Social Justice Virtue Signaling Has Become a Form of Tourette's -- It's A Tic People Can't Seem To Stop Themselves From Doing
I was reading about a local guy who reported a local restaurant to the newspaper because it had a picture of guys in blackface they wouldn't take down -- what turns out to be a picture of Welsh coal miners covered in coal dust. Personally, I am sorry the guy has faced so much vulgar hostility and apparent outright racism in the letters he has received. But I still can't get past a judgement that his concern was historically ignorant, clueless virtue signalling. His concern failed even on the level of his own stated principles in that it tried to deny a voice to folks who were a lot more downtrodden and lacking in privilege (including a near certainty of early death from a variety of respiratory diseases) than are modern African-Americans.
The silver lining from all this is that I had forgotten that Phoenix had a Cornish pasty restaurant and I have since eaten there twice (well, one was delivered) and it is awesome.
All this is preface to an event that happened a week or two ago. My wife and I were at a small, ticketed event watching a preview of an upcoming Ballet Arizona performance of the Firebird. These take place in a small rehearsal theater and give ballet supporters a chance to see a preview and then hear from our artistic director (and in this case also the costume designer).
I have to give a bit of background on the ballet. We were previewing the opening scene, in which a prince and a group of his friends are hunting in the forest and discover a secret magical place where they encounter the firebird -- a sort of fantasy non-human creature played by a ballerina. They try to capture her, she nearly dies, she pleads for her life, and the prince revives her (which then leads to a sort of reward that leads to the rest of the story).
Anyway, in this performance the ballet tried to do something different. The artistic director Ib Anderson reimagined the scene as a sci fi scene from his childhood -- think of the prince being Captain Kirk on an away mission on a new planet and discovering an alien. All the new costumes are sci fi / alien themed.
OK, so we see this opening scene. I am only a middling ballet fan but the scene is beautifully done. Afterwards we had Q&A. Even I was thinking about asking about the idea, but geek that I am my mind had wandered from the ballet of an away team visiting a planet to imagining the original cast of Star Trek dancing ballet on a new planet to trying to figure out what Star Trek episode had the main characters dancing and playing air instruments ("I Mudd" by the way).
A hand goes up in the first row. Rather than a question, the guy goes into a monologue about how he really didn't like the fact that all the men attacked a defenseless woman and that the only way she got her powers back was because the man chose to give them to her. Now, I said that in about 20 seconds but this went one for a minute or two. It was excruciating. An enormous WTF moment.
First, it's a freaking alien that is being played by a woman. Second, to the extent it is a reflection of stereotyped gender roles by the original author, does this person monologuing to us really think the rest of the audience is unaware that writers 100 years ago had different visions of women's roles in society than we have today? Is his goal to whitewash the past by pretending authors never wrote this kind of thing, or is his goal merely to make sure that we all know that he knows? Even weirder, to be at this event the guy was presumably a ballet aficionado at some level -- has he never seen, say, any 19th century story ballet? Or better yet 19th century opera, where the main role of women seems to be to die of some sort of wasting disease in the third act? And finally, is he really concerned that the community of ballet choreographers and dancers is somehow a secret den of anti-wokeness that needs to be exposed?
I compare this need to publicly virtue signal like this to Tourette's because I don't think the guy could help himself. Had you carefully explained all of the above to him in advance, he still likely would have had to make his speech (just like the guy with the miner photo above still insists he did the right thing even now that it has been explained that its a freaking photo of downtrodden, soon to be dead of respiratory diseases, miners). By the way, it was sort of funny to see the reaction of the ballet folks on stage to this -- they tend to be way out there on social justice causes themselves and were clearly unused to being outflanked on these issues.
I got to thinking, what is the solution if this were really a problem? I suppose we could gender swap the whole thing, with a male in the lead of Swan Lake, say. But that does not really work, because in general in all these unwoke story ballets the females get all the best roles. Most of the men are just props. So gender swapping them would just take all the best roles away from women and hand them to men. Eek, what is a good SJW to do?