Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Death of the Classics

The Sunday edition of the St Paul Pioneer Press had a very interesting article on theater and opera companies struggling to find classic musicals and plays that they can present in these "modern times".  It's not like South Pacific, The Taming of the Shrew or the works of Wagner are technically difficult to produce or incredibly expensive to stage.  The problem is that nearly every classic piece of performance art contains some element that will "offend" someone in our ultra-sensitive society.

Plays and operas that for centuries were hailed at the high points of human culture, creativity and emotion now contain characters or themes that are "socially unacceptable"--according to the very narrow lens by which we now judge all things.  Greedy Jews, uneducated "native peoples", effeminate gay men, white colonialism and even characters in drag are considered too "toxic" to be presented in modern performances.

And it's not just the theater that suffers.  Hundreds of classic novels are being purged from reading lists for students of all ages.  Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are out due to the use of language pertaining to African-Americans at the time of their writing--and reference to slavery.  Heart of Darkness is unacceptable for portrayals of African cultures and white domination of said cultures.  Even the works of Shakespeare can not be presented to modern youth because Romeo and Juliet features multiple teen suicides that could "trigger" those who are being bullied or have lost someone to suicide already (although the implication of underage kids having sex is "okay").

Beloit College always makes a big deal about the list they publish for their staff every fall that lists all of the things that incoming freshman would have never experienced in their lifetimes--like not having IPhones, or having to set a VCR or using a rotary phone.  Perhaps the college should start working on lists for the rest of us detailing the classic literature, film, stage production and even songs that today's college graduates have been "shielded from" in order to protect their fragile self-esteem. 

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