Let’s Not Celebrate Lea Michele Terrorizing Her Way To The Top With ‘Funny Girl’

The messy ousting of Beanie Feldstein from Broadway funny girl rebirth – and the rather damned decision to replace it with Joy star Lea Michele – has been the story on everyone’s lips and keyboards for the past week, and is sure to be resurrected once Michele makes her debut as Fanny Brice in September.

It’s shocking and often satisfying when a celebrity scandal fills a long-running public narrative. Michele, very frank funny girl fan, had not only performed several songs from the 1964 musical on Joy and even at the 2010 Tony Awards. (I’d say her version of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” trumps Barbra Streisand’s original). And the idea that she’d been sneakily auditioning for the part all this time – and must have been furious when Feldstein and her Joy co-star Jane Lynch was cast in the production last year – a has been strongly tackled on social media by former Gleeks and anyone familiar with Michele’s career.

It’s also rare for anyone other than theater nerds to care about the behind-the-scenes logistics of a Broadway show. But Michele and Feldstein’s screen credits and greater celebrity status gave viewers and average TV viewers an entry into an otherwise niche controversy.

And yet, to define this particular debacle as gratifying is a mistake, given who benefits from this cast shake-up and who gets punished.

When rumors of Michele replacing Feldstein first emerged, my Twitter timeline was filled with people amused by the idea of ​​a hungry, hard-working (yet hugely talented) performer getting the role of his life – and snatching it. to someone who probably should’ve never been hired in the first place because of their lackluster vocal chops. There was little mention of Michele’s past indiscretions, including racist and transphobic remarks to his peers, which came to light during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. And many people I saw discussing the spring awakening The star’s demeanor described his past offenses in broad, lukewarm terms, such as “nasty”, “rude” and “diva”.

From what Michele’s victims have said about her, those words are not not appropriate in her case, although I don’t think “diva” should automatically be synonymous with oppressive behavior. (Beyoncé would never call the background actors “cockroaches“!) However, using adjectives like “nasty” and “rude” to sum up specific accusations of racism and queerphobia is frankly dishonest and turns a particularly harmful experience into a mild, even universal one.

For example, we’ve all had to deal with someone pushing us around without saying “excuse me” or opening the door for us – behavior that I would describe as rude. But not everyone knows the pain and humiliation of being trans and being told you’re in the wrong bathroom in front of other people, or being black and dealing with microaggressions. of your white colleague with a position higher than you – both things Michele was accused of.

Perhaps all of this would be easier to swallow if Michele had shown any degree of introspection or remorse in the pseudo-apologies she issued during the controversy in 2020. In a statement posted on Instagram, she claimed she did not recall any of the behavior she was accused of and apologized for how her actions were “perceived”, not for the hatred that was apparently brewing in her heart. As I would advise any stubborn Real Housewife when resolving a conflict, an apology for something you don’t believe you did is not a real apology, and saying you’re sorry for the way someone one interpreted your actions is not a real liability.

Now the conversation around Michele funny girl the cast is thankfully starting to shift to a more disturbed and frustrated tone, with many Twitter users acknowledging how screwed up the situation is. And one of Michele’s accusers, Joy actress Samatha Ware, has expressed his anger about his former colleague being essentially rewarded for emotionally terrorizing people throughout his career.

Similarly, the unnecessary annoyance and embarrassment this whole ordeal has caused Feldstien has been acknowledged in editorials and by people directly involved in the funny girl the comeback. Still, it’s disappointing that with all the producers’ admissions of guilt over how they handled the situation, they completely ignore the moral implications of casting Michele and the people directly affected by her past behavior. Moreover, we hope that an affluent actress like Feldstein, who starred in hit films like Library and lady bird and who has a famous older brother – would be considered a victim in all of this, but certainly not the most vulnerable person affected.

We will most likely have to deal with the public ignoring Michele’s record of verbal abuse yet again this fall when she inevitably does an amazing job in funny girl and maybe even earn a Tony nomination. All in all, the question is not whether Michele should be able to work again. But should she land one of Broadway’s most coveted roles after all the crimes she escaped? Absolutely not.

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