Once upon a time, musicals only provided entertainment and an escape from reality. But today, they can also enlighten us!
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: At first glance, the film opening of "In The Heights" is all about the excitement of song and dance in the grand tradition of musicals, something that Red absolutely loves, whether live theater or a movie; but Black sees musicals not only as business ventures but as a reflection of the times.
The movie premiere of the multiple Tony-award-winning Broadway musical "In The Heights" was delayed by COVID-19 (it seems "everything" was delayed) and now is premiering in movie theatres and also streaming on HBO-Max. Red can't wait to see it on the big screen as she's desperate to go back to the movies, and since she loves musicals, it's a definite win-win. (And that doesn't include the popcorn!)
Black, on the other hand, has a different interest in the movie,
I know you do not want to hear about the business logic behind jointly releasing and streaming movies, so I will focus on how "In The Heights" has broken dramatically with how Latinx are usually portrayed. Instead of stereotyping the characters in supporting or minor roles, it has created an authentic story and starring roles. Not only has that expanded the target audience, but it shows how we all, regardless of ethnicity or background, have dreams, aspirations, and struggles.
But while the musical, which Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote before he went on to the phenomenal success of "Hamilton, the Musical," is considered ground-breaking in its positive focus on Latinx, it has still managed to draw criticism for a lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latino actors in both the general cast and especially the more prominent roles.
And while Miranda has responded that he "can hear the hurt and frustration" and is "truly sorry," it wasn't the first time a Latinx-themed musical was criticized for colorism, albeit it had been decades, as Red (the former theater major) points out,
"West Side Story" (both the play and the movie) was criticized for having a mostly white cast wearing dark make-up and speaking with accents. At the time, authenticity obviously wasn't important, as in the movie even Natalie Wood's singing was not hers, they dubbed in an opera singer. However, it was ground-breaking in that it broke the mold of "happy" musicals where everyone lived happily-ever-after by having lead characters "killed off" in front of the audience's eyes.
Just talking about "West Side Story" brings back memories, but since Steven Spielberg will be releasing a remake later this year, we'll have plenty of time to reminisce.
As voters, should we care whether people on the ballot are mentally capable of holding the job?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It's probably safe to say that most of us, including Red, think of old age and its implications in a very personal way, either in terms of ourselves or loved ones. But not Black, who often says, "Aging beats the alternative," and looked at retirement from a business perspective, but now sees how it impacts all of us in terms of elected officials.
Recently, Bill Cassidy, a physician and senator (Republican from Louisiana), stated how he "favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government," explaining that it has nothing to do with politics or partisanship, or even any specific individuals. It's simply because once you reach your 80s, there can be rapid decline in your cognitive abilities. It's just a fact of life.
Red, the lover of history, understood the point, especially as it seems that many elections, and certainly presidential ones, have tried to make age an issue. Of course, the stated arguments are a function of whether you're the older candidate or the younger one. And although she's always thought it was a question of the specific person, not the date on their birth certificate, Red felt no one summed it up better than Ronald Reagan (73) when running against Walter Mondale (56),
I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
In all seriousness, although we have very different perspectives (especially as Red's the one dealing with our 93-year-old mom), it does come down to the individual. There's no "right" or "wrong" age for retirement, and many of us know "older" people who can run, sometimes quite literally, circles around "younger" people. Age is a mindset as much as it's a number.
But when it comes to government leaders, shouldn't we be confident they're physically and mentally capable of the job? Mandatory cognitive tests for aging leaders make perfect sense. They're clinical and non-emotional gauges and are no different from medical tests recommended for people as they age. Except these leaders are making decisions that impact us all, and as Black sees it,
In Washington D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicle's drivers' license renewal process requires drivers over 70 to have their physician certify their physical and mental competence. So, it would seem that would be a reasonable requirement for leaders who decide the direction of our country.
How do you look back at the "good 'ole days" if they happened before you were even born?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We read the same Axios story about "TikTok's nostalgia economy," and although the focus was "media trends" due to younger people using social media to both make fun of older people and also to flashback nostalgically, of course, we focused on very different aspects of the story.
Red smiled at the idea of Gen Z (she knew they were "much younger" than us, but until she asked Black didn't realize they were born between mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s), looking backward toward brands she actually recognized, like The Gap for something as basic as hoodies and Abercrombie & Fitch for jeans out of the 1990s. Which made her laugh as some Gen Zs hadn't yet even been born! But what gave her a warm feeling was the idea of them wanting slower, less chaotic times. And maybe even less technology, something she could totally relate to.
Black, meanwhile, was fascinated by how TikTok algorithms work and how it makes it easy for flashback items to "reappear" and then quickly go viral. But she was also relieved to see John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, tweet that over 50% of Gen Z (and over 60% of all) polled thought life was better without social media. So, maybe there's hope of returning to a simpler time.
Which makes us both nostalgic (not something Black typically experiences), but also makes us realize that whether fashion (and the resurgence of thrift stores) or even music, at some point, "everything old is new again." And can be traced back to the Bible …although Red prefers this entertaining scene from "All That Jazz," an award-winning musical from 1979.
Want good customer service? Good behavior is a good start.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We grew up hearing the expression "the customer is always right," and Red certainly agreed with it; and while Black understood the customer service aspect of it, she did question its impact on employees (why would you "automatically" side with a customer over an employee without knowing the details). And that was before the pandemic changed everything, but especially customer behavior.
Until recently, Red didn't think much about why the customer was "always right," but it reminded her of years ago when Black shared her amusing (or, at least, to Red) version of the Golden Rule, "He who has the gold, rules. "So, wouldn't that also apply to customers? Wouldn't a happy customer be a loyal customer?
As much as Black wanted to get into all the reasons why the cliché of the customer always being right didn't make sense, or even that the concept evolved into focusing on positive customer experiences (the pandemic has resulted in some positive changes and trends), she realized that customers' combative behavior is hurting us all, so what needs to be said is,
I get it. Everyone, myself included, is tired of the pandemic and the associated "politics". Emotions are running high, and tolerance and patience are running low. However, none of that is an excuse for rude or aggressive behavior. The customer is not only not always right. But, can be flat-out wrong. Full stop.
Of course, Red, although not trying to minimize the impact of Black's statement, couldn't help but think of a scene in a movie (a car-related one, no less),
One of my favorite scenes from "Ford vs. Ferrari" is when a rather rude and obnoxious customer tells Christian Bale's character (who's British) that "in this country, the customer is always right" and Bale replies, "yeah, bunch of nonsense."