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Deavere Smith and Cliff

Michaela's picture

I thought both of these readings were insightful looks into how words and how we speak them shape who we are, or who we appear to be. I was struck most by Deavere Smith's and Cliff's words about reflection: "The mirrors of society do not mirror society" (Deavere Smith), and "I had mixed time and incident and space and character and also form to try to mirror the historical turbulence" (Cliff). So often in our media today, the "mirrors of society", or the "uncovering" of facts about well-known figures, are falsified, made to be more sensational and attention-grabbing than they truly are, losing authenticity and connection to the "real life" that they are supposedly showing. Deavere Smith's point about participation of unseen groups in the "mirror of society" rings true in this age of "reality" television marked by privilege and excess, and even in scripted movies, shows and plays, in which minorities and other marginalized groups are relegated to small, teachable roles, of the model or the nadir of how members of such groups should behave. Cliff, on the other hand, is accepting her background as a member of a belittled and oppressed group in order to write a more honest depiction of herself, and in her own, more fully formed voice. Yet at the same time, she acknowledges that "we are a fragmented people". No one voice, no matter how rich or on-point, will be truly able to represent an entire population. I think that this leads nicely back to Deavere Smith's point: everyone has an individual voice, shaped by ethnicity, language, environment, education, and so much more. Accurately presenting one's own does not sufficiently represent all people of a certain population, but we damned well ought to diversify our scope of voices before we attempt to portray them in the "mirror of society".