Yesterday I wrote a basically silly post about George Hunka's comment about 99seats "Joy" blog. The theatrosphere got a little angry about the whole thing. Frankly, I think the two of them (George Hunka and 99seats) are talking about entirely different things.
99seats was basically saying "Hey, let's remember that this is awesome and we do it because we love it."
George is talking about something else: that joy can be used to deadening effect, to avoid hard truths and devolve critical faculties. (I know I'm being reductive here.)
Now... I think if you remove George's point from 99seats blog posting entirely (they really have NO relationship to one another) then there's some truth in that. Broadway productions like Mamma Mia, for example, offer little to no artistic merit, say nothing of value, cost a pretty penny. The trick of productions like these is to almost force people to surrender to the idea that the whole thing is fun, and as long as it's fun, it has merit. They feel a sort of joy as they clap their hands and stand up and sway, but in doing so, lose the battle for critical thought.
George and I don't agree on much, but I do think that there are ways in which popular entertainment and popular theater use the idea of joy, a simulacrum of joy, to condition audiences. You are enjoying this, so it's good and you should have more of it. (When you do heroin, after all, you're having a very good time. So I'm told.) Even if Ryan Seacrest, American Idol and Mamma Mia! are soul deadening exercises in mediocracy, they use this sort of chipper, cackling "joy" to bludgeon us into a stupor. Then, when we're faced with something that requires more of us, or doesn't offer these simple pleasures, we don't know how to respond. Our ability to dig deeper can be eroded.
That doesn't mean that real joy doesn't exist and that it can't be found all over the place. And that, as 99seats notes, we shouldn't look for those moments of joy in our own lives that come organically from truly wonderful things.
Maybe I'm being too generous or misinterpreting... but that's how I see it.
- 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.