Do the People of Newtown Care What Barry Manilow Does?

Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 18 2012 3:55 PM

Do the People of Newtown Care What Barry Manilow Does?

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Barry Manilow

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

A wave of entertainments have been postponed in the wake of Friday’s horrific murders in Newtown, Conn. Most prominently, perhaps, Tom Cruise has cancelled multiple events for Jack Reacher, his upcoming movie that includes a sniper shooting. A swanky premiere for Django Unchained was also canceled, replaced instead with a private screening “for cast and crew and their friends and families.” (Quentin Tarantino and his cast have since been asked about the film’s violence in light of the Newtown shooting—though a Weinstein Company source reportedly told Reuters “the cancellation was unrelated to the violence depicted in the movie.”)

On TV, new episodes of Seth MacFarlane’s animated shows Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show were swapped for repeats on Sunday “to avoid any potential insensitivities.” (The Family Guy episode reportedly “featured a retelling of the nativity,” while on American Dad, “a demon punished naughty children at Christmas.”) That same night, Showtime ran warnings before Dexter and Homeland, which read: “In light of the tragedy that has occurred in Connecticut, the following program contains images that may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.”

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More oddly, perhaps, Barry Manilow postponed a concert in Palm Springs out of concern for “the families that have been devastated by the loss of their loved ones.” “In their honor,” Manilow wrote, “we have cancelled tonight’s concert performance and have rescheduled the concert for this Sunday at 2pm.” “Perhaps this small gesture of solidarity will help support these families on this terrible day,” he added.

Perhaps. But probably not. I can entirely understand if Manilow did not feel up to performing that night—which is what he told Bruce Fessier at the Desert Sun after the makeup concert on Sunday. “The program,” Fessier noted, “included the feel-good ‘Because It’s Christmas (For All the Children)’ with the Cathedral City High School and Washington Charter School choirs joining him on stage. That,” he adds, “would have been too tough.” I can only imagine.

But such postponements and cancellations are not about the victims; they’re about the rest of us, and it’s worth saying so. (In the case of the Hollywood movies and big TV shows, they’re often about avoiding bad press; the private Django Unchained screening would have “no media coverage,” Reuters noted.) After the Manilow concert, Fessier talked to some of the people in attendance, who “said the tragedy back East didn’t really affect their enjoyment of the shows.”

One fan said the shootings made Barry’s affection for the children on stage seem a little more poignant. But there was no mention of the tragedy and the fans said that’s what they wanted.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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