Having posted an introduction to the topic, I should provide something to follow it. I am somewhat anxious about this post, because it is where Dale discovers what a blogging whore I am, in that I am going to do to him what I have done for many years to a great many others: rip off something I wrote in an email to him and use it for a wider audience. The people I have corresponded with longest or most often have gotten used to this: stuff I write to them in letters or email shows up in a blog entry or a poem or an essay all the time. A few people have reacted with indignation and told me that it's not cool of me to recycle for wider consumption something I've written in a personal letter to them; I deal with that by refraining from ever telling them anything interesting enough that I'd want to use it over.
The primary thing you should know about what it's like to meet Dale is this: he is slightly less interesting in blog-form than he is in real life. His blog might capture all the Passion of the Dale, but it doesn't capture the magic. (And yeah, I'm saying that both because I'm a suck-up and because it's true.)
I was very excited when he suggested we see "We Will Rock You." I am, of course, a long-time Queen fan, so much so that I would dance alone to Bohemian Rhapsody. I figured it might make such exciting News of the World that even Flash Gordon would have a Sheer Heart Attack, because capping a few days of fun in a foreign city with a night of Classic Queen would be almost as good as a Night at the Opera or a Day at the Races, and all that Jazz. I mean, I hate to make it seem like all I wanted to do was Play the Game, but there it is.
And I was wrong.
But it was terrible. I wouldn't have missed it for anything, because theatre THAT bad is hard to come by, and seldom so laughable, so I'm not saying I am sorry to have seen it--quite the contrary, in fact. It was a fascinating cultural experience. You could easily imagine these old burnt out rockers sitting around one Tuesday afternoon watching some Judy Garland/Andy Rooney film on cable, just for the hell of it. They're sullen and bored at first, but someone starts getting excited when the kids in the movie decide to put on a minstrel show, complete with offensive and outdated stereotypes, a plot so full of giant holes you could fly Flash Gordon's space ship through any one of them, a predictable romance that is supposed to create tension and drama but only underscores how vapid the characters are, all built around a bunch of songs that don't really have anything to do with each other. "Hey!" the burnt-out rockers say to one another. "We could do this! We could do this with our songs...and we could make a hell of a lot of money!"
The thing that really made me crazy is that the show didn't realize that it was exactly the thing it pretended to criticize. The basic premise is that 300 years in the future, entertainment has been thoroughly commodified and is controlled by a large corporation dedicated to A) making money and B) reinforcing the status quo by C) manipulating the emotions and thoughts of large audiences who are particularly undiscerning and indiscriminate in their musical and dramatic tastes, and will therefore consume with pleasure any old schlock the large corporate interests see fit to offer them.
Hard rocking pop music, however, has the power to change all that, to topple the status quo, because "the electric guitar is one of the most powerful weapons of freedom ever invented"–at least, if you're a young straight white guy. Because, as we were constantly told, the reasons REAL rockers made their own personal music was to A) express themselves and B) foster long-term monogamous unions with the bad-ass chick of their choice. (Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I somehow thought the second motive wasn't all that important to Freddie.)
At intermission I said to Dale, "What I love best about the show is its insistence on moral and artistic ambiguity, its refusal to reinforce a simplistic binary of good versus evil. I LOVED the self-critical moment, right after the Killer Queen talks about how she wants to manipulate audiences, make them feel what she wants them to feel, when the cast demanded that the audience chant along with them and wave their glow sticks [yeah, you could buy souvenir glow sticks] and the whole point was for us to refuse! I just couldn't believe that more people didn't get that."
There were other things that really bugged me.... like the fact that the rendition of "Flash" Gordon consisted only of some people undergoing some dreadful electric torture shouting "Flash!" a few times. I always adored the high-flown silliness of the Flash Gordon soundtrack and wished they'd done more with it. I was likewise upset that we didn't get more than the first few lines of "Bohemian Rhapsody."
I was annoyed that a character takes excessive pleasure from the pain of her "daily bikini wax," because the whole point of any type of waxing is that the hair doesn't grow back for a while, so you CAN'T have a painful daily bikini wax, because simply having slightly warm wax applied to hairless skin and then peeled off it doesn't hurt--in fact, it's actually quite soothing, which is why a paraffin soak is a really nice addition to a pedicure. Didn't these people have a dramaturge to say, "Hey, this part doesn't actually make the slightest bit of sense"?
I hated that "global warming" had raised sea levels drastically, but you could somehow travel from Las Vegas to Wembley Stadium in England on a Harley. Again, where the hell was the dramaturge?
I hated that the evil villain's main henchman was made up to look like Max Headroom, because Max wasn't all that evil, and that the evil villain destroyed her henchman without having a clear rationale for doing so, aside from being evil.
Most of all, I hated that although the great evil of the plot was some dreadful corporation controlling seeking to control every aspect of human life, it was personified by a middle-aged fat black lesbian. I am curious: is there a single truly powerful corporation in the world today controlled by a middle-aged fat black lesbian? (If someone can provide me with documentation of one, I will send him/her my ticket stub, a personalize note and a five dollar bill, American.) It could have been an interesting move--to make someone in one of the least powerful subject positions in contemporary society the most powerful person in a future society--but it wasn't reflected upon or analyzed; it was simply played for laughs and for the easy way it opposed and therefore underscored the heroic nature of the young, attractive (albeit too short), straight white guy.
read the follow up We Will Mock You.