My thoughts about The National Theatre’s production of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes might be a little scattered. And you’re just going to have to deal with that. Way back when I was getting my MFA (which seems like forever ago, even though I know it wasn’t… but that’s neither here nor there), I wrote an awful paper about Tony Kushner’s play, so my hope is to do slightly better this time. It’s a hard play for me to write about because it’s such an ambitious work while at the same time being so personal.
Maybe the play’s ambition is why the opportunity to see it performed in its two-part eight-hour entirety has yet to present itself to me. Now thanks to the National Theatre Live, at last I’m getting to see a theatrical version of this play that I love so dearly. My only previous experience with Angels in America has been through studying it for a Contemporary Theatre class and, of course, seeing the HBO Miniseries. The Miniseries is incredible, by the way, and you should absolutely watch it if you haven’t.
But being fortunate enough to finally see this performed onstage, even broadcasted from London, was like discovering the play all over again. For this blog entry, I want to examine what struck me about seeing this version of Angels in America. In order of most important to the very most important, here is my list. I love a good list:
During my recent trip to London, I was lucky enough to visit the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey, where I saw what I am now referring to as “my favorite” art exhibition ever — or my favorite, at least, of those I’ve managed to see in person. I have only the friend I was staying with to thank for this experience, because it was her idea to take me to the show. Prior to my visit, I didn’t even know that White Cube Galleries existed, but since my return to New York I’ve already seen one random train stranger with a White Cube tote bag, which further confirms my suspicion that I am probably just an idiot who needs to put more time into keeping up with the contemporary art scene. It’s been quite a while since art school, folks.
Anyway, the exhibition: ‘Dreamers Awake’ is a group show which explores the “enduring influence of Surrealism” through the work of more than 50 female artists. The show spans a period of nearly 100 years and features pieces from women all across the canon, from legendary Surrealists like Leona Carrington and Lee Miller to contemporary and emerging artists (many of whom cite Surrealism as a major influence).
What I found most striking about ‘Dreamers Awake,’ and what I have continued to think about daily in the weeks since I saw the show, is the above stated concept, which despite its seeming straightforwardness — women and Surrealism — is actually incredibly complicated. In her essay entitled ‘The Form of the Flower is Unknown to the Seed,’ the show’s curator Susanna Greeves writes:
“Woman has a powerful presence in Surrealism. She is the object of masculine desire and fantasy; a harpy, goddess or sphinx; a mystery or threat. Often, she appears decapitated, distorted, trussed up. Fearsome or fetishized, she is always the ‘other’. From today’s perspective, gender politics can seem the unlikely blind spot of a movement that declared war on patriarchal society, convention and conformity. Nonetheless, from its earliest days female artists have been drawn to Surrealism’s emphasis on personal and artistic freedoms and to the creative potential that the exploration of the unconscious offered. By focusing on the work of women artists, ‘Dreamers Awake’ hopes to show how, through art foregrounding bodily experience, the symbolic woman of Surrealism is refigured as a creative, sentient, thinking being.”
Refigured. For me, this is the key word here, because this is a show about Surrealism the way we are rarely taught to think about Surrealism: from the perspective of the woman.
(More art n stuff after the cut!)
Mary and Emily are all in on their July Young Adult Book Club selection, The Upside of Unrequited by Beck Albertalli, which is why this review is coming a little early in the month. They just couldn't wait to talk about it. Let's get into it, shall we?
Mary: This month we're reading The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. On its surface, this book is a typical teen romance, following twins Molly and Cassie as they navigate growing up and relationships. Molly has had crushes on 26 guys before, but never actually dated anyone, while Cassie has been more vocal about her likes and dislikes, but also remains somewhat inexperienced. One thing that sets this book apart from other YA novels is that Molly is fat--but she doesn't really let it define her. I study YA lit and focus on fat characters specifically, and I have to say, I loved this book so much. I was shocked at how Albertalli communicated Molly's discomfort in her own body while also not having it be an issue to some extent. Or having how society views fat people be an issue.
Emily: I also loved this book. I think it was great to see a fat character whose soul desire wasn't to lose weight and "be prettier," but rather she wished to live in a world where she feels more comfortable with the body she's in.
Emily: And a lot of her discomfort was around how other people acted towards her or how she imagined other people acted towards her, rather than how she felt about herself. In fact, at one point she says she doesn't hate her body, but she's afraid other people will hate her body.
Mary: She's internalized what others say about fat bodies and started to think that way, even though she rationally knows she shouldn't.
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Mary: And I mean, really, it's hard not to internalize a lot of that stuff. Fat people are one of the last groups people can make fun of without offending.
I’ve been thinking about teen heroes often this summer.
In addition to the summer blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming, I’ve also been playing Masks, a tabletop RPG following a group of teenage superheroes. I would officially declare this the summer of the teen superhero, but really, teen heroes have never gone out of style.
Spider-Man, though always beloved, has a troubling history in film. Let’s reflect back, back on the early 2000s, when Toby Maguire wore the red and blue spandex and James Franco wasn’t really James Franco yet. Lots of people love these movies—my dad included—but to me they lack what makes Spider-Man one of the best heroes: his age.
Part of what makes Spider-Man so enjoyable for all ages is his special brand of teen bravado, his quick wit and lack of respect for the older, often more competent villains he fights. Peter Parker lacks the single focus life many older heroes have. Yes, Batman has to be Bruce Wayne sometimes—and plenty of heroes have secret identities to juggle—but Spider-Man is something different.
It’s long been a source of shame that I, a 29-year-old writer and book podcaster who studied literature for well over a decade, have never read the Harry Potter books.
That’s right. Not a one.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in the United States in 1998, the year I turned 10. I was the perfect age to find and love this book and grow along with the series, but somehow, I missed it. And I kept on missing it for years after.
The 20th anniversary of the first book’s publication in the United Kingdom was just last month. From June 26, 1997 to 2017, people had loved and treasured the world of Harry Potter, and I still knew almost nothing any of it.
I decided that the time had finally come for me to read the series for the first time, while many of my friends and fellow literature lovers are on their third go-round (some more).
With the encouragement of my fellow Book Squad members (and lots of encouragement from listeners and friends!), I decided to document my journey through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as I read it for the very first time.
Aziz Ansari’s acute consideration for building realistic, dynamic characters in his exceptional Netflix show Master of None is maybe the series’ greatest strength, with the exception of Francesca. Francesca is an Italian woman from Modena, where we find Ansari’s character Dev learning to make pasta at Francesca’s family’s restaurant in the beginning of season two of MoN. She is also the main love interest of the season. Francesca is easy on the eyes, fashionable, feminine, has a charming Italian accent and can make pasta. While that looks and sounds nice, she’s unfortunately missing real substance.
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.