Saturday, February 15, 2014

Once again a critic gets OLEANNA wrong

I knew, inevitably that the Dylan Farrow ~ Woody Allen back and forth would be compared to OLEANNA. And sure enough, the New Yorker hired "culture critic" Lee Siegel to do so.

Siegel's message is that we really can't know anything so anybody who ventures an opinion on the Farrow-Allen case is a fool. The unknowable reality argument is as good a sign as any that a segment of the New Yorker decisions-makers have had their certainty in Allen's innocence shaken. "Is he guilty? Well how can anybody really say who is guilty anyway?"

Siegel's comparing this real-world situation to OLEANNA indicates to me that he is still stacking the deck in favor of Allen. He writes:
In the early nineteen-nineties, David Mamet’s play “Oleanna,” in which a female student accuses a college professor of sexual harassment, had audiences erupting into screaming matches during the intermission. As with Farrow and Allen, there was no clear answer to the question of what actually happened between professor and student. Almost a quarter of a century later, the impossible complexity is on the other side of the stage. Instantaneous news of what happened, or might have happened, has become our art, and, like the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy, we are all part of the swelling roar.
It's staggering that OLEANNA is still being described as a play with "no clear answers." I wrote about it years ago at length, but to sum up: In OLEANNA the student, backed by a shadowy Group, threatens to bring charges of rape against the professor in an effort to censor his work. There is no uncertainty there at all - we know the professor didn't rape the student. The professor may not have been perfect but the student and the Group are meant to be evil.

It's Mamet's right-wing deck-stacking against a straw-man feminist group that caused the screaming matches, not uncertainty.

It's OLEANNA and THE CRUCIBLE and even DOUBT that has trained upper-class older men (Allen's fan base) to assume that of course we can't know if the man really did it, and in the case of the first two, that bitches are hysterical, scheming liars. In spite of the fact that sexual harassment and child molestation happen all the time, the most celebrated plays on the subjects present scenarios in which nobody is proven guilty.

Is it really a coincidence that the people most likely to commit sexual crimes also dominate a theater that presents plays in which we can't say for sure that the man really did it?

If Gawker is to be believed, Lee Siegel himself is a fool.