Friday, August 17, 2007

yawning my way through radical feminist drama

The Apple in the Eye
by Margaret Hollingsworth

Now you see my dear Gemma, I want you to understand that the gulf which divides us is simply due to a differing approach to the same problem. It may be solved quite simply by a slight adaptation on your part; it is a question of applying first order logic and a degree of systematization to your primary through processes, which will then reflect on...

OH MAN, I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW DIFFERENT MEN AND WOMEN ARE AND HOW MUCH MEN DON'T UNDERSTAND WOMEN. THANK GOD FOR THIS VERY EDGY PLAY. Okay, so I'm a little vehement. This, to me, though, is just a bad example of feminist literature -- where the relationship between man and women is so obviously flawed (at the fault of the male, of course) that any subtlety in the plot itself becomes impossible. In this play, we have Gemma, the stay-at-home something or other who seems to be a house wife disinterested in both house-keeping and being a wife, and Martin, a wooden and unloving professor of artificial intelligence (get it? he's smart, but he doesn't understand her, so his intelligence is artificial -- HOW REFRESHINGLY SUBTLE THAT IS). We are some how supposed to put aside the fact that she doesn't do anything all day except make the occasional pot of tea (which she moans about) to join the author in hating on Martin's desire to stay in bed on Sundays, his inability to connect with his wife, and his disinterest in her. Nevermind that she has been written as a boring, small, uninteresting character. We should side with her because she is a woman and her big bad husband occasional suggests that she might consider either cleaning the house or getting a job. What a monster.

Most infuriating is that even if Martin is a dick, he's always been a dick. Gemma repeats that marriage hasn't changed him. So she knew what she was signing up for, in other words. This isn't like 10 years down the road and the worm has turned. If she hates who he is, she always hated who he is. This begs the question: why did she marry him? If this were to open up into a greater question of people entering into marriages without understanding them or the limited options available to women at the time of the play's writing (1983), then fine. But the play instead shies away from universality or broader comment by focusing on the minutae and creating a Martin we are meant to hate (and his absense from the stage for the entire play merely strengthens the idea that we are meant to take Gemma at her word).

Part of why this play fails, in my opinion, is the heavy-handed use of symbolism. Gemma is questing after an apple for the duration of the play. Really, a play about gender relations that invokes imagery of an apple?! However did the playwright conceive of something so cutting edge and ground-breaking?!


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