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And Also One More Thing About the James Barbour Situation

Which is an addendum to this post: Dear Broadway, Honestly, Why the Fuck Am I Even Here?

In the past few days, there’s a lot that I’ve thought and a lot that could be said here about the James Barbour situation.

I could ask you to think seriously about whether Barbour would have been punished more harshly, or given less opportunities for a second chance, if the victim had been a young man and not a young woman.

I could ask you if you’ve ever been the victim of any kind of sexual assault. Or really, truly known anyone who was. Whose life was changed forever in the wake of that crime.

Or if you’d feel the same way about ‘second chances’ if he’d committed, and confessed to, some other kind of violent crime.

I could talk about the fact that 60 days in prison seems paltry compared to the long term impact that his act would have had on his victim, but that is my opinion.

And even more importantly, all of that — getting bogged down in the technicalities of the law, or arguments over what is appropriate punishment for a person who commits and confesses to such a crime — is actually beside the point. My original point has nothing to do with the law, it has to do with how I feel as a paying member of the Broadway audience.

As a woman, I feel uncomfortable with, and alienated by this casting decision. And I know for a fact very many other women (and men) do too. This feeling contributes a larger sense that Broadway is not behaving like the kind of community that values women, or wants women to feel as if it is a safe space for them. It also makes me wonder if this Broadway — the one that casts men who confessed to sexual conduct with a minor — is a Broadway that I personally want to be a part of, or financially support.

That’s the point I wanted to make. That the James Barbour casting is one factor — admittedly a large one — in my sense that Broadway can be a very sexist and misogynistic place. One that is not welcoming to women, despite the fact that we are the people keeping it alive.

And I believe that we deserve better. That we can BE better.

Broadway can be better.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Raggedy Android January 15, 2015, 6:50 pm

    Thanks, that’s much clearer.

  • Brad January 15, 2015, 7:07 pm

    Other forms of discrimination, such as racism and homophobia, obviously hold down those being discriminated against. If those discriminators would change in the same way you’re asking the Broadway community to do, everyone would benefit. We would be in concert with each others goals, dreams and aspirations and live happier lives all the way around. “That guy in the ghetto can’t amount to anything, so I will hold him down” is the kind of thinking that has caused – or at least contributed greatly to – inner city human beings being oppressed. Same with the LGBT community – and with women.

    Indeed, why can’t we all do better?

    Maybe some of the same thought processes could be applied to the latest casting in Phantom of the Opera? Must we hold a man down who has paid society for his crime? A man who has a spotless record ever since that crime (more than 13 years ago)?

    Hold one man down, be it a black man a gay man or a woman, and others who are like-minded and feel entitled and superior will do the same. And the problem is compounded, on and on.

    Mr. Barbour, if allowed, could go on to become one of the great Broadway actors, reach success only the wildest dreamers dream. Maybe he ends up giving back to the community in way that is profound and awe-inspiring. You don’t have to help him or support him, but I think we would be better off allowing Mr. Barbour, and others like him, to become something – and fulfill their aspirations. And let their families (personal and professional) live and work in peace.

    Those of you acting a little holier-than-thou about the Phantom casting are not so dissimilar to the targets of your outrage, you know, those who just can’t seem to let woman be equal.

    Not the same thing? Maybe so. Or indeed, maybe it is more similar than you will admit.

    • the mick January 15, 2015, 10:26 pm

      I think it’s naive (at best) to place criminals, being held back in life because of actual confessed crimes they’ve committed, into the same groups as entire peoples (Women, LGBTQ) who are being held down based on factors that were entirely out of their control. I was born a woman. I’ve done no wrong. I am who I am.

      Are you saying Barbour was born a rapist? That he had absolutely no choice in the matter and made no decisions that lead to his guilty plea?

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is possible to make choices so bad we can never come back from them. Barbour could have a very full and productive life — and perhaps do great good — without being allowed back into the exact same situation that precipitated his crime in the first place.


      • Brad January 16, 2015, 8:14 pm

        Yes, the discriminated-against groups are entirely different as are their individual circumstances and/or behaviors and/or crimes, but you’re missing the point. I am not comparing them. I am comparing the behavior towards them by other people (like you) who deem them to be “unfit”.

        The legal system dealt with JB, and JB accepted and served his sentence. Having not returned to any criminal behavior – for more than 13 years, JB (and his family) deserve better than to be treated like garbage. You saying or even inferring JB to be a rapist is not correct or fair. He was convicted of two misdemeanor counts that occurred 13 years ago.

        You saying JB can live a full life but not in the theatre (because that’s the “realm” that allowed him to commit a crime) is ridiculous. If he were to be inclined to commit another crime, he could and would commit it anywhere. So what you’re effectively saying is JB should not work anywhere other people work?

        It’s understandable to not be able to get past “some” crimes. But you act as if JB forced himself on the girl. An underage girl cannot consent legally, but an underage girl can be willing and in agreement with an adult to partake in bad behavior. Yes, the adult is responsible. But the damage done to a girl who is forced to perform a sex act is (at least potentially) much greater than the damage to a girl who willingly participates. We don’t know to what extent, in either direction, the behaviors were in this case. That the girl travelled to New York by herself a month after their first encounter says something as to whether JB forced himself on her – or not. I’m not attacking the victim. I’m just trying to add some clarity and perspective. JB is not a rapist, and he doesn’t deserve to be treated like one – 13 years after the fact – where all 13 years have been lived without incident.

        You don’t need to support JB, but you also don’t need to (and shouldn’t) crucify him. All the attention is very likely something the girl, who has moved on with her life, isn’t too thrilled about either.

  • Joel January 16, 2015, 12:06 am

    “I could ask you to think seriously about whether Barbour would have been punished more harshly, or given less opportunities for a second chance, if the victim had been a young man and not a young woman.”

    I could ask you to think seriously about whether Barbour would have been punished more harshly or not punished at all if he were a woman and the victim were a boy.

    See how easy it is to play the game of “what if” and imagine far worse situations?

    You bring up all these things you “could” ask us about, as if the simple word “could” thrown before a rant means that you’re somehow going to spare us the anger and animosity you spewed in your last post.

    Here’s are the simple facts: Barbour was cast. Barbour has served his sentence. You may dislike the man based on your own interpretation of what went on in his past. Barbour is free to live and work. Producers are free to hire him and exploit his talents and celebrity for their own financial gain. Audiences are free to adore or disdain his performances. You are free to blog your opinion on this casting decision.

    Hey, it’s your blog. You can post your opinions all you want, but people are free to give you their opinions right back. (Of course, you know that, already, which is why you pre-insulted your naysayers when you said, “I bet the comments section on this post is going to be a bastion of really intelligent conversation, too. Can’t wait for that, either.”)

    Here’s my opinion: If I were a producer, I would not have cast Barbour in the role because I would not want the negative press that would follow. I would not think it a wise investment of my money. However, as an audience member, I have seen Barbour perform live (both before and after he served time) and I can say that he is an incredibly talented man who is more than capable of playing the role of the Phantom on Broadway. The producers of the musical released a respectful statement to their fans, acknowledging that Barbour has had a less than perfect past, but that they are confident both in his talent and in his changed nature. They are giving him the opportunity to showcase his talents for their own financial profit, which is no different than any celebrities (a-list through z-list) who are cast in major motion pictures – some who have committed heinous crimes.

    In your previous post, you unsuccessfully tried to paint an entire industry with the broad brush of sexism. Does sexism exist in this world? Absolutely! Do isolated incidents and shows that you find offensive (those recent shows you noted were flops, by the way) represent an industry as a whole? Absolutely NOT! Broadway as an industry highly values (through both praise and pay) its female performers in ways that other industries have never matched. Broadway has had a history of presenting thought-provoking and intelligent art that has worked as a catalyst for dialogue within Women’s Rights issues. You expressed through examples of isolated incidents that you are tired of the overall sexist nature of Broadway. That is your prerogative, but don’t expect everyone to jump on your bandwagon through your unconvincing argument.

    All that being said, it’s your choice to no longer financially support an industry you deem sexist. Does that mean you’ll be donating the many many comp tickets you receive to your readers? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    • the mick January 16, 2015, 2:55 pm

      I’ll try to take this in order as much as possible.

      A) Do I think a woman would be punished appropriately if she was an adult in a position of power who confessed to having chosen to engage in sexual conduct with a minor? I would hope so. And looking historically at people like Mary Kay Letourneau, it seems like there’s precedent for punishment. The point I was making there is that generally, there is very little ‘slut-shaming’ of victims when they are male children, and it’s slut-shaming of victims that often leads to sympathy for perpetrators.

      B) I have no issue with people giving their opinions back, even when they disagree. However, I am free to continue to offer my opinion in response, as are commentors. I haven’t tried to stifle that at all. My remark about the comments section in my first post was a reference to the fact that women writing from a feminist perspective about feminist issues on the internet often face a lot of extremely graphic, demeaning response (often from men). Fortunately, I’ve been subjected to very little of that, and I’m very thankful for it. By and large the conversation has been respectful, or at least close to that, and that is truly what I hoped for. I had no intent of stifling conversation, only of remarking on the fact that I knew I was wading into the kind of waters that could earn me threats of bodily harm, sexual assault, or worse.

      C) I’m not a fan of any convicted criminal, or known sexist/rapist/bigot/etc being given high-profile, high-paying jobs. And I don’t see Mel Gibson movies any longer because I find the bile he’s spewed in public horrifying. My post was not about sexism in the entire world. It was about what I see in the one community where I spend the most of my free time and money, and where I would hope I can make the biggest impact.

      D) You don’t have to believe I made my case successfully. That’s your opinion and your right. But I was giving a handful of recent examples of sexism– in specific, the ones that have occurred in the last week or so that piled up in such a manner that I felt I could not remain silent any longer. If I were to have sat down and made a list of every single example of sexism in the Broadway and theater industries in general that shit would have read like Genesis. I don’t even know that it’s possible.

      As far as shows that I chose to reference, I reached a bit further back than recent weeks because I have not yet seen Honeymoon in Vegas — which I believe to be sexist based on both knowledge of the source material and on the opinions of people I trust who have seen it — so I wanted to include some specific examples of recent shows I have personally seen. The commercial failure of those two shows was beside my point. My point was that people in power in this community looked at those shows and said ‘Yup, this is great, let’s mount it!’ That makes me sad for the state of the industry, that it can’t look at material like that and say ‘Maybe we shouldn’t,’ or ‘Can we re-approach/edit/re-frame material within the show so it’s less sexist?’

      E) I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. It saddens me when people don’t see the sexism, and/or would rather dismiss it instead of opening a dialogue to find ways to combat it, sure. But I know there’s no way I’ll ever get everyone to agree with me on anything.

      F) The idea behind ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ is, I believe, actually one of the great many reasons that sexism as become so entrenched here. Because people feel disempowered to speak up when they need their Broadway-based paychecks to continue to support themselves and their families. It’s also one of the reasons I chose to speak up. Because Broadway isn’t the hand that feeds me. I make my living in another industry entirely, which has freed me up to be completely honest over the entire course of operating this website. I operate The Craptacular out of love for theater and Broadway. The cost of running this website far outweighs any money I’ve ever made here. And since you so heartily believe in this ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ concept, you will likely not be shocked to hear that we do not receive a constant supply of free tickets, likely due in no small part to the fact that we post articles like these on our website. In fact, just today I bought a ticket to see The Last Ship with my own money, as we were never invited to see the show. That’s not rare, and I generally don’t mind spending my money this way. I would just like to keep spending my money in an industry that feels more inclusive of women, and I hope starting a conversation about that might make some impact.


  • Chris Peterson January 16, 2015, 9:40 am

    You’re not alone in your criticism of this casting choice.


  • Shelby April 7, 2015, 1:01 am

    I went on a trip to the East Coast in March with my friends. We started in Washington, went to Philadelphia and ended our trip in New York. Our tour group was set up to meet with some of the cast members, and I don’t know all the names but I know that most the people who showed up were swings. (We met Jim Weitzer and Bronson Norris Murphy.) We went to see The Phantom of the Opera and after the show my friends and I became obsessed. When we got back to the hotel we went to our rooms and started blasting music from The Phantom of the Opera YouTube channel. The next day after touring New York went to our rooms and searched up the roles. We started with James Barbour who we found to be a sex offender and by some reason, fear possibly, we stopped looking up the cast members. Don’t get me wrong, the show was awesome but I think we were all confused why they allowed this person to play such a powerful part. Even with James, our love for Broadway still remains strong and reading your post makes me want to become a Broadway writer to defy the rules (in a respectful way).

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