Someone wrote in to suggest that in my last posting, on the Five Lesbian Brothers’ Oedipus at Palm Springs, I neglected to consider the status of the femme, Terri, at the play’s end. While Prin, the quintessential butch, stands alone as the tragic figure, “some femme” (the responder) suggests that Terri is left even more alone, since she’s been abandoned twice (by the same woman). “some femme” writes that my failure to consider Terri fully is typical of lesbian and feminist criticism that tends to privilege the butch.
“some femme” has a very good point. I wonder, in fact, how different the play might have been had Terri been the focus of the plot, instead of the vehicle by which Prin comes to her tragic realization. Why is it that the femme is so rarely the “tragic hero,” a place typically reserved in lesbian (and some straight) theatre for the butch?
My initial posting on Oedipus at Palm Springs also raised questions from some readers about how blog writing enters public conversations differently than more conventional publication or information-sharing. I’ve found, in my very maiden adventures in blogging, that its immediacy lends it an aura of risk. That is, rather than running my ideas through an intermediary like an editor, I offer them here with much less outside manipulation and consideration. The freedom of such a venue in which to write appeals to me; at the same time, I worry that I’ve been intemperate, already, in my writing here.
Some readers, for instance, have remarked that I didn’t “like” Oedipus at Palm Springs very much (and many of them say they liked it a great deal). On the contrary, I enjoyed the performance I saw quite a lot. I meant my critical engagements to offer ways of thinking about the production that might put it in a different light, not to suggest that it wasn’t “good.” I’m struck by how limited is our critical vocabulary for talking about performance, if we remain caught in that good/bad binary. I can enjoy a performance, feel supportive of its creators, and still want to talk about the range of things it made me think and feel, some of which might be polemical.
Yet I’m struck by how much I, too, worry that what I write will be read as condemnation or disparagement of an artistic project I admire very much. How can I (how can we) work to shift the limitations of such critical discourse?
Writing about any performance is a form of respect and even love, especially when you’re someone who’s not employed to pass judgment or to offer consumer advisor. I wouldn’t (I won’t) take the time to write about a performance (or a film, television show, novel, or any other form of cultural expression) unless it moves me in some way, enough to take the time and the care to craft a response.
For me, it’s about the dialogue. Please do post responses. Those of us committed to the arts and social change have too few places in which to talk about our ideas, opinions, and impressions. Please use this blog as such a forum.
The Feminist Spectator