Archive for random lists

Smashed and Gleeful: some notes on a tiny genre

US show-about-a-show Smash starts on Sky Atlantic this weekend. Like Glee, to which it is constantly being compared, it’s a TV series with musical numbers. But that’s the same as saying that Agatha Christie’s Poirot and 24 are both cop shows. In a world with as many musical TV shows as there are detective series or thrillers – a beautiful, shiny world that sadly only exists in my head – it would be obvious that Smash and Glee are quite distinct examples of their genre.

This shot, for example, could only have come from a Busby Berkeley show.

Film musicals don’t necessarily have clearly delineated subgenres. Instead they tend to be categorised by their star or director or choreographer: Vincente Minnelli musicals, Bob Fosse musicals, Busby Berkeley musicals. But you could also categorise them in other ways, for example:

- By degree of realism: do people just burst into song (e.g. Grease) or are they always on stage performing (e.g. 42nd Street)?

- By level of comedy vs tragedy: can you be certain that everything will work out in the end, as in all the Astaire-Rogers films; or will the climax be sad or ambiguous, as in Dancer in the Dark or Hedwig and the Angry Inch?

- By family-friendliness: Mary Poppins and Annie are at one end of this sliding scale, Rocky Horror and Cabaret at the other. You can roughly calculate this by counting up the number of children in major roles.

- By old versus new, which often makes a major difference in tone. The tropes of classic 1930s musicals and 1950s musicals are well known; more recently, there’s less homogeneity except for a tendency – like all other film genres – towards more sex and swearing.

Smash and Glee are far from polar opposites, but they occupy quite different positions in the musical oeuvre. With this in mind, I shall therefore attempt to weigh Smash and Glee against each other using my own personal totally-not-made-up-on-the-spot categorisations.

Grown-Upness: Glee is a high school show. Smash is an adult drama, albeit one set in the not-terribly-adult world of making a Broadway musical. This is the basic and important difference between them. Smash has exactly one teenage character and he’s minor and annoying; Glee, of course, is primarily made up of teens. Themes such as coming to terms with sexuality and deciding what you want to do in life, so central to Glee, are mainly absent in Smash. Smash’s characters mostly know who they are and what they want (fame, success, sex, money, everyone else losing); it’s how to get it that frustrates them.

Having said this, I should note that the family-friendliness of the shows is roughly equal, in that both have sex and sexual themes in them. (Although not swearing. One of the quirks of American TV networks, I think?)

Gayness: Glee is definitely gayer than Smash. The number of LGB characters is about the same, but Glee’s queer characters feel queerer. Possibly because they’re teenagers in a small town rather than adults on Broadway, so their sexuality stands out more.

Note: Smash contains a major character, Derek (Jack Davenport) who expresses some mildly homophobic views. I think this is probably quite realistic even for Broadway, so I’m happy that they’ve done this. I don’t get the impression that he actually dislikes gay men, for what it’s worth, more that he clashes with one specific one and likes shocking people. I admit that this may because I am blinded by Jack Davenport’s stubbly, irritable, butch handsomeness.

I mean, look.


Eye Candy, or some less shallow term that basically means the same thing: It depends on taste, and maybe I’m biased by the relative novelty of Smash, but Jack Davenport and Megan Hilty (playing Ivy) win for me. Though Glee has a bigger and younger cast, of course, and I wouldn’t want to do down any ensemble that has Mark Salling (Puck) and Naya Rivera (Santana) in it. And obviously, Heather Morris dancing is the best thing ever. So on the whole, it’s a tie.

Most Musical Numbers: Glee wins outright here, though I may be in a minority for thinking that more is better. I have been bemused to discover that there are people who watch Glee but don’t like the musical numbers, which is like watching The West Wing but tuning out all the politics. Personally, I am a musicals geek and I want as much singing as possible: an entirely sung-through TV show would suit me fine. So for me, Smash doesn’t have enough songs in it. It does have more original songs, which again you may or may not see as a plus. And is more showtune-oriented. But there’s still too much talking for my taste.

Realism: A quick rant here. If you think that people suddenly bursting into song in hallways is silly and offputting, that’s fine, but you must understand – and I can’t believe I’m having to say this at all - that’s what musicals do. It’s like maverick cops or slow-moving zombies: some tropes are intrinsically part of the genre and bitching about them is pointless, not to mention annoying. (Affectionate mocking or subversion of them is absolutely fine, of course.)

All of which is to say that I love it when people burst into musical numbers, especially when they feature an invisible orchestra and a large cast of synchronised background dancers, and I think real life should be more like that, frankly. Glee and Smash both run the gamut from this to practically-realistic numbers sung on stage, and that suits me fine.

Plot and consistency: I’ve read a lot of reviews of both shows, and critics tend to complain that both lack focus, consistency, coherent plot strands that make sense etc. I don’t deny it. But go watch Top Hat, one of the most beloved musicals of all time, and then talk to me*. Musicals have never particularly tried to make sense. That’s not what they’re for. They’re for the moment, and if the moment works, then the show works.

Moreover, how much sense does Castle or House or, I don’t know, Heroes really make? (I don’t know the answer to this. I’m a bit vague on shows that don’t have songs in them, unless they’re True Blood. But I’m going to assume that none of them achieve 100% sensibleness, and that they’d be less fun if they did.)

Finally, a recommendation: if you like adult TV shows with musical numbers, and especially if you actually do want a plot as well, you’re going to want to watch Blackpool. It’s a six-part British show from 2004, it’s got David Tennant dancing in it, and it’s so good I think I might need to go and watch it right now.


*The plot of Top Hat rests on Ginger Rogers believing that Fred Astaire is the husband of her best friend and thus romantically unavailable, despite the fact that she spends several days with him, the best friend, and the best friend’s actual husband, who is himself Fred Astaire’s best friend. So she impulsively marries her narcissistic cod-Italian tailor, but it’s OK because the vicar who married them was actually the butler of Fred Astaire’s best friend and not a vicar at all. I adore Top Hat, but I have never watched it without shouting at the screen “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!” 


Seven Mildly Annoying Things People Say

Nothing is certain except death and taxes

As current UK events are illustrating, taxes are far from inevitable provided you have enough money. And my friend ciphergoth has his doubts about death too.

You know what’s certain? That the future child of David Mitchell and Victoria Coren will rule us all using the power of wit. And we won’t even mind.

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

Definitely untrue. Garlic roast potatoes taste better than anything feels. So, depending on taste, do hot sugared doughnuts, halloumi, Batternberg cake, crème brulee, bakewell tart, lemon pudding, chocolate fudge cake with ice cream, potato dauphoinoise, calzone, spinach and ricotta tortellini, pepperoni pizza, and egg fried rice. And that’s just off the top of my head.

I do have photos of actual cooked garlic roast potatoes, but I just liked this one.

If Goths want to look different, why do they all dress the same as each other?

Said by people who think that a) they’re the first person ever to think of this and b) they have provided a devastating knockback to Goths everywhere. What they have in fact done is got confused about what ‘different’ means. People in defined subcultures tend to want to dress differently to the mainstream. They are largely ok with other people in their subculture looking similar to them. In fact, it’s kind of what a subculture is about. I have never seen a goth enter a club and cry ‘I must leave again! Fifty other people are also wearing a black corset, black skirt and New Rocks!’

Goths are also not vampires. Despite this photo.

Twitter is just people talking about what they had for lunch

The traditional media seems to be stuck on this idea, as do people who don’t use Twitter. But the important thing about Twitter is that you basically only ever see what you want to see. If you don’t like someone constantly listing sandwich ingredients in order of size, cost and yumminess, just stop following them.

Personally, I’m capable of taking a mild interest in what my friends eat, but in any case my Twitter feed is mostly full of all kinds of other things: political statements, one-liners, news, links to amusing pictures, music and tiny short stories to list a few. Yours can be too.

Be true to yourself, and thou canst not be false to any man

Even leaving aside the origin of this phrase – the pompous Polonius in Hamlet – it is provably untrue. It’s entirely possible to be true to yourself and also false to others. If you were listing a skillset for a criminal psychopath, for example, two of the top items would be ‘Really good at being true to themselves’ and ‘Excellent at lying to other people’.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Sometimes a little knowledge is exactly the amount of knowledge you want. In Trivial Pursuit, for example, I find that my ability to name exactly one cricket player or city in Peru is a definite advantage. Too much knowledge leads to choice paralysis, indecision, despair about the world and ultimately death. Apart from that last one.

Online friends aren’t real friends

You know, there’s no actual reason why a friendship can’t be sustained via writing rather than face-to-face. Plenty of Victorians did it with letters. Yes, an online friend might not be what they seem or might have ulterior motives: this is also true of in-person friends.

It’s quite likely that to my daughter’s generation, this issue won’t even parse. I didn’t use email till I was eighteen, and even I don’t see online and offline as binary opposites but as part of a continuum: FaceBook is as valid a place to say hello to someone as the pub is, and a lot easier to get to.

This complaint, incidentally, often seems to shade into ‘online friends aren’t real people’. I can assure you they almost always are, and will be until robots finally reach the stage where they can fool us into thinking they’re human, at which point we’ll have bigger problems than any social media can provide.


Admittedly, the killer humanoid robots in our future will probably not look like this.


My Experimental Valentine

I love Christmas, I love Easter, I love birthdays, but frankly I can take or leave Valentine’s Day. Possibly this is because my cultural heritage has taught me that the only acceptable means of expressing passionate affection are a) mockery, b) sarcasm, or c) a brief, neutral pat on the shoulder.

However, should you wish – inexplicably – to explore beyond the list above, I would like to present three ideas for communicating your feelings in a suitably offbeat and alt-romantic style. (Please note that I take no responsibility whatsoever for any break-ups that may occur as a result of putting these suggestions into practice.)

1. Phobia Surprise!
Making dinner is a nice thing to do for a loved one. And a common self-help tip is to do something every day that scares you. Handily combine these two by making your beloved a dinner out of something that terrifies them.

You will need:
- a pastry case with lid
- a loved one who enjoys a challenge
- spiders, snakes, small rodents, an enclosed space, a roomful of intimidating people, or other phobia of choice.

Simply place the chosen item or concept in the pastry case, cover, and serve with a spring of parsley on top.

Chance that you will end the night alone: 95%

2. A Life in the Day
Dreaming of a future with your date? Help them to visualise what that might be like by providing them with a life experience compressed into a couple of hours.

You will need:
- An extensive list of your likes, dislikes, tastes, opinions, favourite foods, allergies, pets of choice, and a short essay on how you feel about putting knives in the fork drawer.
- A doll’s house painstakingly decorated to resemble the home that you plan to share with the object of your affections (if you do). Make sure the decor is appropriate to your tastes,energy levels and ability to do DIY: if your lives are to be spent in a house with bright orange carpets, bits of strange-smelling crisps hidden behind the sofa, and a large hole in the roof that both of you keep intending to fix and never do, it’s best to get it all out in the open now. Much like your future roof.
- Lego models of holiday destinations you would be prepared to go to, ranked in order of how likely you are to complain about the local food.
- Life-size cardboard cut-outs of your future children, lined up along the wall wearing expressions of either hostility or scorn. (If children are not part of the plan, a similar effect can be achieved with supercilious-looking cats or disappointed-looking dogs.)
- A brief re-enactment by you of the arguments you expect to have at various important points during your life together. Don’t forget to do the hand gestures, and to indicate the range and degree of imagination you will be using in your insults. Make it clear that you don’t currently think your date is a mean-sprited grinch with the soul of a shrunken bath towel: that’s just what you expect to be believing during your 2021 row about who broke the virtual TV.

Chance that your date will be so freaked out they fake a sudden toe cramp and leave: 86%

3. Literal Love Lyrics
Songs are romantic, aren’t they? So what better way to prepare a Valentine surpise than to choose a favourite song and find a way to turn it into a live-action adventure for your beloved. For example:

- Pet Shop Boys: Surburbia
You will need: some dogs, a ride, a local suburb, a gang of disaffected youths.

- Pulp: Common People
You will need: a flat above a shop, a haircut, a job, a handful of roaches arranged artistically on a wall, a posh Greek student.

- David Bowie: Five Years
You will need: a group of terrified and angry people doing terrible things, a date who is excited by the thought of an imminent apocalypse.

Collect your props and your date and embark upon your adventure, climaxing in an acappella rendition of your chosen song to emphasise the romance of the occasion.

Chance of your date going along with it: 10%. Max.

Happy Valentine’s Day! And no, don’t thank me – you’re welcome.




Ten Totally True Things About Bisexuality

1. If you take one straight person and one gay person, add them together and divide them in half, you will get two slightly bewildered bisexuals.

2. Bisexuals are almost, but not entirely, invisible. They are easier to see at night, since they have a faint purple glow. The female of the species is a darker shade of purple and is therefore easier to see. All bisexuals show up in photos, provided they are holding a pint of cider at the time.

3. Scratch a bisexual man and you get a gay man. However, scratch a gay man and you get a bisexual man, so it’s probably better not to scratch anyone if you can help it.

4. When bisexuals get married they must include the word “ostrich” somewhere in their vows, or they will lose their powers.

5. All bisexuals can fly, but they don’t, out of consideration for the environment.

6. The initiation ceremony for bisexuality is too complicated to explain, and is therefore known as the TOCOTOX. It can involve vegan cheese, the scent of gardenias, and a pencil.

7. If you squeeze a bisexual correctly they will emit a rainbow-flavoured fluid known colloquially as “bisexijuice”. One drop will cure the common cold. Three drops will send you back in time to a point just before you took the three drops.

8. Bisexuality can be caught like flu. Signs of infection include a sudden desire to wear purple and the inability to make decisions without consulting a minimum of eleven close friends.

9. If you play 80s pop music near a bisexual they are legally obliged to dance to it. If they don’t, you are entitled to conduct a citizen’s arrest.

10. Bisexuals dissolve in lemonade and are therefore scared of all fizzy drinks. Do not use this against them, it’s cruel.


Bonus fact: any building covered in a giant purple ribbon is secretly bisexual.


By sheer coincidence, my novel is also funny and also has bisexuals in it.


Five Obvious But Essential Pre-Baby Discussions

OBEDs, or Obvious But Essential Discussions, are the ones that you think you don’t need to have, and then some time later it turns out that actually, you really did need to have them. Potential examples include “So what, to you, constitutes infidelity?” and “Is checking Facebook a sacking offence in this company?”

When deciding to have a baby, people sometimes seem to omit the pre-baby OBEDs, and thus I have made a few suggestions below. A few of many. Many.

1. Do you change nappies?

If the answer to this is anything but “Yes, of course!”, have a serious think about whether this baby thing is a good idea. Not because avoidance of nappy changing is evil – lots of perfectly nice people don’t want to change nappies – but firstly because it shows a worrying desire to avoid engaging with the messy realities of baby care, and secondly because someone’s going to have to do it, and it leaves the nappy-changing partner stuck. Want to go out somewhere on your own? Well, make sure you stay within a ten minute radius of your baby in case you get summoned home to change a nappy your squeamish partner won’t touch. See how quickly that could get annoying?

I am not speaking from direct personal experience, by the way, but I have encountered this. I ran into a local mum at the dentist recently, and she said she mustn’t be too long because she’d left the kids with her husband and he “didn’t do nappies”. I nearly told her that in that case she shouldn’t do her husband, but instead I just fumed silently.

2. If you’re working the next day and I’m looking after the baby the next day, which one of us gets up at 3am when the baby’s crying?

There is more than one right answer to this, but you need to ask so you can gauge the level of response. Many people with full-time jobs are used to the idea that they need a full night’s sleep before they can give of their best. They have a point. But it’s a point they’re going to have to give up, because if you’re looking after the baby all day, you’re probably going to want to take turns at getting up in the night.

Breastfeeding can complicate matters, in that usually only one of you can provide that. If that means you’re always the one getting up at night, I suggest you spend as much weekend time in bed as possible. And don’t do housework, unless unavoidable. Just sleep whenever you can, pausing only to eat enormous bars of chocolate.

3. How do you feel about arriving late for everything?

I hate being late. But ever since my first child was born, it’s been more likely than not that we’ll arrive at any given event at least half an hour after it starts, probably more. Children are the Time Lords of lateness. They play with time. They roll it up in a ball and merrily throw it away. It is an inexhaustible resource as far as they’re concerned. Until it turns out that they’ve missed out on going to the park because they refused to get ready, and then suddenly it’s all your fault because you can’t make time stop till they want it to start again. In brief: your relationship with time is going to get complicated.

4. How much mess can you cope with?

I have been to houses that have young children in them, and they have been spotlessly clean and tidy save for a clearly delineated area for toys, which are tidied away every night. I am in awe of this and also completely unable to achieve it. If I walk across our living room and don’t trip over at least one pen, plastic brick, chess piece shaped like Eeyore or discarded apple core, then I assume I must have come home to the wrong house. You may be one of the tidy parents. But don’t rely on it.

A tip: getting a cleaner is helpful not just because of the cleaning, but because it forces you to tidy the house sufficiently to make it possible for someone to vacuum it once a week. If a cleaner is impractical, try to persuade someone to come round regularly, stand in your living room, and tut loudly. Elderly judgmental relatives are good for this – anyone who can induce the requisite cocktail of shame and panic.

5. How long can you play with a baby for, before your brains start running out of your ears?

Follow up questions:
- How many nursery rhymes do you know all the words to?
- How do you react when someone hits you in the stomach with a plastic hammer and runs away, giggling?
- How many of your treasured possessions will stand up to repeated shaking and/or attempts to consume them whole?
- Will the sight of an adorable toothless grin reconcile you to getting mashed banana spread across your work trousers?

Again, there are multiple right answers, but it’s worth picturing these scenarios in advance. See also: how much Teletubbies and In the Night Garden can you watch before you lose all control and begin to sing obscene songs about Ninky-Nonks?

Of course, in the future we will entertain our babies by plugging them into the computer. Mine's started already.



Seven Morally Ambiguous Authority Figures in Musicals

The internet is not, in fact, for porn. (Or at least my internet isn’t, thanks to my medium-strength safe search function which is designed to stop me encountering anything that might give me nightmares.)

No, it’s for lists. Everywhere you turn, or at least everywhere I turn, there is another article judging the best, worst or most medium things, people or vaguely defined concepts in any given pop culture phenomenon. This feels like a bandwagon that I can jump on. (Partly because it’s a very large and slow-moving one.)

So here I present, direct from the inside of my head, seven morally ambiguous authority figures who feature in musicals. Not the best, not the worst, just a collection of seven of them. At the very least, this should ensure that if anyone urgently needs to know some details about a handful of characters who feature in musicals and contain moral ambiguity within their personalities, I should be their number one google hit. If there’s any justice.

My Personal List of Seven Morally Ambiguous Authority Figures in Musicals


Professor Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady

Played on stage and screen by Rex Harrison. A beloved and major character from an incredibly popular musical – but really, he has very few redeeming features. About all Henry Higgins has going for him is that most of the show’s mostly-good characters seem to like him, or at least respect him, and the heroine comes to like/love him, and he comes to respect (maybe) and like/love her. On the debit side, he’s rude, pompous, self-obsessed and treats people like objects. Not all people, despite his own protestations: women in general and working-class women specifically. Eliza comes off worst, but I don’t feel that great about his attitude towards his female staff or any of the upper-class women he encounters. His misogyny is comical, but it’s also genuine and appalling and never really confronted.

On top of that, his teaching style appears to consist of shouting at Eliza and making her repeat the same phrase over and over again without explaining what he’s doing or why. The fact that she happens to get it right eventually is not an indication that his methods work; it’s more akin to the way that if you torture someone for long enough they’ll tell you anything.

Morality Rating: 1/5.

Aha, a flower girl I can patronise. Excellent!

mama morton

Mama Morton from Chicago

Played on screen by Queen Latifah and on stage by all kinds of people including Alison Moyet, Anita Dobson and Kelly Osborne. She’s unscrupulous and mercenary, but on the other hand, she may actually be the least amoral major character in the show, given that it’s otherwise populated by murderers, idiot judges, and lawyers with the moral depth of a teaspoon. Mama Morton shows some signs of caring about her charges – she takes it seriously when one of them is executed – and treats them perfectly well provided they keep paying her. Plus, Queen Latifah exudes a basic goodness. It’s something in the eyes.

Morality Rating: 3/5. Not ideal, but hasn’t actually killed anyone.


Albus Dumbledore (who sort of counts as being from a musical)

I quite like the Harry Potter stories in some ways, but one thing that always annoys me is how bad a head teacher Dumbledore is. I’ve had this discussion with a number of people and nobody agrees with me, so I’m going to say it here instead: he is utterly unprofessional, and yes, it does matter. He appears to run the school mainly through indirect messages and gifts to favourite pupils. He allows Snape to hand out arbitrary and unfair punishments to pupils he dislikes (and I could do another rant about how bad a teacher Snape is but I just can’t be bothered). His ability to appoint new teachers who aren’t either evil or incompetent is… flawed, to say the least. And does he pay any attention at all to the actual content of his teachers’ lessons, and specifically to the degree of life-threatening danger his pupils routinely encounter? Most irritatingly, nobody ever comments on any of this and everyone thinks he’s a genius. OK, I’m done. Don’t hurt me.

Morality Rating: 3/5. I guess he means well. Maybe he’s just incompetent.

Nick Murder in Romance and Cigarettes

kate winslet

This should be a picture of James Gandolfini, I know. But ooh.

If humanity was properly constructed, Romance and Cigarettes would have been the top grossing film of 2005. As it is, hardly anybody saw it and many of those who did disliked it (although everyone I showed it to has loved it). This is a shame, because it’s wonderful – poetic and coarse and racy and beautiful and full of gorgeous musical numbers. The protaganist is a husband and father played by The Sopranos‘ James Gandolfini, who cheats on his wife Kitty (Susan Sarandon) with fiery harlot Tula (Kate Winslet). The film shows brilliantly how much damage he causes to Kitty and his daughters in the process, while also making you realise just how hard it would be to say no to Kate Winslet. About anything. I’d probably jump off a tall building if she told me to. Or just asked me to. Or just didn’t ask me not to. Anyway.

Morality Rating: 2.5/5

Chester Kent in Footlight Parade

Footlight Parade (which I’m assuming people won’t necessarily be that familiar with) is a 1933 black and white musical starring the fabulous James Cagney as a man who puts together brief live musical shows for movie houses (which is a thing they used to have, apparently). The moral ambiguity here is based on two things neither of which are really the character’s fault: firstly, he’s played by James Cagney, who is mostly known for playing gangsters and never quite loses that sense of slight menace; and secondly, his character is from a 1930s film and therefore gets to do things like keep a group of showgirls prisoner for several days (which they are perfectly ok with, but still).

Morality Rating: 4/5

(See also, the way Fred Astaire’s various characters blatantly stalk Ginger Rogers’ various characters through the series of films they did together, culminating in the film Carefree which features a use of hypnosis that would get you locked up these days. And probably would have then, to be honest.)

Incidentally, Footlight Parade is well worth watching if you have any interest in old musicals at all. It features fast talking, secretaries secretly crushing on their bosses, and Busby Berkeley routines that will make you go “… what just happened?”

busby berkeley routine

I mean, look.

Nathan/Repo Man  in Repo! The Genetic Opera

Nathan, aka Repo Man, takes the Jekyll and Hyde trope to fascinatingly demented new extremes: by day he’s a mild-mannered doctor who cares for his severely ill daughter, by night he’s a hitman repossessing debtors’ organs with leather-clad bloodlust – and then it turns out even the above-stairs version has his dark secrets. Anthony Stewart Head hams this up in a style you will find either wildly enjoyable (as I did) or appalling (as lots of reviewers did). Nathan is actually one of the more moral characters in the film, disturbingly.

Morality Rating: 2/5, in the context of how awful almost everyone else is


You can't get this kind of service on the NHS

Mary Poppins, from Mary Poppins (I’m not even going to bother to link)

Oh ok, I’m being unfair. Mary Poppins, though a somewhat morally complex character in the original PL Travers book, is in the musical version a perfectly lovely super-governess who uses her magical powers only to help children and entertain chimney sweeps. The reason she’s in here is purely because of the Childcare Action Project.

If you haven’t heard of it, CAP is a US fundamentalist Christian website that reviews films based on their adherence to the Bible, as interpreted by the reviewers. It’s quite fascinating, at least if you’re me. And one of the most interesting things about it is that 99% of its reviews condemn the use of magic in films. They have a scoring section called Offense to God where they list all the examples of a film showing anyone doing anything supernatural and take points away from the film’s final score. For example, this is their list for the 1986 film Labyrinth:

Offense to God:
• calling for help from the unholy, repeatedly
• goblins, repeatedly
• incantation to take a baby away, repeatedly
• unholy abduction of a baby
• shape-shifting, repeatedly
• materialization/dematerialization, repeatedly
• magic to, e.g., close doors, repeatedly
• magic to make changes to impede, confuse, entice, manipulate or harm, repeatedly
• two uses God’s name in vain without the four letter word vocabulary, once by an adolescent
• crystal ball gazing, repeatedly
• rocks doing the will of a living creature
• “Look what I’m offering you – everything you want”
• the use of evil (magic) to do good [Isa. 5:20]

Isa. 5.20 is quoted again in their review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

…now comes Harry Potter presenting evil as something to admire and emulate; something to use against evil. Using evil for good? Do you hear what that is saying? As God said in Isa. 5:20, you cannot make something light with darkness and something sweet with bitterness. I guess Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a logical extension of I Dream of Genie, Bewitched and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, all benevolent on the surface and all since we kicked God out of our schools.

This all seems quite unambiguous to me: magic=evil and anything resulting from magic can’t be good.

But wait. This is the review of Mary Poppins:

Mary Poppins was a delightful romp for children and the young at heart through a make-believe world of frolic and fantasy. There were no instances of offensive material throughout the movie. While there were several occurrences of “magic,” there was nothing evil or sinister about any of the “magic.” Mary could have been angelic.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Mary Poppins is in fact an enchantress of great powers who has managed to reach into our reality and tweak the minds of these God-fearing folk so that they became convinced that she is the only character in films whose magic comes from Jesus and is therefore a good thing, whereas Gandalf and Dumbledore are emissaries of Satan himself. And frankly, this scares me.

Morality Rating: either 0/5 or 5/5

Other characters in this list could include The Host from Cabaret, The Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, Fagin from Oliver!, Miss Hannigan from Annie, and Javert from Les Miserables, but anyone who recognises those names surely isn’t going to need a rundown from me on why they’re morally ambiguous. I could also go on about Will Shuester, the show choir coach from Glee (of which I am a huge and slightly defensive fan) but I have other things I want to write about Glee, of which more later.

Bonus: A Character Who You Might Think Is A Bit Dodgy, But I Don’t Think He Is (And Obviously I’m The One Whose Opinion Counts Here As This Is My Blog)

Honoré Lachaille from Gigi.

Better known as Maurice Chevalier singing Thank Heaven For Little Girls, a moment which many have carelessly interpreted as some kind of admission of paedophilia or hymn to its practice. In fact, although Gigi‘s plot is admittedly morally ambiguous in its own right – revolving as it does around high-class prostitution – both the song and the film are very specifically concerned with adult women. The song is about how great it is that little girls grow up to be women, at which point – but not before – they become sexually interesting. The film is about broadly the same thing. Or, ok, it’s sort of about how little girls sometimes grow up to be kept by rich men in exchange for sex; but again, they have grown up before this occurs, so the discussion to be had here is about paying for sexual companionship rather than potential child abuse.


Honestly, the scariest thing about him is his shiny teeth.