Thursday, June 1, 2017

under scene one

As Carl mentions in scene one, I am currently reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. "I have been thinking about Tomas for many years," Milan Kundera says of one of his main characters near the beginning of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I wanted to begin the play with Carl thinking about Wonder Woman in that way.
Not so much that he spent years thinking of her, though depending on how you interpret her name, you could argue he has done so, but rather as if he could simply sit down with you and speak an entire novel about the character. Note that he hasn't "written in a while," and now his thoughts simply come from his mouth with ease because they've gathered in the time since he's written. This is actually the opposite of me: When Carl says "I haven't written in a while," you can guess he'll be able to talk for days, and I do foresee Carl dominating every scene he is in with long chunks of text. Yet he does continue: "I haven't written in a while, so I'm not sure if I can come up with an interesting way to address this at all..." For Carl, he's rambling, for me, I'm apologizing, just like the URL of the site. "Waiting for Gadot" is a return to writing--I chose a play because I thought the change of pace would energize me and it forces you to do what writers say is a good practice: you listen to your characters and let them talk. So Carl opens with that line just sort of thrown out there--he probably isn't really conscious of people around listening anyway--but they matter much more for me, I'd say.

To get back to Lepore and The Secret History: when I began this scene, I simply had the image of Wonder Woman playing a sport, but it turns out that this has a history as well. Lepore notes how Marston would frequently have sports related plots in the comic. From the images she includes, it looks like Wonder Woman plays with other women, so that's one way to answer one of Carl's questions. Pompo, a later character, initially saw Wonder Woman as a pop star rather than a sports star. I'm not sure if that'll make the final cut, but after having that idea for the contrast, I found a recent (especially when compared to Marston's stories!) issue of Sensation Comics where Wonder Woman is just that; she's the front woman for a band playing in Athens. This is a recent trend in comics with female lead characters, perhaps following the recent (re)launches of Josie and the Pussycats and Jem and the Holograms which have always had a music focus, Spider-Gwen and Black Canary, among others I'm sure, have used this staging, which, alongside this issue of Sensation that I read some time ago, inspired in me a vision of Wonder Woman as a lead singer, perhaps like Karen O in her and Trent Reznor's cover of "Immigrant Song." Or not--that's being awfully specific!

Carl as simply speaking into a room creates an almost podcast like environment. I wanted to do something fun with language so I named one of the characters listening to him, "You." Obviously, this has implications as far as the audience is concerned, but it also creates an interesting disconnect in reading. I read a short story in college from one of my roommate's creative writing classmates (my sister's boyfriend's best friend's old piano teacher...) where a character was named "They." You could say I stole the idea, I guess, but certainly "You" and "They" read differently and we infer different things from those words. For the life of me, I can't remember if that story was written as drama or prose...

The Anthropologist makes reference to Waiting for Godot. We'll see if Gadot shows up in my play. I think Godot is seen as timeless, so I like the idea of my play as being the opposite--not timely, but actually out-dated. Carl states that Wonder Woman is coming out in a week, while I posted the first scene just a day or so before the movie comes out. The movie is out now as I type this, although I'll see it tomorrow as Fridays seem much more of an opening night to me than Thursdays (read, "I was tired today.")

The line about Moonlight! My friend asked me about this and I wonder if anyone even interprets the movie the way I do. Carl is wondering if he should use the word "hero" or "heroine" for Wonder Woman. There's a current issue regarding if actors and actresses should compete for simply an actor award at your award show of choice. I think I saw Emma Watson speaking about this after winning an award for best actor... I think? This seems to be interpreting the distinction of actor/actress as creating a hierarchy where actor is above actress--I don't really agree with that; Marston would say there is a hierarchy and women are always on top! Anyway, Carl pauses on the word just as Mahershala Ali does on another word in Moonlight, considering that it could possibly be reclaimed and used in a positive sense. At least that's the way I interpret it. So Carl is asking a question I guess I have, myself, is "heroine" a dirty word?

So nothing was happening in the play and I had the thought, why not steal conflict from the stories from which you've borrowed your characters? Suddenly Carl had to find a way to speak with Selena, but I was thinking about movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where if you think about the circumstances too much, the characters get confusing. Jim Carrey talks to the Kate Winslet in his memories, which you could see as simply being a part of himself, really (but I think that reading is a bit disheartening, because then he's just falling in love with himself), just as Selena here is simply brought to life by Carl and his thoughts. I'm not sure how well I put it, but I have the Anthropologist comment on this in an interesting way. I've always disliked references to men getting in touch with their feminine side--I haven't really noticed the opposite... I've read women who consider themselves more stereo-typically masculine, but not women getting in touch with their inner masculine side...--because I think this actually gives too much power to gender. I don't think a woman who dresses a certain way should be considered masculine, or a man who cries occasionally should be viewed as feminine, unless they identify with such characterization.

When we talk about an inner feminine side, I think most people would be attempting to be positive about what is traditionally seen as feminine, but this has the negative impact of concretizing gender distinctions in a way with which I am not comfortable. Okay, off the soapbox! What the Anthropologist is noting is that Carl is actually imagining Selena in his head--she, like you could interpret Winslet in Eternal Sunshine to be, is simply a part of him, and she is a woman imagined in a man's head. We'll return to this later in the play in connection with comic books (or at least I plan to do so!). She wouldn't then be his feminine side, but still Carl imagining what it would be like to be a woman--the important part here being that Carl is attempting empathy with another person rather than simply looking inside himself and finding this feminine side. Am I making sense? This next part will probably make less: Another point here is that I often find myself having thoughts in a similar way to what Carl is going through. Usually as I drift off to sleep I experience what I might see as auditory dreams. I will hear voices and if I become more aware, more awake, I can commonly say whose voice I was hearing (whose voice my mind was creating), and could even record what they are saying. This is an alienating effect, as I think to myself, I didn't think that! in connection with what I've heard, but I guess on some level I did. Notably, this is an inner other rather than an inner feminine or masculine side. When it comes to stereotypes, I think I probably fit more feminine than masculine ones anyway!

Final thought: I'm reading Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, and it brought up a question that we might as well ask about Wonder Woman as well. Scarlet is basically a radical liberal feminist terrorist in the comic and I love her for it. The way that Machiavelli longed for a great man to unite Italy, even if this meant doing any number of frightening things, I root for Scarlet as she leads a gang of people aiming guns at people's heads... For the purpose of creating change in the world. What is, then, Wonder Woman's place? Certainly there are wrongs that she would be able to right, but should she remake the world in her image? Actually somewhat of a tired trope in superhero fiction. The gimmick in Scarlet is that it is set in the present and is distinctly realistic fiction. Ho-hum, I've talked your ear off for long enough.

NOTE: Decided to rewrite interlude. Will post tomorrow. Plan to write scene two then, followed by interlude two and then a sort of play within a play. We shall see.

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