Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another response to Jason Zinoman

Once again, my response to Jason Zinoman's latest is too long to fit into a comments box.


I posted something written by Theresa Rebeck, in which she suggested that Frank Rich ignored the sexual harassment issue in her play, but paid attention to it when David Mamet presented a false charge of sexual harassment.

How you jumped from that to thinking I believe those things you claim I do (not ok to have feminist agenda; no male critic will give good review; Mamet always gets good reviews) is a great mystery to me.

Now as far as women writers not being allowed to be angry - women in general are not allowed to be angry as study after study has shown. Like this one: Angry men get ahead while angry women penalized: study
A man who gets angry at work may well be admired for it but a woman who shows anger in the workplace is liable to be seen as "out of control" and incompetent, according to a new study presented on Friday.
So why should the theater world be any different from the world at large? Even among liberals - there are plenty of people who wouldn't deliberately discriminate but who carry around these unexamined, unconscious assumptions about men and women absorbed through the culture.

Of course you know about the "Angry Young Men" playwrights. Well it's probably thanks to that 50+ year old trope that anger is still a badge of honor for male playwrights: Here's how Charlotte Moore promoted Martin McDonagh:
Mr. McDonagh is an angry young man, asserts Ms. Moore... "He's very sullen, he smokes like a funnel, he drinks like a fish. And he has the Irish, Irish, Irish distinction of being suspicious. There's no more suspicious group on the face of the earth, and he writes from that perspective." And, she adds pragmatically, it doesn't hurt box office that he's good-looking, cheeky and arrogant. "And he's so bright. And fearless."

Here's how the Times Independent kicked off an article about McDonagh:
Martin McDonagh: Playboy of the West End world As a dramatist, Martin McDonagh sounds too good to be true: an attractive, angry young man with Irish roots, adored by the gossip columns, who can't stop writing hit plays. Is he for real? Liz Hoggard finds out. Photographs by Antonio Olmos
Notice how being angry is consider a too-good-to-be-true virtue.

And then there's you:
Mr. McDonagh responded to this comment with a flash of anger, disregarding a pledge he had made minutes before to give up harshly judging other living writers in the press, firing off one of those hilariously belligerent rants that his characters are known for and that can’t possibly be printed here. Translated from the profane to the mundane, he said he was going to beat up Mr. McPherson next time he saw him.
Here's Marsha Norman describing Adam Rapp - she seems to equate anger with genius - and yes women can certainly buy into the angry man trope as much as men - although it's certainly news to me that Mozart was especially angry:
You'd have to go back to Mozart to find somebody like Adam. And Mozart, actually, would be a good person to compare him to. Both playful, both angry, both geniuses, both capable of great beauty and great fury, neither a man to be messed with."
—Marsha Norman

But you of course are familiar with Adam Rapp especially since your mother directed a play of his. I commented on the critics' worship of Rapp here.

Here we see The Independent also joining anger to genius in the case of Neil LaBute: Article: Watch out angry white male at large Neil LaBute, writer and director of 'In the Company of Men', is bringing his misanthropic vision to the London stage. Profile by John Lahr profiles the misanthropic Mormon genius.

LaBute isn't only angry, he's also a gigantic self-confessed douchebag:
And that makes a side of LaBute happy. "It's part of my makeup," he says, "to ruin a perfectly good day for people."
Now if Joe Schmoe Nobody said such a thing everybody would despise him for being such a douchebag - angry young men playwrights have asshole licenses. Do you know of any female playwrights who go around saying anything close to that level of obnoxiousness?
Even Tracy Letts is described as angry:
Here's how Patrick Healy's profile of Tracy Letts begins:
TRACY LETTS was angry. It’s not exactly what you might expect from someone who, moments earlier, had won the Tony Award for best new play for “August: Osage County,” a runaway success on Broadway...

So yeah - I think that Theresa Rebeck knows what she's talking about when she talks about male playwrights anger.

Now about my arguing in good faith - let's look at you:
. That you write that i think it's "so very important" to write an anti-abortion play "now" is absurd -- and you know it.
It WOULD be absurd if I wrote that - but I did not. I said:
So very likely there has NOT been anything from the left to match the approach of GIRLS - so why is it so very important to present a polemical anti-abortion play now?

First - it was a question. Second - it was a general question, or if aimed at anybody, would be aimed at The Flea. I did not necessarily think YOU thought it was important to present an anti-abortion play now.

Did you completely miss out on what I have been saying? There haven't been any polemical pro-abortion plays done - neither you nor I can think of one unless you count WASTED from a hundred years ago - so why is it necessary to have a polemical anti-abortion play done now? The Flea and Reynolds, in their commentary about getting the play produced, keep implying that it couldn't get produced because it was an anti-abortion polemic. But in fact the real reason might be because it's an abortion polemic, period. Audiences might not necessarily want to see ANY abortion polemic no matter which side it's coming from.

But the people promoting GIRLS are pushing it as brave - in the face of unsubstantiated assumptions about the tyranny of the pro-choice crowd.

Now about "As for why there can't be plays against sexual harassment" again - I never said that. I merely agreed with Theresa Rebeck that it was mighty fishy that while SHE wrote a play on the subject and Frank Rich ignored that content, Rich did not ignore the content when Mamet presented harassment from the point of view of false charges.

Again, how you made the leap from that to thinking I am claiming that there can't be plays against sexual harassment is bizarre. I choose to think you are just having a reading problem, not that you are deliberately reaching for unfounded conclusions.

So, sorry to say, if anybody has to correct distortions, it's me correcting your distortions. But unlike you, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that it might be a misunderstanding, rather than accusing you of deliberate "bad faith."

Now as far as your suggestion that I write a play about sexual harassment - I don't feel a burning desire right now, but Theresa Rebeck has already written one, and I'm sure others are out there. Why they aren't being promoted or perceived by critics as the last word in brave, provocative and cutting-edge is the real question.

I have written a one-act pro-choice play produced by the now-defunct estrotribe years ago, never to be heard of again. It wasn't polemical except that it looked at the hypocrisy of an anti-abortion activist who gets an abortion - which is based on a true story.

I also have a positive take on abortion in the full-length semi-autobiographical play I'm working on - although it isn't about abortion, just that one of the characters has an abortion, and there is a scene of clinic defense where the pro-choicers are the good guys. And I am not worried about anybody telling me the audience can't handle it - I try to produce my own work whenever possible, to avoid committee-think, tired old assumptions, and litigious directors.

I'm familiar with Caryl Churchill, and I'm not impressed much with her work and I disagree with her take on cloning in A NUMBER. I think she totally stacks the deck.

It so happens that Tony Kushner is the greatest living playwright right now.

Now I'm off to see a friend perform in MAN AND SUPERMAN. I generally like Shaw although it says about this play in wikipedia:
Ann is referred to as "the Life Force" and represents Shaw's view that in every culture, it is the women who force the men to marry them rather than the men who take the initiative.