Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"The Foreigner" is really about Democrats & Union thugs

My wife scored free tickets to a play downtown, "The Foreigner," and I came within epsilon of walking out. The play is a remarkably bigoted achievement. It teaches that:
1) people with English accents may be neurotics, but they're invariably the smartest people in the room.
2) people with Southern accents may be good or evil, but they are invariably stupid.
3) preachers are venal manipulators altogether willing to destroy anyone who stands between themselves and a donation
4) Christianity is just another word for racist hate-monger

I was about to leave when it struck me that the post-modern method of deconstruction fits quite nicely here. For one thing, the main antagonist sounded exactly like Jimmy Carter. Every time the preacher came out, I thought of killer rabbits and smiled. And then there was his flunky, a big, stupid, superstitious Klansman who threatened violence to get his way. Heh. Just like a union organizer.

So then, if every time they said, "Christian" I mentally substituted "Democrat" and every time they said, "Klan" I mentally substituted "Union." And everything made perfect sense. I relaxed and enjoyed the play.

Now, you may not agree with my politics in which case, please feel free to find your own substitutions.

Good art tells the truth. If you're going to make the preacher the antagonist, his villainy must ring true to the essential nature of preachers. However, if all you're writing is propaganda, your free to set up a cardboard villain and then paste the label of your favorite out-group onto him. Don't like Nazis, Commies or hippies? The antagonist works equally well. Just paste a different label on the cardboard cut-out.

This is the challenge to the artist. Don't write propaganda. Or if you must, simply recycle the other guys' propaganda and switch around the labels as I've demonstrated. If you're selling to a particular market you can pander to their bigotry. But it is better to capture human nature as it is, people are not cardboard antagonists or protagonists. Everyone is a mix of the noble and the venal. That should be depicted so ambiguously that Democrats see the protagonist as one of their own and the antagonist as one of the out-group. And simultaneously Republicans will do the same.

You may be happy that Democrats are in complete control of the government. But when 51% of the people vote Democrat that means there's 49% who didn't. Why do you want to alienate 49% of your market?

If you tell the truth of the essential nature of each of the characters in your play, you needn't paint yellow stars or scarlet letters on people's breasts. The audience will do so according to their own bigotry. But the truth of those characters' goodness or evil will shine through and you'll have done your job as artist.

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