Friday, October 19, 2007

Class Struggle, The Post and Oxymorons

From Michael Reidel’s COST OF CLASS STRUGGLE column in the Post.

If class struggle is being mentioned in The Post, odds are the result will be at best, inane.

Rich people can be awfully sentimental about the working classes.

Actually, Mike, rich people think the working classes suck. They don’t want their smelly factories in their hometowns so they ship those nasty, damn things and their crummy unions off to overseas. There our little brown and yellow skinned friends can work in the smelly factories and become consumers themselves. The rich have convinced themselves that they have their own economy, the financial economy, separate from everyone else’s and that theirs is the ultimate expression of American might. Wait, Americanism is déclassé. Real people, our people, the wealthy, are citizens of the world, multinationals, whose expression is the ultimate example of the might of wealth. Our wealth.

Broadway has turned its back on the working and middle classes.

Again, Mike, not so much. Broadway has never really embraced the working and middle class. As a stagehand I've studied this a bit. Vaudeville and burlesque were it entertainment for the masses. Then radio and film. Then television. Now it’s the Internet. To say Broadway has turned it’s back on the working and middle class is like saying the Metropolitan Opera turned it’s back on the same audience. They were never invited to the party in the first place. The fact that the grosses on Broadway have risen so high speaks to the rise of tourism in Times Square and the loss of elitism on Broadway. An elitism the League of American Theatres and Producers is marketing and cheapening at the same time. Broadway is becoming more common rather than less. The aspiration of the middle class for an exposure to culture is main factor driving greater attendance. However, the topicality of the productions also speaks to that lack of understanding of the power of theatre.

The majority of US soldiers killed in Iraq are from the Rust Belt of the Upper Midwest. There are no jobs, no future and the only way out is through the Armed Forces or interior immigration. Hundreds of thousands of people are in the US illegally from all over the world and we don’t hear their stories? Single parent families dominate our society and commercial Broadway theatre ignores the implications. Off-Broadway and smaller spaces will take these issues on but their exposure is extremely limited. Adaptations of movies and revivals of past hits indicates the comfort level of both Broadway investor and audience is quite low to risk while the lack of new dramas and musicals telling powerful, modern stories says that audiences and investors have no appetite for challenging subject matter.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. Karl Marx

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