On Friday night, Princeton’s premier student-run theater organization staged their interpretation of Rent: the Musical. The set design was inspired, the accompaniment moving, and the performances were, with one exception, heartfelt and stirring. However, my integrity as a journalist and a critic demands that I be objective about the quality of the production and so I must be honest. I cannot, in my professional capacity as a critic, recommend the musical Rent to anyone, besmirched as it was by my friend Malcolm’s low-effort and frankly embarrassing performance as “Benny.”
Though Malcolm has been my best friend for nearly a decade, professionalism dictates that I cannot allow myself to remain silent while helpless musical numbers are butchered by his pitchy, nasal voice. As a journalist, I have no choice but to say that he alone is responsible for turning a campy-yet-moving rock musical into a grueling test of the human capacity for auditory endurance.
My integrity requires that I warn the public about how his awkward leaden-footed shuffle captures the eye like an ill-choreographed car crash. I promise you, nothing but the deepest respect for my craft could move me to criticize my dearest friend, the man who risked his own life to save me from a riptide when we were only 13.
Alas, as I’m sure I need not explain, the burden of objectivity is not one that a journalist such as myself can ignore, even for life debts such as I owe him. The Society for Professional Journalists’ code of ethics, which I am bound to follow, demands that journalists such as myself “be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.” My journalistic integrity will not allow me to protect Malcolm’s abuse of the power of theatre to bring laughter, tears or in this case, strong secondhand embarrassment, to its audience.
It matters not that his parents took me in when I lost my own and raised me no differently than their son. I know, as a graduate of several journalism classes, what must be done. I need not justify the fact that his monotonous affect and lazy character work are a disgrace to the venerated institution of theatre, one that my conscience cannot permit, as a journalist and critic entrusted with the public good.
I have no doubt that my understanding of journalistic integrity is correct, since I thoroughly reviewed the lecture slides on it. I only hope that Malcolm can understand why my professional integrity demanded this fair and balanced treatment of his performance. I pray that someday he can forgive me, a published critic, for having the courage to do my all-important journalistic duty by taking a stand against his passionless performance in Rent: the Musical. The sacrifices of my chosen profession, which again, is journalism, are onerous and burdensome, but I shall endure.