Setting Language Free

In 1985, Sting released “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free,” the first single off his debut solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, and immediately started take quantities of shit from the grammatically pedantic for using “them” as a singular pronoun. That was just lazy English, you see.

It’s now almost 2020, and in a society increasingly aware of and comfortable with the fluidity of gender, using “they” and “them” as singular pronouns is not only acceptable, it is often preferred.

I’m not ready to give Sting credit for being some kind of linguistic futurist, but what this evolution shows is quite simple. Artistry and creativity are more durable than pedantry.

The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave?

On his HBO show, Real Time, comedian Bill Maher has repeatedly asked his interview guests about the possibility that, should he lose his bid for re-election in 2020, Donald Trump might refuse to step down as President. By and large, his guests have tended to pooh-pooh the idea as alarmist or paranoid. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr assured Maher that there are institutions that would take care of such an eventuality and forcibly usher the vanquished former president out of the building.

I have to say, and this isn’t often the case, but I’m with Maher on this one, in that I don’t find such reassurances to be, well, reassuring. There may be institutions with that purpose, but exactly how much exercise have they gotten in the last 200-plus years? Is there really a playbook in case a defeated president refuses to relinquish power?

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Hollywood and Digital Frankenstein

Since the release of TRON: Legacy, the 2010 sequel to the 1982 pioneer in computer-generated filmmaking, there has been an ominous specter lurking on the horizon. That film featured a digital version of 1982-era Jeff Bridges, and it was unconvincing in a way that audiences found off-putting. Even with the relatively unsuccessful effort to digitally recreate a realistic human, many people saw the handwriting on the wall. As technology advanced, someday it would be possible to convincingly recreate a realistic human character with CGI.

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HBO’s Confederate Problem

In my post about Green Book, I outlined how I thought mainstream Hollywood, as represented by the Academy Award voters, is often content to congratulate itself for its liberalism on racial issues rather than move the discussion forward. Another sign that Hollywood still has much to learn is that the two very talented but very white guys behind Game of Thrones are developing a new project for HBO called Confederate, an alternate-history series in which the Confederacy survives the Civil War and lasts into the Civil Rights era with slavery still intact. Personally, I hope that Benioff and Weiss have so much fun making their Star Wars film trilogy that they forget to circle back to this project.

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