I've been working, for a year or so now, on a play adaptation of Bluebeard. It works in fits and starts, and I'm buckling down lately to try to complete a second draft. The first was, shall we say, unsuccessful.
For those unfamiliar with the basics of the story:
A young woman is married to Bluebeard. He is mysterious, ugly, wealthy. Upon her arrival, she is told that he will be going away on business. He gives her the run of the house, and tells her that she may go anywhere except beyond a single room in his house. This room is locked behind a red door. Then, he gives her the key to the room, and leaves. Her curiosity gets the better of her, and she opens it, to find the murdered bodies of his seven previous wives.
There are varied versions of how she escapes.
The images in the story are dreamlike and potent. It's cautionary. Or a story to scare children. Or a lesson about marriage. Or a way to discuss sexuality and violence. Or all of the above.
Privacy is clearly an important question here. Certainly, she discovers that he is a monster. As, its implied, they all did. But what was the transgression of the first wife? Should we think of curiosity as a transgression? Is he testing? Or simply psychopathic? But, if you step back from the literal translation of the events, you find simply that he asked her not to look in one place, and it is there that she discovers the very worst of him. Isn't that her right? Or is it a way to say: "Leave certain things alone?"
Privacy, in the age of social networking, blogging, and search engines that maintain profiles of your e-mail content and search habits, has come under serious attack. Even using blogspot (a Google product) as I am now, I also use gmail. Which means that, essentially, Google has easy access to all sort of information about me. That which I share publicly, and that which I don't. Then there's myspace, Facebook. We increasingly surrender our privacy, and live in a world where we expect to be monitored. And we are. And we monitor each other.
It bleeds into our own behavior, and into the behavior of our public servants. Think about Barack Obama and John McCain. As they are increasingly in the public eye, they are doing so in an era where public access to them is unprecedented. The result is they become less and less human, more stage managed. Where is the place for a politician to publicly muse? To ask a rhetorical question? To speak extemporaneously? It would be foolhardy for them to do so, of course. They would be crucified by our increasing propensity for and acceptance of 24 hour a day coverage.
It seems worthy to ask: how precious is your privacy? Are we too quick to surrender it? And if we cannot remove the technology that permits the 24 hour a day monitoring of citizens of all types...do we not have an obligation to act with our own privacy in mind? And with a careful eye on the privacy of others? Just because an employer can find out all about you with a single keystroke, does not make it ethical behavior. Do we need new laws to control this type of thing? Or is it, simply, too late in the game?
So...how is your relationship with privacy these days? I'd love to hear some thoughts on that issue, as its become a bit of a theme in the new play.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.