Monday, August 5, 2013

Liberals on Stage with the Patriarchy

A lady at a nearby table at dinner here in Ashland, Oregon nearly choked on her dinner and so we got into conversation.  She observed that the Shakespeare festival this year seems to be all about patriarchal issues: Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady making a silk purse out of a sow's ear for the embassy ball; the angry King Cymbeline banishing all and sundry and making his sweet daughter marry the doofus Cloten; Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire beating up his timid wife Stella; Petruchio effecting The Taming of the Shrew Katherine.

I naughtily interjected that no wonder she was choking on her dinner.

Yes, you could interpret things in that lifeless liberal way.  But, for Pete's sake aren't we all better than that?  Can't we beyond state liberal tropes and find the good the true, and the beautiful in the theater?

For instance, it's all very well to send all the lower-class girls to school where they will dutifully learn their lessons and become nurses and teachers instead of factory hands.  But haven't we just taken them out of the textile factories and put them in the government bureaucratic factories?  And what happened to the vibrant lower-class culture that we have obliterated.  Suppose we had refrained from carpet-bombing the London Cockneys with government schools and government doles?  Back in 1911 just before the start of the welfare state just about everyone belonged to a labor union, a benefit club, or a friendly society.  Imagine what might have been.

For instance, it's all very well to rail at Stanley Kowalski's domestic violence and crudities.  But in fact he smoked out Blanche's obscuring lies rather cleverly.  And it was Stella that made the central decision of the play and called in the men with guns to take batty Blanche to the State Mental Hospital, or whatever it was called back then in Louisiana.

For instance, it's all very well to interpolate a little and pretend, wink, wink, that the assertive Katherine was not really cowed by her lordly Petruchio. But the bigger question remains.  What do you do about a woman that is making everyone's life a misery?  We know what you do with refractory young men.  You send them off to boot camp and the wars.  Of course, in our evolved age we don't send them to the wars any more, we just graduate them from our government child custodial facilities to our equally misnamed penitentiaries and reformatories and panopticons.  Yes, but what about refractory women, usually in some powerful family position and taking full advantage of their power? Truth is, we don't have a clue, because nearly all women do what they are told.  Petruchio's solution is the method of the totalitarian interrogation: starvation and sensory deprivation balanced by the appeal to let's all just get along.  Just sign this paper, just agree with me, and all this unpleasantness will disappear.  Any better ideas out there?

Yes.  We have big problems in today's America, and the liberal ruling class is the immovable object that's preventing us from moving on and solving our problems.

But here's an interesting point.  The festival in Ashland is very careful about race.  They always have a black-themed play and a few black actors for their lily-white liberal audience.  The black actors also appear in the other plays. Lucentio, Bianca's eventual groom in Shrew is black, and so is his father.

But in A Streetcar Named Desire the races have to be kept straight.  You can't have a black Blanche Dubois.  Or a black Stanley, or a black Stella.  Because that would cross up the basic message at the core of the play that the Old South was finished, marinating in its lies and its corruption.  You can have a black Eunice, the neighbor, and so that's what we get.

Yep, these liberals are something else.  And they don't have a clue about the depth of their hypocrisy and their corruption and their injustice: especially the sweet liberal ladies in the audience.

But one fine day...

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