Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

Bowing to the sensibilities of the times, Disneyland in California this year quietly ended the Jungleland Cruise tradition in which the skipper fires a couple warning shots to scare some fake hippopotamuses, reports the Los Angles Times.

PETA's Debbie Leahy applauded the move, saying "If it was a fantasy baby or fantasy toddler, I don't think somebody would find it funny. Clearly we should not be accepting it for a hippo. ... It's really a form of animal cruelty."

The move is the latest in a series of efforts to tamp down politically incorrect aspects of the park.

Following the rash of school shootings in recent years, Disney stopped selling toy muskets and flintlocks in Frontierland and four years ago, sailors chasing trays of food were substituted for sailors chasing frightened women in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Before that, victims of Indian attacks on Tom Sawyer Island were removed. The theme of the settlers cabin part of Tom Sawyer Island now, says a park official, is how animal habitats can be endangered by fires set by careless settlers.

Reminders of Slavery Deemed 'Demeaning' 

Activists are demanding that the head of New Orleans' public schools resign for invoking the suffering of slavery in imploring students not to let a lack of air conditioning in school deter them from their studies, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune

At a news conference in which he said fixing the air conditioning was his top priority, schools chief Al Davis said the students should not let the discomfort keep them from school.

"If you go back and you read your history, slaves were in the holds of ships without air conditioning, people worked in the cotton fields of Mississippi without air conditioning, farmers worked without air conditioning," he said at the news conference. 

One local activist, the Rev. Marie Galatas, said the remarks were "demeaning, uncaring, unkind, unloving," and said several students reported that they felt like Davis was comparing them to slaves. Galatas said Davis should apologize. Others want him to resign.

Filling Shakespeare's 'Lesbian Void' 

In a new analysis of Shakespeare's work, an American academic insists that a good portion of the women in his plays were actually lesbians, reports The London Observer.

Theodora Jankowski, a former professor of English literature at the University of Washington, writes in A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare that The Merchant of Venice's Portia and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing were outright lesbians. She also says Cleopatra, along with Tatiana from A Midsummer Night's Dream, dallied in same-sex relations.

Jankowski says her evidence proves that the so-called "Lesbian void" in Shakespeare has been filled.

"If twenty-first century women - lesbian or straight - are routinely ignored by actual men, it is not surprising that early modern women, as well as literary characters, would be equally ignored," she says. "Early modern lesbians may be invisible simply because we have not yet become competently trained observers."

Golliwogs Go the Way of the Dinosaurs 

A conservative local legislator in Britain who protested the retirement of a jam company's mascot, the Golliwog, by placing one of the black-faced dolls on his filing cabinet was forced to resign from his party for being racially insensitive, reports the London Daily Telegraph.

Richard Eddy, deputy Tory leader on the Bristol City Council, said he was fighting back against "political correctness" following the announcement by Robertson's jams that the company would no longer use the 90-year-old mascot in advertising and promotions.

But his gesture led to renewed charges of racial insensitivity against the conservatives in Bristol. The city, the center of British slave trade in the 18th century, has always been sensitive about its past, says the Telegraph.

Accent in the Wrong 

An Asian-American watchdog group is miffed at the USA Network for its new "Banzai Movie Friday," a series of on-air promotional shorts that poke fun at Japanese game shows, reports the New York Daily News

A representative of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans said the accent of the actor doing the voiceover is insensitive to Asian Americans. "It perpetuates the notion that Asians are, and always will be, foreigners in this country," said Guy Aoki, president of the MNAA. 

The segments include contestants participating in offbeat games while an announcer in an exaggerated Asian accent urges viewers to bet on the outcome via phone.

Offended in Queens

New York City mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg is being labeled a racist, sexist homophobe after word leaked of some “off-color" comments ascribed to him in a 1990 gag gift from some staffers, reports the New York Post.

The 32-page pamphlet, allegedly of Bloomberg sayings compiled by staff, was presented to the him as a birthday gift in 1990. Among the quips raising eyebrows:

"I know for a fact that any woman who walks past a construction site and doesn't get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one."

"If Jesus was a Jew, why does he have a Puerto Rican first name?"

"I make it a rule never to go to Queens and since that eliminated both airports, I don't travel a great deal."
Bloomberg called the book a gag full of “borscht belt jokes” that he never even read, but his opponent in the race for New York City Mayor, Herman Badillo, said it proves the billionaire is unfit for office. "He is a sexist, homophobic, racist individual who in my opinion should never be mayor of New York City," Badillo said at a news conference.

Anything Goes, But …  

The New York Times reports that network programming executives are attempting to insert more sexually explicit material and foul language than they ever have before during this fall's season. But, the Times says, sensitivity to racial and ethnic issues has never been more intense.

Producers have submitted to network censors scripts that include practically every crude word imaginable, including the dreaded F-word. More nudity is also on tap, on even traditionally conservative networks like CBS. 

The network nudging for the most leeway is NBC, where producer Aaron Sorkin wants the principal character in the hit series The West Wing to curse in a way that uses the Lord's name in vain.

From the Central Servers:

(Anonymous) writes:

I just had to send you this little story to see whether it was me or if things really are getting way out of hand?

My son is entering third grade and has enjoyed wearing Hawaiian-themed shirts throughout his entire school career. This year he told me he cannot have any hula girls on his shirts! He was told it is offensive.

I'm sorry, but the things people are allowing their daughters to wear even in the lower grades is more offensive then any fully covered hula girl! He has one shirt in particular with some women in swimsuits: one piece, no cleavage! What is going on?

Scott in Houston writes:

I can't agree more about Aaliyah being over-hyped. Her pop songs will be forgotten shortly after MTV does a ridiculous "Tribute to the Fallen Icon" or some crap like that. They did the same thing to Curt Cobain. These are Pop artists. Pop meaning popular, or trendy. Trends change and the trendy are lost in the shuffle. Remember the 80's?? It's unfortunate she was killed, but let's not get carried away.

Ray K. writes of the mascot debate:

It should be obvious to all reasonable people that any names of humans are demeaning when used with sports teams. All of them should be banned. For instance, the fighting Irish should be changed to something like, THE DEBATING PEONY BLOSSOMS, or a local high school's name from the Norsemen, to the MAGENTA FLOWERS. Without doubt there would arise a passionate spirit to support the SPINY CACTI of a school like New Mexico. How about the U. OF KENTUCKY CHIGGERS, or the LOUISVILLE CATTAILS.

Wow, the possibilities are endless and just think how happy the protestors would be.

Rob M. writes:

I would take offense at naming a war-oriented, ground acquisition sport after Daisies. That implies that peace-loving flowers are militaristic. Plants have feelings too!!

Derrick H. writes:

I am confused. I could see a team name needing to be changed from the Chippawas or the Hurons, but I never knew a "screaming eagle" could write a letter stating that it was offended by the usage of its name. Some people have nothing better to do. My high school's mascot is the Huskies and we are proud of that.

Eddie S. writes:

It amazes me just how blind people like Al Sharpton are. Granted, the comment by Rod Dreher was insensitive, but what was racist about it? Racial profiling? Sharpton's reply, which ended with "our own," is as separatist a comment as can be made.

Self-declared leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are quick to jump on any opportunity that might put them in the spotlight, despite the fact that every time they do, their own racism and bias are exposed. What really surprises me is the fact that such hypocrisy is accepted.

Joan in Seoul writes:

The writer of the New York Post should be ashamed of himself. Who is he to say how a family should put a family member to rest. By writing those particular remarks, he is knocking on the door of racism. Life and death is taken care of by the family, and those that wish to pay their respects. Undoubtedly he is the minority on that issue, since the city did allow for the event to take place.

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