Progressives and SJWs are going to face a day of reckoning in the future, courtesy of rebellious artists. As the current Reign of Terror continues to pick up steam, more and more rules are going to be strictly enforced. As freedoms disappear, most of society will complain, albeit secretly for the sake of self-preservation. Artists, however, will feel very deeply the constraints imposed by the leftist dialectic that is ruled by the totalitarian concepts of safe-spaces, political correctness, and microaggressions. At some point in the future, leading the rebellion against the thought police, artists will begin to shine their creative spotlight on the absurd oppression wrought by progressive ideology. Those artists are not going to deal kindly with the leftist ruling class.
Throughout history, the status-quo has viewed art suspiciously. And for good reason. Many artists believe that one of art’s primary roles is that of social provocateur. Even if individual artists don’t create in order to challenge the status quo, next to zero artists are fans, to put it lightly, of rules imposed on their creative process. For good or bad, art desires complete autonomy, and it tends to flourish when outsiders clamp down on it.
There have been moments when the ruling classes have succeeded at co-opting and, hence, controlling art for a time. Even during those oppressive seasons, cabals of underground artists eventually broke out and took sharp swipes at the ruling paradigm.
During the sixteenth century, while social elites and the Roman Catholic church had much of the artistic output under their thumb, Commedia dell’arte was born in Italy. A culturally subversive form of theatre that had its artistic roots in the Atellan Farces of the Roman Empire, Commedia dell’arte thumbed its masked nose at the mores of the day. Female actors joined male actors on stage as the players brazenly mocked the foibles and hypocrisies of the ruling elite. Long held social barriers began to fracture, and freedom of thought began to be championed.
In England, Shakespeare wrote plays for the disenfranchised groundlings who howled at the Bard’s mistreatment of society’s sacred cows. In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare made mincemeat of society’s views that noble character traits are best displayed in male friendships among elites.
In the play, the servants and the women displayed the noble character traits that many at the time believed were the sole purview of the male gentry. Flipping society’s script even further, the rich, elite men of the play embodied the negative character traits of greed, dishonesty, and disloyalty that were believed to characterize servants, women, and the working class.
Hundreds of years later, in this country, Allen Ginsberg struck a blow at the rules imposed on art—rules that were designed to protect the sensibilities of the ruling majority. In 1957, Judge Clayton Horn ruled in favor of Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” and the legal floodgates of free expression were thrown open. Artists began to quickly take advantage of their newfound freedom, and, by the early ’70s, plays like Peter Shaffer’s Equus were being staged.
For many artists, the victory for freedom of expression won by “Howl” and other artistic works was a final, definite victory. Except, that victory for freedom of expression has proven surprisingly short-lived. Further, maybe even more surprisingly, the ideological descendants of those who struck artistic blows for freedom of expression are the very ones busy suppressing freedom of thought in 2016.
At this year’s Emmy Awards, Jeffrey Tambor, who took home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, used the platform to confess that he hopes that he’s the “last cisgender male to play a female transgender on television.”
Setting aside Tambor’s hypocrisy (I mean, if he really meant what he said, he’d resign so that a “female transgender” could step into the role), it’s understandable why the veteran actor felt the need to pay homage to the new god of inclusivity. This past year, SJW hero Mark Ruffalo found himself in the rhetorically violent crosshairs of the very people who used to champion him. Unforgivably, Ruffalo committed the leftist cardinal sin of casting a gay man in the role of a transgender person.
The very concept of acting is predicated on the belief that talented storytellers can embody and empathize with people who are dissimilar to them. At the rate we’re going, acting is going to mean “playing somebody exactly like you.” In other words, actors are eventually only going to be allowed to play themselves – literally, themselves.
When the first actor Thespis first stepped out of the Greek Chorus in the mid-sixth century BC, the audiences were scandalized that an individual would deign to portray another person. We’re now going in the opposite direction of Thespis, who risked his freedom (if not his life) in the service of his art.
On a personal level, a director that I’ve worked with found himself in hot water for not casting a deaf person in a play at Theatre Cedar Rapids. The play, Tribes, contains a deaf character, and the theatre did its due diligence to find a deaf actor. That didn’t stop activists from the deaf community from demonizing a small theatre in middle-America. Thankfully, the theatre’s artistic director stood by the casting and issued a very thoughtful explanation. However, in the current milieu that absurdly now demonizes plays that were once considered paragons of feminist thought, the attempted artistic oppression in Cedar Rapids will be the norm and eventually the rule of law.
As the oppression of the freedom of thought strengthens, true artists are going to begin to feel artistically choked. If the history of art holds true, future artistic heirs of the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Eve Ensler, and Thespis will be born. Blows will be struck, the dam constructed by today’s progressives with the intent to provide safe-spaces while protecting against microaggressions will begin to crack, and the ensuing flood of free thought will wash away the stain of leftist oppression. Future audiences will laugh in derision as plays, books, music, et al. scornfully eviscerate the leftist totalitarians of today. Future art is not going to deal kindly with today’s liberals.