One thing that has been in short supply during the whole Jussie Smollett fiasco is compassion. Opinions, however, have been overabundant.
Here’s a report in USA Today, using the annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon as a jumping-off point: “Seemingly the only dark cloud surrounding the day of celebration was the latest development in the Smollett case, as the ‘Empire’ actor was arrested Thursday morning on a charge of disorderly conduct by filing a false police report. Although [honoree Jenifer] Lewis had ‘absolutely no comment’ about the situation on the red carpet, she used song to express her thoughts about it during her award acceptance speech at the luncheon, though not mentioning Smollett by name.
“‘Before you lie to us, remember Rosa sat on that bus/ Before you tell your tale, remember Mandela sat in that jail/ Before you do anything, remember Dr. Martin Luther King/ Before you connive and steal, I dare you to google Emmett Till,’ Lewis sang, before turning back to her speaking voice. ‘Before another dawn, after this mess, before another dawn, and I speak to everyone, remember whose shoulders you stand on.’”
Call me a bleeding heart — I’ve been called worse — but I don’t see the point of mocking a TV actor because he’s not Nelson Mandela spending 27 years in prison.
To be fair, USA Today talked to some other people at the Essence luncheon — women who expressed sympathy — women like Congressmember Maxine Waters and “Think Like a Man” star Meagan Good, who said, “I don’t know if I believe what the media is saying. The person that I know Jussie to be is not that person. That’s where I stand.” Actress Yvonne Orji (“Insecure”) said that she’s “with a lot of people who are genuinely confused right now. We don’t know what to make of it.”
Both the award for Least Sympathetic Personality and the award for Stupidest Response goes to Grammy Award-winning pig Cardi B, who was mad because Smollett “fucked up Black History Month.”
Ms. B, you will no doubt remember, was involved last August in a melee inside a Queens strip club called Angels, where she allegedly threw bottles and chairs at the bartenders. She also got physical with Nicki Minaj at a Fashion Week event in New York last September. We are thankful that neither of these violent outbursts occurred in February.
Of course Fox News was exultant. ‘‘MSNBC guest unchecked after floating theory that Trump-supporting cops may have framed Jussie Smollett” trumpeted one headline online. The accompanying article, by Brian Flood, begins, “MSNBC finally got around to covering the scandal surrounding ‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett and allowed a guest to float a theory that Trump-supporting cops are lying about the case.” The Trump supporting-cops theory was no theory at all. Instead, Zach Stafford, the editor of the Advocate, expressed widely shared skepticism about the Chicago Police Department and its troubling relationship with the African-American community. Stafford happens to be both gay and black.
Perhaps needless to say, Our Fearless Leader was equally triumphant. “President Trump on Thursday slammed actor Jussie Smollett after police accused him of orchestrating a ‘bogus’ hate-crime attack, saying the ‘racist and dangerous comments’ insulted his supporters. ‘@JussieSmollett — what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA,’ Trump tweeted last Thursday.” Take a guess where this fine bit of reporting turned up. Yes that was an easy one: our version of Pravda, Fox News.
I’m a pretty cynical guy, but even I was stunned by the “see we told you so” response to the Smollett story, as though one gay African-American’s dumb stunt proved that all claims of racist and homophobic violence were at the very least suspicious and at most outright lies. What Smollett did was scarcely admirable, nor was it intelligibly executed. (Note to Jussie: Next time you hire a hit man, don’t pay him with a personal check.) But compared to the violence against African-Americans we see almost daily, often at the hands and guns of the police, not to mention the anti-LGBTQ — particularly the anti-trans — violence we have all gotten used to, the Smollett story’s sad end is more deserving of kindhearted sympathy than derision.
I think it’s time for some cheap sentiment don’t you? If you haven’t yet heard of the two gay penguins at the London Zoo, are you in for a treat — a sticky, saccharine treat, but a treat nonetheless. There are these two male penguins, see? And they’ve bonded. They even went so far as to find a nest somewhere and procure an egg, which they are tenderly sitting on.
To keep it warm! This isn’t a Richard Gere situation here, folks. Get your mind out of the gutter.
“A video featuring a real-life gay penguin couple getting married is winning hearts on Valentine’s Day. The clip captured the luxury ceremony that was thrown for the ‘inseparable’ penguin couple, Ferrari and Pringle, by their human keepers.
“The penguins, who first met at Heythrop Zoo in Oxfordshire, were driven in a Bentley to the mock ceremony at a beautiful venue in the Cotswolds, before being treated to a fish wedding breakfast. Penguin keeper Jess McGugan of Amazing Animals was on hand to walk Pringle down the aisle for the ceremony. She said: ‘Ferrari and Pringle make a beautiful couple. I see them every day at the zoo and when they are apart, they cry and pine for each other. It is so cute and heartwarming to watch them.’”
There’s nothing cuter than a crying penguin; that’s my motto.
Oh, dear. I’ve managed to conflate one gay penguin story with another. Ferrari and Pringle were the ones that got married; it was another gay penguin couple, Sphen and Magic at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium in Australia, who got the egg to cuddle. We regret the error.