"Theatre is Territory" is apparently recommending, "if you happen to be in New York," what seems to this former-midwesterner-now-southerner to be an insulting piece of so-called humor called Iowa 08, a 10-minute play festival created and performed by a bunch of New Yorkers about the people of Iowa and their role in the presidential election. These New Yorkers write "Of course, we don't purport to be experts on the topic," but that doesn't stop them from ridiculing Iowans through the propagation of idiotic and insulting stereotypes. If you think I'm being humorless, you don't know humorless until you've checked out their blog and seen their YouTube video, both of which are sophomoric.
This is the kind of bullshit I am talking about when I insist that the NYC aesthetic is not universal, and in fact is openly scornful and dismissive of experiences and lifestyles that take place west of the Hudson and in places with less than 7 million people. There is an arrogance just beneath the surface -- hell, lying right on top of the surface -- that needs to be called out by every non-New Yorker who is tired of seeing good people insulted, and every New Yorker who has even a small conscience left. This happens regularly, and not only to Iowans (who seem to regularly be whipping boys), but also people in the south who are constantly portrayed using insulting stereotypes. Enough is enough.
When are such affronts going to stop being tolerated? When are glib, smart ass kids who think they are "artists" going to be taught a little respect for our common humanity and citizenship? When is liberal respect for diversity going to include geographical and sociological diversity, not just race and sexual preference? When are we going to see the states that make up the rest of this country as having dignity and intelligence, and not simply as what keeps the east coast from bumping into the west coast? When are we going to stop endorsing the idea that the majority of this country is "flyover," as the ArtsJournal site insultingly calls its blog devoted to "art in the American outback"? AMERICAN OUTBACK??? ArtsJournal ought to be shot. And when is the word "satire" going to stop being an acceptable mask for offensiveness, crassness, and insulting behavior?
We've been putting up with this crap for far too long. Whether The Beverly Hillbillies (or its recently proposed "reality show" knock-off The Real Beverly Hillbillies, which proposed bringing people from Appalachia to California so America could make fun of them), or Green Acres or all the "hillbilly" and "farmer" caricatures propagated in the mass media -- enough is enough. We are sick of people like H. L. Mencken writing ignorant and scabrous comments like "Down there a poet is now almost as rare as an oboe player...It is indeed amazing to contemplate so vast a vacuity. One thinks of the interstellar spaces...And yet, for all its size and all its wealth and all the 'progress' it babbles of, it is almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, as the Sahara Desert." This is narrow-minded, ignorant bullshit, and should be called such.
Arlene Goldbard (see sidebar), in a recent blog post, writes: " I had speaking engagements in Barcelona and London, and in between, vast conversations about culture and politics. In memory, they have the aspect of those cartoons where the backdrops change—now palm trees, now snow-covered hills—while the characters carry on chasing each other: one long dialogue with frequent changes of scene. My next few posts will be about what I learned from my travels. One thing that stands out is the depth of commonality it was easy to experience with people whose cultures and circumstances are hugely different from my own, but whose commitments and preoccupations feel the same." It is about time we all recognize this fact, and start respecting all humanity, and not just humanity that lives in NYC and LA.