While entertainment media has been an escape for many us these past days of quarantine, trying to come out of the bubble to report on the news in the industry has been disheartening. I’ve not tried to sugarcoat the situation, but I did do some digging for some more positive news to share this week. Without further ado, here’s the media news.
First, I want to express my deep sorrow over the many deaths worldwide from COVID-19 and complications from the virus that don’t get reported amidst the news of famous people. While some celebrities didn’t seem to really understand the reason for social distancing until a social media backlash explained it to them, the people normally deemed not newsworthy are the ones we’re staying home for. I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge them first and to thank the healthcare workers working tirelessly to fight the virus as well as the misinformation rampant right now. It’s easy while in isolation to forget these people are why we’re all staying home to help flatten the curve.
The internet is not known for spreading truth and accurate information as the telephone game of social media distorts stories along the way to confirmation bias. During this time of global pandemic, popular media like books, TV, and movies can remind us that language matters. The World Health Organization (WHO) has put out a guide on preventing and addressing the social stigma associated with COVID-19. [WHO]
Since awareness of the novel coronavirus has risen in past weeks, many Asian Americans have seen a spike in racist behavior and shared their experiences on social media to bring awareness to the issue. The long list has included such incidents as an Asian American author being harassed while giving a free writing workshop on Instagram and fashion blogger/media personality Eugenie Grey being assaulted while walking her dog. This xenophobic response is steeped in a history of racism in many developed countries and the latest trend of giving COVID-19 racist nicknames is “only adding fuel to an already blazing fire,” in the words of Grey. [THR]
WHO executive director of emergencies Mike Ryan urges against using geographic locations to describe illnesses because “viruses know no borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank.” [TheHill] If you are a victim or witness to an incident of this kind the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council is keeping records and has a report form on their website you can use.
Last week, Broadway Star and small screen actress, Laura Benanti tried to bring some hope back into the theatre world by featuring high school productions that were canceled before their big shows with the hashtag #SunshineSongs. [NPR]
But the stage industry keeps taking hits with the latest news of postponed Tony Awards and death of playwright Terrence McNally. He died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19. McNally was a lung cancer survivor and suffered from chronic pulmonary disease. The Tony-award winning writer was best known for writing honestly about gay life and bringing awareness to the AIDS epidemic. Every Act of Life, the 2018 documentary about his life, is streaming free on PBS for seven days in honor of his death. Last summer the public television network also made it available for free in honor of Pride month. McNally’s work fought against discrimination and his legacy reminds us to continue examining our biases. [Deadline]
In news of celebrity deaths not related to the pandemic, cult horror creator Stuart Gordan has died at age 72. Most well known for cult classics such as Re-Animator and From Beyond, he was also the co-creator of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise. [Variety]
The voice of Bob the Builder, William Dufris, has died at 62 after a battle with cancer. In addition to voicing the beloved cartoon character, Dufris contributed to many audio dramas including many genre adaptions such as Judge Dredd, An American Werewolf in London, and the voice of Peter Parker in Spider-Man. Pocket Plot, the company he co-created announced the news Wednesday. Dufris was also the director of the audio comic adaptation of Joe Hill’s Locke and Key as well as EC Comics Presents: The Vault of Horror! [Twitter]
Hollywood releases are still a mixed bag of good news/bad news at the moment. Last week several studios pushed up the video on demand release of big blockbuster movies such as Emma and Birds of Prey, but this week news of postponed big screen releases dominate. Fans will have to wait just a little long for the movie adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights and superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984. In the meantime, you too can have mixed feelings about celebrities singing songs to you on social media. [Variety]
Rather than staying in limbo like its studio movie mates, comedy Lovebirds is skipping the box office and releasing straight to Netflix. Starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, this Paramount movie is the first to be pulled from theatrical release altogether. Universal’s Trolls World Tour perhaps set the stage for this move away from the theatrical model with the announcement that the animated film would be available digitally on the same day of its release in the few movie theaters still open. Paramount’s other big delays are the sequel A Quiet Place II and drama Blue Story. I’m chalking this one up as one for the Good News column since I’m very excited about Lovebirds, and past romantic comedies such as Always Be My Maybe and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before have proven that Netflix releases can be successful. [THR]
In other Netflix news, a federal judge has dismissed the defamation case brought against the streaming service and director Ava DuVernay by a police training firm. An interrogation technique developed by the firm was mentioned in the four-part Netflix miniseries focusing on the Central Park jogger investigation that ultimately exonerated the accused teenagers. This is good news for the show after another lawsuit was filed against them last week by the former prosecutor of the case. [Variety]
You can now see swoon-worthy actor Henry Goulding in both The Gentlemen, another recent film that moved up digital release to March 24, and this trailer for his new film Monsoon released last Friday. [VF]
🚨World Premiere 🚨
👀MONSOON Exclusive Trailer 👀
Starring Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas, The Gentlemen) MONSOON is a rich and poignant reflection on the struggle for identity in a place where the past weighs heavily on the present. pic.twitter.com/YC84ddLKXc
— Peccadillo Pictures (@peccapics) March 20, 2020
Many contributors at WWAC and around the Star Wars community are enjoying new episodes of Clone Wars during this time staying in, but the reaction to Mandalorian season 2 news is mixed. It was announced last week that Rosario Dawson was cast as the live-action version of Ahsoka Tano. For some this was a story of Twitter fan-casting come true, but others are disappointed that actress Ashley Eckstein (who voiced the popular character in Clone Wars) was passed over. There is also still an outstanding lawsuit against Dawson for transphobic harassment and abuse toward a past employee. Eckstein put out a public statement on Wednesday via Instagram that confirmed she was not involved in the project and was “only one member of a tremendously talented team of people that it takes to bring Ahsoka Tano to life.” [SlashFilm] [NBC]
An economic Stimulus Package passed in the U.S. Senate on March 25. It was praised by many entertainment industry organizations including in an official statement by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The latest version of the bill includes self-employed small businesses and independent contractors who have lost income due to canceled performances which has affected many in the entertainment industry including musicians. Some big stars are giving social media live-streamed concerts in place of their original plans adding to the number of celebrities singing their way through this time of quarantine. The bill moves to the House of Representatives on Friday and could provide relief for many Americans facing hard economic times in the coming months. [Variety]
I wanted to end with a roundup of celebrities doing positive things right now instead of sharing their uninformed opinions. Jane Fonda is working with Greenpeace to continue her work advocating for the government to address climate change by bringing Fire Drill Fridays to a virtual audience. First up in a series of humanizing interviews on how entertainment industry people are dealing with the dramatic changes in production, director and writer Lulu Wang shares how she is using techniques like Pomodoro to stay productive while trying to keep off the Internet by getting outside or doing yoga. Late-Night TV hosts are also among the many people trying to adjust life to the reality of working from home, some while caring for elderly family members or children home from school. Some like Samantha Bee and Jimmy Fallon are switching quickly to alternate delivery methods and production with the help of their families and remote teams. [THR] [THR] [TheWrap]
Lastly, LeVar Burton expressed his concern over finding family-friendly stories in the public domain to read in a live-stream version of his popular podcast LeVar Burton Reads aimed at families currently homebound during the growing number of shelter in place orders. The Twitterverse provided and many authors including Sandra Boynton and Neil Gaiman offered their corpus up to him. Gaiman confirmed this offer extended to other people including librarians and teachers trying to create digital content for children right now. Fingers crossed this is successful and means a Reading Rainbow revival might be possible. [MovieWeb]
The world is reading, watching, and listening to more media than ever before to distract us from the current dumpster fire of world affairs. Both new and old media is centered in discussions of how people are getting by right now. (Like a list of Mr. Rogers’ quotes for every crisis.) Let this be a reminder that art isn’t an elective that can be cut and defunded when times are better because when times are precarious art is where we turn for hope. But as the signoff Burton said at the end of each episode of Reading Rainbow, don’t take our word for it. Go look in a book (or where ever else you get your stories). We’ll see you next week.