The Bard Knew
What drama teaches us
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
I was raving about HBO's magnificent docudrama, Game Change, on Facebook. This is the film adapted from the just as magnificent tell-all book by Mark Halperin about behind the scenes during the 2008 presidential campaign. The film focuses more on the McCain/Palin side of things (the book also examines Obama's compaign). Anyhoo...it's brill and I was saying as much on FB and one of my friends came back saying that he didn't want to watch it because he didn't ever want to like Palin.
I found the comment fascinating and the fact is that you will probably not like Palin if you watch the movie, but you will understand her a lot more and pity her a little too because she is as you suspect: profoundly ambitious with not a brain in her head. Moreover, Julianne Moore turns in one of those performances which will be remembered for decades because she illuminates Palin's humanity: the woman's frightening determination, her profound faith and - yes - her grizzly mom-ness.
This was an asteroid coming at the earth and they were mere mortals trying to shift the planet's orbit away from the hit.
Another HBO docu-drama also takes us behind the scenes, this time of the Wall Street crisis of 2008 which has ruined us all. Again, HBO shows us that - beyond the monstrous greed and heinous acts of the mega-rich - there were real people who were simply scared to death. This was an asteroid coming at the earth and they were mere mortals trying to shift the planet's orbit away from the hit. You feel their panic, see - in their conferences - that there is a barely controled rage that threatens to blind them and, subsequently, make them useless to avert any disaster.
Meanwhile, we have something of a student uprising here in Quebec. The government wants to hike tuition fees, the students want none of it and, indeed, a large part of the student population wants free tuition. On the other side you have a government which has to pay the bills. Impasse. It has all taken to the streets. For every iPhone-film of a student getting speared by a cop's night-stick, there is an equally ugly image of a cop getting a rock in the head. As I have written on Facebook, "What breaks my heart about the student protests is that both sides seem to be suspicious of the other side's human-ness. A young cop who sees his partner smacked in the head by a rock is going to react as any of us would. A kid who is suffocated by tear gas is - as I would - going to become enraged. Everyone is exhausted and emotionally strained. To my mind we have to forget the broken windows and spray paint (these are just silly distractions and don't much matter in the long run) and look at what both sides are risking in this battle - and they're huge risks! - a school year is no small thing and social peace is no small thing. Let's embrace the human-ness of both sides and simmer down and breathe and realize we want what is best for the future. And just talk."
Artists spend a good deal of their time - in their plays, paintings, songs and symphonies - looking for the human chord in the big questions.
Shakespeare taught us: there is no drama if we do not recognize humans within the drama. The two docu-dramas on HBO remind us of that as well. I think we understand - sometimes half-consciously - that these huge epics (elections, financial crises, warring on the streets) have to be recognized for their human elements before we can parse them.
Artists spend a good deal of their time - in their plays, paintings, songs and symphonies - looking for the human chord in the big questions. However, on Facebook and Twitter, I note an interesting lack of empathy for "the other side". I know this will sound pious, but it is important to understand that even when we think the other side is mind-blowingly wrong, we have nothing to gain by forgetting they are humans who also think they are doing the right thing. It is an artist's responsibility to walk in their shoes.
I don't like Sarah Palin but Christ knows I want to understand her (and Harper and Gingrich) because I think I have to - if only to learn how to deal with her. Shakespeare taught me that, as did the nun who taught me Shakespeare. King Lear, for example: the king is flawed, the daughters impatient, the land in chaos because of them. The humanity of all the characters is what makes the play great.
The rest, she might add today, is broken windows and spray-paint.