Author: tcl326

A short live adaptation of Black Hole

*Warning explicit content:

I find the short film’s presentation of Keith, Chris, and Eliza very interesting. By making Keith the narrator of the film, the audience get the glimpse of the mind of the troubled teen. While the different reaction of Chris and Eliza on their mutation, demonstrates the how the disease affects different individuals. Eliza seems to be comfortable with her mutation while Chris does not.

Ghosts in America

Ghosts, from what we learned in the play of the same name by Ibsen, are figures for public opinion. We also know that by adhering to public opinion characters often feel trapped by society and unable to find a way out. However, interestingly, this idea of ghosts also exist in the play Angels in America. More specifically characters are often restricted in many ways due to established public opinions or traditions, such as love, religion, and HIV.

In the first part of Tony Kushner’s play, Millennium Approaches, Prior’s boyfriend, Louis, abandons him when he discovers that Prior has AIDS. Prior has held off telling Louis about his illness for fear that Louis would leave him – and his fears turn out to be justified. So can we regard Louis as a heartless villain? His actions make us wonder, “What would I do in his situation”? Ghosts would rebuke Prior’s decision; they would insist that it is not right to leave the loved one in a hardship. But here, in the play, the audience does not strongly judge Louis for his choice. His character still manages to be sympathetic: the traits are drawn with such care and detail that we at least understand why he does what he does. Louis feels terribly guilty and wrestles with the decision a lot before leaving Prior: he consults a rabbi, cries in a bathroom, and, after he has left Prior, we see him constantly condemning himself. He fully realizes what a horrible thing he is doing. But still… he leaves.

One of the most trapped characters in the play is perhaps Joseph Porter Pitt. Being a Mormon and a homosexual, an almost oxymoronic relationship, Joe was torn between the choice of being a good Mormon or being liberated sexually. His struggle is deep, even more so than the characters in Ibsen’s play, as he cannot be liberated even by telling the truth. Take for example the phone call he had with Hannah, his mother, a Mormon. In the phone call he confessed plainly that he was a homosexual to his mother. However, what he met with was not acceptance, not even an acknowledgement, but rather a flat denial: “you’re being ridiculous”.  This is not the only time Joe’s sexual orientation was trying to be covered up or denied by Mormons. The morning after the phone call Joe also indirectly told Harper, his wife, that he is homosexual by expressing his lack of sexual interest in her. Again, instead of acceptance, Joe received nothing but a wife living in denial.

Just as in Ibsen’s Ghosts, there is obviously an infection that haunts the people of Angels in America: HIV. The stigma that comes with HIV was strong during the 1980s and is still prevalent today. Roy explicitly shows us what some of those stigmas are when during his doctor’s visit he says, “It afflicts mostly homosexuals and drug addicts” (49). Suddenly, being infected with a disease such as HIV becomes a societal blame game, a public pointing of fingers. Roy begins to taunt Dr. Henry, trying to get him to call him a homosexual. Roy’s obsession over the word, as well as his final self-diagnosis being liver cancer, emphasizes the strong ghost of HIV.

With some of these challenges of self-identity being faced by the characters of the play, the question of choices comes into play. How much “say” do they have upon their lives? These characters are given truths about themselves or those around them, truths that seems almost unspeakable in a societal context; and maybe in effect become unspeakable on the individual level. These attitudes will inevitably affect the actions and reactions of these characters, leaving us to wonder how much power the individual has over such situations.

♪~~Pale Horse, Pale Rider~~♫

Song and music played a peculiar role in the novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider.  In fact the title of the book was first mentioned as the lyric of a song, “pale horse, pale rider done taken my lover away.” This brought my attention to the two songs presented in the novel, “Pale Horse, pale rider” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”

The song “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” was arguably the most significant song in the novel as it was directly linked to the title of the book. This idea was reinforced by that the song was the extreme compact version of the book, with the lyrics detailing and foreshadowing the essential plot of the novel. Take for example the death of Adam, which is foreshadowed by the lyric “[death] done taken my lover away”, and the survival of Miranda, “Death always leaves one singer to mourn”. However, the irony about this song is that it does even not exist in real life.

Fortunately the other song do exist in real life. At my first reading of the book I was profoundly confused by the author’s choice of song, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, to be sung for the celebration of the armistice and her dismissal of the current national anthem. Shouldn’t the more appropriate song be The Star-Spangled Banner, the national Anthem of United States of America? However a brief internet search yielded that before 1931 My Country, ‘Tis of Thee was actually the de-facto national anthem of USA and was modeled after the British national anthem, God Save the Queen. Since the setting of the book was in 1918, it made sense to use the old anthem. However the current national anthem, though not mentioned explicitly, was expressed indirectly in the phrase “oh, say, can you see?” that came right after the singing of “My Country, Tis of thee”.

Here is the video of the old American anthem:

In the novel the lyrics of the de-facto national anthem was contrasted with Miranda’s view of United States of America. The lyric “sweet land” was directly contrasted with Miranda’s view, “terrible land of this bitter world”. This direct contrast could mark the alienation of Miranda as it expressed her contrasting view against the whole country. In addition this contrast could also be seen as a criticism towards the government and the society in general. The contrast could demonstrate that government didn’t fulfill its job and that society was living in deception.