Social Media Is NOT News

Lin Manuel-Miranda is a musical genius. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. After watching and listening to “Hamilton” dozens of times I read the book by Ron Chernow that inspired the musical and I was blown away by Miranda’s ability to take complex relationships and situations and boil them down to a few words or a phrase. He is simply brilliant.

I first saw Miranda on Broadway performing his musical “In the Heights,” and I was not impressed. I had a hard time following the music and lyrics and was ready to leave at intermission. Now, however, with the “Hamilton” soundtrack all but memorized, I found a new appreciation for its predecessor that has since been made into a movie. Through the lens of “Hamilton” I have no trouble following and appreciating “In the Heights,” and have a feeling that it, too, will be played in my car hundreds of times if my daughter has anything to say about it.

The completely bizarre thing is the way social media received the movie.

Apparently “In the Heights,” which is filmed in and about the Washington Heights area of New York which spawned Miranda, is missing some percentage of Afro-Latino representation and has therefore been subjected to criticism on social media despite the rave reviews film critics and audiences as a whole have heaped on the film.

In response to the social media outcry, “West Side Story’s” Rita Moreno spoke out defending the film as a triumph, only to then become the subject of social media faux outrage herself.

When, exactly, does this never ending cycle of self-perpetuating stupidity end?

A couple of years ago Seth McFarlane realized his lifelong dream of being on Star Trek by starting his own Trek-like show entitled “The Orville,” with the title being a reference to Orville Wright. The seventh episode of the first season on the show has the crew of The Orville on the surface of an Earth-like planet where everyone wears a badge with an up and down (like/dislike) button. If they upset someone, that person can click their “dislike” button, and if they get enough dislikes, they can be put to death. American society may not quite be that bad (yet), but cancel culture isn’t too far off, either.

Hollywood likes beautiful people, and “In the Heights” is comprised of a cast of breathtakingly beautiful people. Does that mean everyone in Washington Heights is supermodel gorgeous? Of course not. It just means that Miranda’s film does what every film, every TV show does – it casts beautiful people in an effort to capture the audience’s imagination as part of an effort to tell a story. It’s absurd to think that Miranda owes someone an apology because some people on Twitter pulled their heads out of their own asses long enough to get their noses bent out of shape, yet apologize Miranda did.

“I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening,” Miranda said on Twitter. “I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thank you for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”

Great job of appeasing assholes, but seriously, WTF??? Here we have an immigrant making incredible art about immigrants and it’s not enough? Celebrated director Quentin Tarantino was on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night and pretty much nailed it when he suggested Miranda simply say “hey, I’m an artist and these are the artistic choices I made with characters I created” and leave it at that.

The bottom line is that social media is not news and news outlets need to stop treating it as such. Social media is nothing more than an outlet for regular people to express their views about any given subject, and many regular people are just assholes looking to complain about things. They don’t all warrant a response, much less an apology. Treating “Joe on Twitter” like someone of some importance is noting more than lazy journalism. One day the headline reads “Moreno Defends Miranda” and the next day it’s “Moreno Takes Heat for Miranda Defense.” The difference is that Rita Moreno’s “West Side Story was ground breaking work about the Latino community in New York, making her voice relevant in discussing “In the Heights.” The people criticizing her are simply nobodies on Twitter.

Why on earth should they get equal treatment from the media????

They shouldn’t.

“In the Heights” is a brilliant film from one of the real musical geniuses of our time. Is it 100% accurate? No. It’s a MOVIE. DUH! It does, however, give outsiders a look into the lives of people living in Washington Heights and a chance to perhaps grow from sharing that perspective.

There was a time when the news was reported by respected journalists who spent their time doing research and becoming experts on that which they were reporting. It would be amazing if we could return to that way of doing news instead of allowing anyone with an opinion to be part of our daily headlines.


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