all the time.

I also think that the reaction from Kentucky to NBC's perceived insensitivity was proportionate-- no embassies burnt, no crowds of angry Kentuckyans on the street shouting "Death to NBC!" In all, I think this situation played itself out about as well as it could have, and this incident wasn't nearly consequential enough for rightie bloggers to get exercised about supposed leftie behavior. Neither the plane crash nor the parody should have been politicized. This wasn't about right or left.

Upshot: I've just wasted a few minutes claiming that the topic at hand isn't worth writing about. Go figure.


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