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Half-Baked Thoughts on Media

Franny's picture

I'm honestly really not sure what to write about here. Media feels like such a big, abstract concept and at the same time one that I think about a lot. More than anything else, I think about theater. I spend about 15 hours a week in rehearsal, another hour in production meeting, and a majority of my "free time" thinking about theater in various ways. I think about theory and reality, I read plays, and I write plays. And because I consider art to be inherently political, I think about what I write and what impact it has. I think about "theater of the opressed" and "revolutionary theater" and any number of other things because I want my art to be more than beautiful - I want it to be meaningful. 

I think a lot about Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, an incredible black playwright whose work is always on my mind. In an interview with American Theatre, (fyi the link contains pictures & discussion of blackface) he says: 

You can’t avoid questions of identity when you’re writing about family because there’s obviously a number of things that the people in the room share, e.g. a last name, a genetic makeup, etc.

...I think any questions about the nature of identity and identification are pretty classic dramatic waters: What part of me is myself? How much of me gets ascribed to me by society? The idea of wholeness? Those are profound questions about life and time. How do you know yourself at any moment in your life? So much of it you spend unaware of yourself. Or it’s spent sleeping.

...Hearing people describe the great American family drama and what that was. I’d look around and be like, “There are no people of color on these lists.” Who has access to this idea of family as a universal theme? A Raisin in the Sun and The Piano Lesson and Stick Fly—which are all totally about family—are somehow “social drama” about “race.” That’s sort of what I kept skirting around and thinking about.

And I was thinking about “blackness” as a dramatic material, in the same way that you might think of “suspense” or “red herrings” or something. Race—or, rather, “difference” —seems to be a funny device in the theatre that does funny things to stories and situations.

I'm never sure where my own work sits. I don't have this same burden/expectation of representing whiteness because anything a white person writes is considered to be about life, not about whiteness. And I also spend a lot of time in my work responding to these questions of identity that Jacobs-Jenkins brings up, and I cannot honestly address these concepts without also addressing race. It isn't enough for me to write about my queerness without also acknowledging how my queerness is bound up in my whiteness, how none of my identites can be divorced from each other.

I really don't know where I'm going here. I guess I'm saying that I'm privileged enough not to have to think about race when I create (or consume) media, and yet I want to push myself beyond what I have to do. My whiteness gives me a platform to speak, so I might as well say something important.