Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Lauren Wissot, Sexual Violence, and The New Guignol

Patrick recently stumbled upon this. In addition to it being quite flattering towards us and our show, Ms. Wissot makes some very interesting and astute observations on sexual violence in film and theatre and the double-standard of depicting male violence toward women and vice versa (spoiler: refreshingly, she doesn't finger-wag or scold).

She writes:

"There just seems to be something in the American DNA that delivers a knee-jerk reactive cry of misogyny whenever women and sexual violence are combined in a cultural product that doesn't attempt to apologize for that depiction. (In music the controversy surrounding Eminem comes to mind.) The Grand Guignol and directors like von Trier and Cronenberg merely present this taboo subject for the audience to explore, acting as artistic messengers while ridding themselves of any simplistic moralizing."

I would tend to agree with her observations, particularly her assessment of one of our shorts for the evening, "Dominique."

In "Dominique," a young woman carves her name into her lover's flesh while he's passed out after a one-night stand. The piece was met with some gasps and quite a number of laughs (albeit some of them of the nervous variety). Ms. Wissot points out that if the roles were reversed - if we depicted our actor, Ryan Andes, carving up a half-naked and unconscious Marsha Martinez - we would most likely not get any sort of laughs, nervous or otherwise.

(I should also point out that Ryan is a pretty big guy while Marsha is rather petite. A little lady carving up a big guy? Kinda funny, if you have a similar sense of macabre humor to me and many of the folks over at Nosedive Central. A big guy carving up a little lady? Not so funny.)

Then again, my sister, who directed the piece, pointed out that if we staged it with the roles reversed, we may have been given a pass, since the piece was directed by a woman (the whole American Psycho syndrome: reviled as misogynist filth when written by a man [as a book] and championed as bold feminism when directed by a woman [as a film]).

And of course, this is all putting aside the fact that these pieces were all based on real news events, so our staging of "Dominique" with the woman inflicting the violence on the man wasn't based on us making any sort of political statement, but was rather based on, well, how the events unfolded in the newspaper article.

Anyway, there's some nice stuff said about us and some interesting thoughts on the subject of Guignol theatre in the piece. Read the whole thing here.

Rarely apologetic for what he stages,

James "Okay, Sometimes Apologetic" Comtois

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