The Playgoer: David Brooks vs Eve Ensler

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

David Brooks vs Eve Ensler

En route to Canada, and miraculously getting a connection, so here's something interesting.

Anyone read David Brooks' column today? Unfortunately you won't be able to online, thanks to "Times Select" (or "Times Delete" as Andrew Sullivan calls it). But if you have a print edition lying around take a look.

Brooks' response to Mark Foley-gate is to blame...The Vagina Monologues. Okay, not directly, but he fixates on one of the stories in the play (about a woman's aggressive seduction of a 13 year old girl) as the exact analogue to Foley's real life behavior in order to indict the great root cause--libertine sexuality, of course. Basically both cases (the fact that one is fact one is fiction seems irrelevant to him) show that the abuse of children is just a natural outgrowth of the culture telling us that if it feels good it can't be wrong.

And as we all know, nobody ever molested children before the 1960s.

Leaving aside the many, many disturbing and loony things about his argument, let's just focus on his invocation of a piece of theatre, for a sec. Brooks does swear he saw The Vagina Monologues firsthand, so at least I can't accuse him of making stuff up. But his reach for this bit of material is truly bizarre when you read the column. What kind of mind is it that when faced with a real life example of gross political corruption by a hypocritical congressman that just happens to be homosexual and a hypocritical congress that does not just happen to be Republican...the next best example he can think of is a feminist play. Yes, even David Brooks--the nice guy, PBS/NYT conservative--blames it all on the queers and the feminazis.

Remember when conservatives used to lecture us about personal responsibility? And when it was whimpy liberal who made up crazy social theories to justify crimes?

I'm sorry, back to theatre--In short, Brooks shows the ol' "anti-theatrical" prejudice is alive and well. He speaks of Ensler's words in the play as if she personally raped a young girl. Other distinctions he has no time for include--the difference between staging such a scene and a stage monologue where someone simply tells the story. (Unreliable narrator, anyone?) The thought that maybe Ensler offers us a deliberate provocation, using fiction and imagining to test our limits and boundaries, to question differences between female sexuality and male, between coercion and persuasion...well, obviously such thoughts wouldn't occur to Brooks because he knows nothing about art.

I feel bad for him that he had to sit through a performance of Vagina Monologues with a vocal audience of women who would tear him to shreds if they knew who he was. And granted, to hear that particular monologue be cheered (if it was) might indeed skew it a certain way Ensler may not have intended. But if Brooks sees an opportunity to blame our problems, once again, on the sexual revolution--and on the decadent theatre itself!--he'll take it.

Let's see if there's a letter from Ensler in the coming days...


Anonymous said...

I think Brooks has a point. This story in the play is clearly meant to be celebrated by the audience. It is truly disgusting. Ensler denies child abuse to further a far left political project of sexualizing the young and trying to make them cement their sexual identities at an early age with the help of adults.

Rob Weinert-Kendt said...

Now I'm wondering what theocons will make of the upcoming film "Running With Scissors," and conversely what the spinmeisters marketing the film must be thinking right now about the timing of the release.