Monday, November 21, 2016

Artists on the Frontlines

People are comparing our situation through less than subtle artistic interpretations this week, from revamped comics to musicals. And music acts are singing their sympathies for those horrified by the new regime.

Who hasn't recently re-shared  famous "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" from Cabaret? Some are recommending dystopian classics like The Handmaid's Tale, no longer a cautionary tale, but an accurate prediction.

Perhaps you watched, or refused to watch them, because it's happening in real life, which perhaps relegates musical theatre metaphors of fascism to the redundant file.

Or, more more immediately, you hopefully watched the zillion-shared video of Victor Dixon, on behalf of the cast of Hamilton addressing the retreating VP-elect Pence, who had been booed during his attendance of the hit musical about, ironically, a lefty radical vice-president. 

In a sincere announcement, Dixon read:

"Vice President-elect Pence, welcome. Thank you for joining us at Hamilton - An American Musical
We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us," Dixon said.

Dixon spoke about his experience to Playbill, saying, “Conversation is not harassment, and I was really appreciative that Vice President-Elect Pence stood there and listened to what we had to say.”."

On CBS This Morning, Dixon said, "The most important thing with respect to all of the emotions that everybody is feeling after this election is to make sure that people recognize that we are not alone, we are here together, and we need to listen to one another and speak to one another, and those of us who feel like maybe their voice has been marginalized or might become marginalized, it’s important that they recognize that there are allies all over the place.”

Subsequent threats of boycotts by Trumpettes were derided ("As if those people go to the theatre!" "Maybe now we can get tickets."), as was Drumpf's absurd tweet about theatre being a 'safe space.' Um, no, replied theatre artists worldwide.

The Hamilton cast has received death threats from Trump loons, and have had to hire extra secuirty guards.

Safe space?

Musical theatre, art and politics collided in what many now decry as a staged distraction from the fraud case of Trump University. Spontaneous rebuttal to an impending evil regime, or a lucky distraction? Excellently played by a con man, some say.

 For Slate, Mark Harris calls it more than a distraction.  The essay discusses the role of artists in a new age of anxiety:

As for showbiz itself, what was exposed on Friday night at Hamilton was the dawning of the age of anxiety. Hollywood doesn’t know what to do right now; neither does Broadway. What should oppositional entertainment be in the age of Trump—especially in a country where half the population seems to instantly discredit anything that comes from New York or Los Angeles? Is the job to buck up the left, to reach out to the right, to depict an America that’s routinely ignored by Trump, to depict an America that’s routinely ignored by the makers of entertainment, or all of the above?

Is Harris asking that artists who support Trump make art that is appreciative of that fact? Or should those who strongly disagree abstain, or acquiesce?

While making some other kicks to 'liberal' Hollywood, Harris finally compliments the cast for their speech, but soft-pedals an impending era of neo-fascist, alt right nastiness ahead:

You can do two things if you’re on a stage: Show or tell. There are those who feel Hamilton should have stuck with the first; instead, the cast and production team chose, for one night, to do both. While this is going to be a very long and ugly fight, I'd award them a narrow victory-by-decision in Culture Wars, Round One. They saw an extraordinary circumstance looming before them, they stood up, they represented themselves and others with firmness and dignity, and they sparked plenty of meaningful, non-distracting dialogue by doing so. Chances to speak truth directly to power, even when power turns its back and starts walking up the aisle, may be rarer than we would wish in the next four years. When the opportunity comes along, there’s much to be said for not throwing away your shot.

Would that decent discourse will still on the table.

Other artists are being attacked posthumously and unprovoked.  Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out for a rally against hate in Brooklyn's Adam Yauch Park last Sunday, after playground equipment in the park – renamed for the late Beastie Boy in 2013 – was defaced with anti-Semitic, pro-Trump graffiti. Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock spoke out after the defacement, according to Rolling Stone.

Rally attendees, who spilled out onto the surrounding sidewalks and streets, carried signs with Beastie Boys-inspired slogans like "We Gotta Fight for Our Rights" and "No Sleep 'Til No Hate in Brooklyn" as well as those expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement and against Trump. Many expressed fear and anguish over living under the impending Trump presidency.

At the rally, Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, who represents a mosque in Harlem and spoke at the Yauch Park rally, told Rolling Stone that his concern about Trump's presidency is growing as his cabinet takes shape. "The same bigoted people who would paint swastikas in a children's playground are the same bigoted people who would engage in attacks on black churches [and] the same bigoted people who engage in attacks on Muslims and other people," he says. "If one looks at the people whom the president-elect has already begun picking for his cabinet ... those people, every single one of them, has a history of bigotry and intolerance.

Superhero vs. Villain
Our lives have become a comic book clown car of returning nemeses to justice, economic prosperity, peace and equal rights. The vault of bigot-led churches and white hooders has been drained from the swamp and slime-pitched into The White House.

In times like these, it's impossible to make science fiction, or anything set after today, that is either pre- or post-Trump. So, too stultified to make art, we enjoy the art of others.

Who hasn't enjoyed a good comic book? Even Captain America (the actor who plays him, this time) is refusing these "bullies."

Chris Evans, the star of multiple Marvel hits, spoke out repeatedly against Trump, most notably on election night, calling it a travesty. And more clearly:

"We're watching unabashed bigotry creep into the White House right before our eyes. This isn't about left vs right. It's about right vs wrong." – Chris Evans

A new meme du jour (see the first photo) takes Captain America to emphatic heights with what seems to be a historic drawing, but is a new work by artist Patrick Farley

Orlando comic anthology
Some other friend tagged the artwork, and added that it includes original artwork Sal Buscema, modified by Jon Wolter. 

A bunch of other folks are debating its origins, copyright vs original art debate, publicly, so I'll link that.
But who cares? It's to the point, and bold, and possibly illegal under an actual regime such as the herd slithering its way D.C.-ward for cabinet posts.

"Looks like that Captain America poster is getting widely shared," posted Farley. "Counting down the hours until I receive my first death threat from somebody who resents being called a Nazi."

Speaking out through art is now a more bold act. It invites an argument from the other side.

Farley is also part of an amazing comic anthology honoring the victims of the Orlando massacre (see Rainbow Superman). 
These are things we do for each other, help out in a crisis. We don't create them.

Rolfe: alt-reich teen
Along with comic nerds, there are things you assume when you meet a gay person, like knowing of and at least liking (if not having memorized) classics like Cabaret, where tomorrow belongs to them, or The Sound of Music, complete with the charming bike messenger Rolfe, who unfortunately becomes a Nazi Youth. 

You've read some Isherwood, at least. Please? 
If not, you at least presume a shared revulsion of fascism in reality. 

You might even side with fans stupid enough to pay to see Kanye West. Because even his fans have had it. In music(al theatre, of a sort) news, West endorsed Trump, had he bothered to vote, then had a nervous breakdown onstage, thousands walked out, and he cancelled his tour.

Green Day
On the other side nearly 30 musical artists have spoken out against Trump, according to Billboard. Small, considering how many thousands more have said nothing.Sadly, even Cher didn't save us.

But hey! Green Day chanted "No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!" on the American Music Awards, so we got that.

Perhaps West should do his...freakout sessions called concerts for the Trumpettes, who are actually mostly white –no surprise there– sig heiling away in public gatherings, and againEven cheap-ass has-been celebrities are Nazi-fying their love for our president-elect.

Fanning a Flame
So when an alleged fan of one of my author pages kind of slyly announces his political position in a post, I gave pause. Would he have joined in on any of these 'Hail Trump' meetings, which are an old tired form of theatre we've seen before?

This was in reply to my posting a link to an article about 18 Famous Authors on Trump, including J.K. Rowling, who has been quite open about her logical animosity toward Trump.

Her fans agree, according to the Inquisitor. A study showed that most all Harry Potter fans don't like him either.

Donald Trump is more unpopular amongst the fans that prefer J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books over the movie series. The researchers were motivated to conduct the research after Harry Potter fans started comparing Donald Trump with Lord Voldemort when the Republican candidate called for a ban on Muslims.

J.K. Rowling has always preached tolerance, non-violence, and liberalism through her stories based on the Harry Potter universe. In J.K. Rowling’s stories, Harry Potter has always stood up for oppressed elves and “mud-bloods,” magical people born to one or more non-magical parents, by fighting Lord Voldemort who desires to establish pure-blood supremacy.

So, imagine meeting a fellow Harry Potter fan, say, on a train, and he sits down beside you, but you find out rather quickly, rather lodged unnaturally into the conversation by him, that he's also a racist. Or 'not gay.' Or just creepy.

I must admit, the guy on my page was polite. He didn't need to swear or gripe or type anything disrespectful to me. He presumed a debate, a volley back. Having voted for Trump, he sort of strutted it out without having to state it.

The 'fan' wrote an obtuse reference to our impending situation, noted by the author list, as if it will be better than one which, he alleged, Clinton would have won and by the way, Obama and Clinton had aided ISIS. 

I replied that, no, Bush and Cheney had a bit more of a hand in that.  

I assumed this guy was at least conservative - was I missing a hint of sarcasm? Should I even bother to reply again?

I could have informed him that actually U.S. white nationalists are forming in droves faster than ISIS anywhere, and you can't attribute that to anyone not incumbent. But I only found that out later, so it's an esprit d'escalier.

But one scroll through his public profile revealed a string of machete-Photoshopped hate memes of Hillary Clinton, and I pulled back and stopped any debate. 
Bye. I'm sorry. Time's up. 

Had this supposed fan not read my last post, abduring all Trumpettes

Did I stutter?

Even Trump is said to have seen Evita six times "a possible record for a heterosexual" (sniped Harris in Slate). You'd think even Trump would know how the show turns out for despotic dictators.

See, ex-reader Trumpies, you're "Springtime for Hitler."  And, to mix my musical theatre metaphors one more time, you're Rolfe, but this time, we're not hiding in a cemetery.

We Democrats, we Muslims, we Jews, we gypsies, we atheists, we 'elites,' we disabled, we homosexuals, we immigrants, we the majority-voting Popular vote; we know musical theatre, and we know the finale. It's our song. 

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