Sunday, February 19, 2006

Slippery Slope to ... Bestiality?

A really fun play about bestiality has just opened in Boston. What to make of it? Some in the elite culture will argue that the subject of the play -- bestiality -- is just a metaphor for homosexuality, and that the play is really about the nature of human love, and where homosexuality fits in. Blah, blah, blah.

But the problem is, we in Massachusetts are beyond thinking in terms of metaphors about homosexual relationships. We have state-sanctioned sodomitic "marriage". And we have a bill pending in our Massachusetts legislature which would eliminate altogether the crime of bestiality. (See House Bill H819, which among other things would overturn Ch. 272, sec. 34 of Massachusetts law which criminalizes sodomy and bestiality.)

So when we look at this play, we need to think concretely about the impact of its focus on bestiality. Isn't there really something more than "metaphor" going on here, whether the playwright consciously intended it or not?

The deconstruction of Western-Judeo-Christian values has followed this pattern: A dangerous or taboo idea takes hold in the academic and/or arts community, then filters down to the popular culture, and then gains accession by our elected representatives. If it's playing on Broadway, it must be the next with-it thing. Hop on board!

Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia" opened on Broadway in 2002, even receiving the Tony Award for Best Play. Now it's at the Lyric Stage in Boston. It's about a family man, a renowned architect, who has a love affair with a goat named Sylvia.

The subtitle of the play is "Notes toward a definition of tragedy." The actress playing the betrayed wife said she was drawn to the role by the epic scale of the story, saying, "It feels universal and cataclysmic," like a Greek play about the downfall of a family.

The Boston Globe reviewer says, "It also feels, to everyone's surprise, extremely funny," and the first scene is highly comic in the style of Noel Coward.

The humor of "The Goat" is apparently a ruse to get people to "go there" and approach the concept of bestiality. After the humorous opening of "The Goat", you get to "the deep dysfunction." But, according to the Globe, audiences are left confused. That's because this is no Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. It's a "postmodern" jumble, intentionally confusing the audience, attempting to detach them from all their commonsense or moral moorings.

Greek tragedy did not juxtapose tragedy and levity. "Oedipus Rex" has no laughing moments, and its tragedy sprang from fate, not a man's choice to do it with a goat. Or take Shakespeare's "King Lear", where the fool's wisecracks are never purely humorous, but are connected to the very dark undercurrent of that story. Human pride and lust for power are at the bottom of Lear, not something as base as sexual lust for an animal.

"Albee asks the audience to buy into something almost inconceivable, [the actress] says: that Martin is not just having sex with a goat, but is genuinely in love with her."

"[I]t's perhaps especially magical when the play is so insistent on testing boundaries, pushing toward the edge of what audiences will accept, asking where passion becomes perversion" [says the reviewer].

Well, Massachusetts residents are beginning to learn that there are no more boundaries. There is no such a thing as perversion. There are only different "sexual orientations." And the "tragic" figure in "The Goat" just happens to have a sexual orientation towards beasts. Who are we to judge?