Friday, February 10, 2006

The asshole license

The asshole license is alive and well.

The asshole license is the justification for people who have talent (or, more often, believe they have talent) to behave any way they wish. Woody Allen has an asshole license. Perhaps about 90% of Americans don't recognize its validity, but for the 10% who do, it is true and good and right to disregard his hypocrisy or misogyny or pedophilia or general creepiness because he's made films, some of which are fairly enjoyable.

The fact that the asshole license is not a tangible item does not make it any less real for those who believe they possess one, or are believed to possess one.

As a living legend, Paul McCartney has an asshole license, but one of the things I admire most about him is that he seems to have taken very little advantage of its privileges, and throughout his life seems to have behaved in a fairly moderate and reasonable way. This fact is rarely appreciated, which gives those who possess asshole licenses even less reason to behave well.

Thanks to the playwright Doug Wright, the Marquis de Sade has been issued a posthumous asshole license. The Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat who took advantage of the power of his class to sexually assault prostitutes and servants.

That de Sade also wrote about his desires to sexually assault apparently caused Wright to feel that de Sade deserved an asshole license, and so he wrote a play, Quills that ignored de Sade's actual crimes and portrayed him as the victim of phillistines and prudes. Since so few people know de Sade's true biography, Wright's view of de Sade is the one that is popularly accepted. The transformation of the Marquis de Sade into a hero of the First Amendment is, in spite of his Pulitzer Prize for I Am My Own Wife, Doug Wright's most impressive accomplishment.

The asshole who is suing me, demanding that I give him money for producing my own play, Tam Lin, thinks he has a license to be one. He holds his own directing abilities in such high regard that he believes that any work that is touched by him is singed with his mystical brand and altered, profoundly, eternally and irrevocably. Although I directed Tam Lin in 2005 myself, starting from scratch with a completely new set and a revised script, he has the delusion that I used his blocking and "choreography" from the previous year. I will have more to say on this topic once the case has gone through the courts.

Read the rest of this essay "The asshole license" here