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October 26, 2010


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We've talked about this before. The White perspective is completely neutral and objective and therefore counts as absolute truth.


Yeah, but it is a really well-structured play.
I think it's hard for us to look at it as anything other than bigoted, let's-save-the-poor-minority crap, but part of that is our generation. It was a well-intentioned play written by a guy who grew up in the south in the 1930s. Ask any person in their 70s if they like the play and you'll get a very different response.


SN- Do you mean "any person in their 70s" or any black person in their 70s? Because that's really the point Isaac is making. I know a couple of black people in their 70s and while I haven't quizzed them, I doubt many of them have any emotional connection to this piece of work at all, much less like it. That is, I think, the point here. It's not about whether it's a good play or not, or even an effective play to some audiences. It's whether John Simon's "us" that feels good when they see this play gets to say what's "human" or not.

David Cote

Boston arts reporter Bill Marx wrote a few years back that he thought Simon had become a "middlebrow highbrow." That is, someone who confers the status of "art" or "masterpiece" on mediocre if craftsmanlike work. I haven't seen this revival yet, but that may be going on here. Not to try to out-snob Simon, but I don't know anyone who go out of their way to call Driving Miss Daisy art.


99- I see what you're saying. The play does have a sort of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady feel. I get mildly offended by Pygmalion--it says that degrading women is ok. Then I step back and think, ok, but that wasn't Shaw's intention. He came from a different generation--a generation that didn't know they were degrading women by treating them like pets to be taken care of. I'm saying that if you accept it as a story rather than a commentary, it can be enjoyable. I don't mean enjoyable in the sense that you root for the characters, but in the sense that you say, "Ok, this is what a guy who grew up before the Civil Rights movement thought: Jewish widow, black man. Hmmm. Minorities. They should be BFF."
I understand how one could be offended by the depiction of black men. The thing is, we can't shun everything bcause it offends us. If I shunned everything that was offensive to women, I'd never see or read much of anything. I could easily say that "Driving Miss Daisy" is offensive to women--that it represents a stereotype of whiney housewives, that I'm sick of everyone making Jewish people look like assholes. But I don't look at Miss Daisy as a representative of all Jewish women. I just see her as a character in a play.


SN- I think you're still missing the larger point here. I'm not saying Miss Daisy is offensive; I don't think Isaac was either. Nothing in his post or my comments are about Driving Miss Daisy as a play. What we're both reacting to is the way John Simon describes the play as "absolutely honest" and "beautiful" and as representative of the breadth of human experience about race when there's really only one perspective represented in it. It's John Simon's perspective here that matters, not Alfred Uhry's. John Simon, a white guy, is holding up this play, by a fellow white guy, as being the be-all and end-all of the conversation. What Isaac tried to point out and I concur is that there's another side to this conversation that isn't being consulted here.

To use your Pygmalion example, it's as though I said, "Pygmalion says all that could really be said about men and women." Clearly, it doesn't. But it's easy for me to say that because of my perspective on it. You see what I'm saying?


99- I dig. But doesn't everything only represent one perspective?


It sure does! And that doesn't undercut the value of that perspective. But there's a tendency (which is what RVC was alluding to) to take the white male perspective as the objective truth and everything else is, as the conservatives say, "identity politics." Driving Miss Daisy rings true for John Simon, therefore it is true. Except that it's not, not entirely.

P. Thurmond

I'm just growing more and more frustrated with the low level of racial/political commentary here at Parabasis. I'm getting closer and closer to striking it from my reading list because what I used to find refreshingly unapologeticly liberal has become knee-jerk doctrinaire. I'm no fan of DRIVING MISS DAISY, but the idea that for it to be a valid work of art it has to express the artistic vision of, I don't know - absolutely everybody? or just 99 Seats? - is idiotic. OK, we get it, 99, sometimes you feel excluded, but really, some art simply isn't made for you. Or me. But to say DMD is what? - untrue? lacking in truth? less true than something else? - because it doesn't fulfill your vision of an representation of an African-American male? You'd do better to point out the ways it falls short than to nebulously denounce its inability to do the impossible, but the quality of examination here has either fallen or I was too easy a few years ago.


Sorry to disappoint you, P. Seriously. But, again, the issue here is NOT Driving Miss Daisy's failings or quality. The perspective in question here is John Simon's, not Alfred Uhry's. I'm not saying that DMD is categorically untrue, or racist or whatever it is you're deciding I'm saying. I'm not even saying that John Simon is a racist or a bigot or whatever it is that you're trying to say that I'm saying. I'm simply saying that John Simon calling it "true" rings false to me. That's it. It's not an "attack on the artistic merit of the play. It's not about the play at all. It's about the perspective of the critics. I'm not saying that every single play must present the world in exactly the light I see it in. I write my own plays to do that. I'm not even talking about the play, man (or woman).

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