Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Forbidden: The Strange History of Censorship

Photo by Valentin Kopalov.

“All the desires we try to suffocate will drown in our soul and poison it. The only way to get rid of a temptation is give in to it.”– Oscar Wilde
Several friends of mine on Facebook have recently been ensnared in their corporate policies around censorship and the enforcement of so-called “community standards.” The irony here is that in two specific cases, one of a charming freelance model and the other of a roguish lover of freelance models, both posted images that contained . . . wait for it . . . nipples, or more accurately, female nipples. For this they were punished, if that is the right word, by being forbidden to post, share or even comment on anything for a varying duration. All because of something everyone in both genders has?

Yet another irony is the fact that the roguish fellow was more fond of posting images of various male hunks in different degrees of undress, with almost always a not-so-subtle emphasis on their admittedly admirable chest muscles, and yes, an abundance of nipples . . . but male nipples. And those were never in doubt or questioned at all, yet when he posted one of a female model, even one that was totally elegant and in good taste, boom. And this also unfolded in a virtual world where the social media network had no objections whatsoever to spreading Russian lies, right-wing extremist propaganda, racist hate content and misogynistic tripe. How paradoxical.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Starry Messenger: Adrift in the Universe

Matthew Broderick in The Starry Messenger. (Photo: Mark Brenner)

I seem to be temperamentally drawn to Kenneth Lonergan’s plays and movies: his wry, bemused dialogue makes me laugh, and I’m captivated by his characters, even when he can’t quite situate them in fully worked-through scenarios. The Starry Messenger opened in New York ten years ago, with Matthew Broderick, a Lonergan favorite, as a New York astronomy professor enduring a mid-life crisis and Lonergan’s talented wife, J. Smith-Cameron, as the hero’s long-suffering wife, and didn’t attract much attention. The play, resurrected for London’s West End with Broderick repeating his performance and Elizabeth McGovern as the wife, stumbles around – it has only eight characters but four hinged plots, and at the end of nearly three hours Lonergan still hasn’t worked out the structure or completed satisfactory arcs for the main ones. But it’s warm and compelling, and even the plot developments you know are mistakes generate something you can hold onto.