USA

Feedback: Readers on the 1st Amendment, blackface and 'Law & Order'

Stanley Fish tells us that the 1st Amendment is “out of date” and predicates that on an assertion that it was formulated when “opportunities for speech were scarce” [“Speech Is Too Free for Stanley Fish,” June 28].

Fish ignores that the Founders — as we should recognize in today’s world, scarce or broad opportunities notwithstanding — created the speech clause because they knew that if it wasn’t unrestricted, someone would be deciding what speech was allowable.

And who would decide that? Mr. Fish? Despite his illustrious credentials, allowing him and his ilk to control speech is an invitation to rule by a small cadre of elites. Exactly the opposite of an inclusive democracy.

Kip Dellinger
Santa Monica

Who’s sorry now?

In her column discussing comedic use of blackface [“Kimmel Apology Is Not Enough,” June 26], Mary McNamara makes the somewhat patronizing argument that “Intent is also tricky and way too difficult to parse in a mass-audience film or television show.”

Does McNamara really believe that audiences are so universally unsophisticated that no one can possibly distinguish between those occasions in which blackface has been used to satirize, denigrate and skewer racists versus those in which it was merely a demeaning stereotype?

Comedy is about taking ideas and turning them on their head, often to powerful, truth-telling effect. To imply that an idea that might be “tricky” should never be expressed is troubling where art is concerned.

Linda Williamson
Granada Hills

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I’m glad Kimmel has apologized for the blackface segments on “The Man Show” — albeit belatedly. I will not hold my breath, however, for him to address the objectification of women that was a regular part of that show.

Does “Girls on Trampolines” sound familiar?

Laura Owen
Pacific Palisades

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McNamara’s column was one of the better explorations of blackface and liberal comedy.

As a fan of these comedians, and someone who, like Kimmel, has struggled to get my head around the problem, I really appreciated her perspectives and especially her suggestion that honest conversation is more important than defensive apologies.

I wish that everyone who has ever performed in, or just laughed at, blackface comedy could read this article.

Chris Goldsmith
Cardiff-by-the-Sea

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I used to be a fan of Kimmel until his show became a humorous version of MSNBC news.

But, having said that, I don’t feel that Kimmel should have to apologize for his actions in his past. Bad taste is part of being a comedian.

The liberals have made little or no noise about the governor of Virginia or the prime minister of Canada doing blackface but are coming down hard on Kimmel?

Mark Walker
Yorba Linda

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I can’t believe that anyone was doing blackface — ever.

I think that when I was a Cub Scout, we did a minstrel show and I did it. It was wrong then, and it is wrong afterward.

I remember when I was pretty young watching “The Jazz Singer” with Al Jolson (or a clip from it since it came out long before I was born).

I remember feeling repulsed by the fact that a white man was playing a black man and had used blackface to do it.

McNamara is calling out Kimmel. Good for her.

John Oppenheim
Long Beach

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Celebrities should use their platforms to educate, enlighten and inform those who are ignorant to the many injustices in our world. If they don’t, they are just as much a part of the problem as the solution.

This could have been a real teaching moment for both Kimmel and his many followers.

Sherry Davis
Playa Vista

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George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Matthias Baldwin, Ulysses S. Grant, Mahatma Gandhi, Theodore Roosevelt, St. Junipero Serra and Francis Scott Key have all been the targets of BLM defacing or toppling. They aren’t around anymore to say “I’m sorry.”

But Jimmy Kimmel, who so proudly and repeatedly “blacked up” for a television show, simply apologized.

All is forgotten. I don’t see any protesters in front of ABC.

Double standard? I definitely see one.

Candy Carstensen
Los Angeles

‘Law & Order’ insider POV

Regarding: Meredith Blake’s analysis “A False Sense of ‘Law & Order’ ” [June 14]: I was the original non-writing show runner of “Law & Order” the first three seasons, which means my job was to oversee all aspects of the show from casting to the crew. The conceit of “Law & Order” was that the episodes would be divided into two halves. The regular characters were different and only connected by the case.

Dick Wolf was not thinking about the politics of Richard Nixon when he named the show, only to communicate that conceit. In fact, what made the show different, innovative and original was its documentary style and most importantly the subject matter of many of the episodes. They dealt with AIDS, homophobia, abortion, child abuse, rape, race, religion and, yes, bad cops.

If Dick could be accused of anything political it was his aversion to what we call political correctness. He resisted pressure from the network to make changes to the “social” or “Black” content even when there were threats by the sponsors to pull out.

At the time, to my knowledge, we employed more actors of color than any dramatic series on the air. We paid special attention to make sure people of color were judges, lawyers, doctors, experts, etc. We featured as guest stars many who were not yet household names: Samuel L. Jackson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Roscoe Lee Browne, Wendell Pierce, Mary Alice and Joe Morton.

Characters of color were not disproportionately portrayed in a negative light. Dick did not believe in reinforcing negative stereotypes. The writing was never politicized and often the main characters would have differing points of view.

In the time I spent with Dick he never asked me to do anything that would compromise the values of the show. The popularity of the show and its appeal to a wide sector of society can be attributed to its 20-year run. Dick Wolf respected his audience and never talked down to them.

Joseph Stern
Hollywood

Movie hits all the right notes

Regarding Jen Yamato’s review of the movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” [“Off-Key ‘Eurovision’ Is Singing the Wrong Tune,” June 26]: The new Netflix film with Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams is precisely what we need in these troubling times. For two hours I felt I was resting in an oasis of laughter, music and romance. A great relief in today’s times.

We are becoming more isolated and pessimistic, as we survive a constant bombardment of bad news, partisan bickering and an uncivil national discourse.

Yamato should make sure she doesn’t lose her sense of humor. We need more movies like “Eurovision.”

Luca Bentivoglio
Santa Monica

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